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PC CAPS is Teaching our Children the Wrong Lesson

During April 2012 there was a heated debate over whether to start the PC CAPS program, an initiative by the Park City School system to provide real-world experience to high school students through hands on projects. During 2012 there was also a budget crisis within the school system. They needed to slash $4.7 million from the budget and raise taxes to keep afloat. The decision was made to start the PC CAPS program and spend $150,000 over the next two years to put the program into place.

Two years later the annual budget for the program sits at $450,000 — six times what was promised. Oh, and there is another budget crisis causing taxes to be raised again. During this year’s budget discussion, School Superintendent Dr Ember Conley asked whether canceling the PC CAPS program would solve the $3 million shortfall and the response was that it wouldn’t make a dent in the problem. Yet, that’s not the point.

The point is that school leaders made announcements to the public stating that PC CAPS will cost the tax payers no more than $75,000 per year to get up and running. Three months later they hire a PC CAPS Coordinator that makes $125,000 per year in total compensation. At the same time in 2012 the Park Record reported “[PCSD Student Services Director Tom] VanGorder said initially they don’t plan on building a PC CAPS building, but will ask the participating businesses to provide workspace at each location for the students.”  Two years later they need $5 million for a new building to house the PC CAPS program. It begs the question whether there is anyone who can accurately forecast expenses in the school district or whether the public is just told what they want to hear. Worse yet, no one seems to even apologize for the inaccuracy. It leaves the public saying “can we trust what is said going forward?”.

It is true that the PC CAPS has received grants of $262,550 (according to their website) to offset some of the expense. However, this likely offsets about a 30% of the expenses through the end of this fiscal year — and that doesn’t count the $5 million toward the new building that wasn’t going to be needed.

The PC CAPS program generally seems like a good idea.  Many kids are getting an experience that would be tough to get elsewhere.   The problem is that the program was sold with false promises.  If Tom VanGorder stood up in 2012 and said this program is going to cost about $500,000 per year and we are going to spend $5 million on a building to house the students, does anyone think CAPS would have been approved?  Probably not… but at least it would have been honest.  Perhaps it’s just another case of “say and do whatever is needed to get the outcome you want.”  I’m not sure that’s a lesson our school system wants to be teaching our kids.


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