Saturday, March 24, 2007

Vouchers -- To Vote and How to Vote

It appears that we are likely headed for a vote on vouchers. It appears that the governor and the legislature will honor the vote, despite the blunder of not putting both HB 174 and HB 148 on the referendum. The question becomes what issues should Utahn's consider when deciding how to vote on Utah's proposed voucher system. Utahns for Public Schools is the largest organization heading up the referendum opposing the voucher system, they believe that Utah's voucher system is merely a stepping stone try and abolish public schools in Utah. I had Craig Johnson, Utah Amicus contributor, and UFPS supporter visit Green Jello and he quoted some highly touted Christian conservatives, Republicans, the and even famous economist Milton Friedman as evidence for the voucher systems "real agenda".

Choice in Education, is the largest organization in support of Utah's voucher plans. They believe that vouchers will increase the quality of public and private education through the market forces. They have a section of their website devoted to dissuading individuals from signing the petition, the even are soliciting reported uses of public resources in contributing signatures.

So, the question is what is best for the school children of Utah? While I don't doubt that there are those like Milton Friedman who would like to see the public school system abolished, I don't believe that the Utah plan has the end of Utah public schools as its end goal. Despite, Mr Johnson's insistence that the Mitigation clause in the voucher proposal is "malarkey" I believe that Utah's voucher plan has been well studied and designed to be a value supplement to Utah's K-12 education system. Study the bills HB 148 and HB 174. The bills have provisions to make sure that voucher accepting private schools meet safety requirements, have educators that hold baccalaureate or higher degrees, and that these private schools have regular financial audits from Certified Public Accountants to ensure that ensure that state funds are not misappropriated. I don't see anything malicious against the public schools system in these pieces of legislation, and the rhetoric used by those opposed to the voucher plan is a little alarmist for the current situation.

Summary:
There are many anti-voucher groups, who are employing scare tactics to solicit support for the referendum. I'm not saying Utahn's shouldn't vote on vouchers, but I encourage Utahns to seek the facts of the voucher legislation that the state legislature approved. I would encourage groups like Utahns for Public Schools and Choice in Education to keep the arguments to the actual legislation, rather than using smear campaigns based on quotes from dead economist, right wing pundits, ex-school administrators, former UEA presidents, and support newly found support of deceased ex-President Ronald Regan.

8 comments:

Jeremy said...

While I disagree with you on the merits of vouchers in Utah (I don't think they'll be harmful but I don't think they'll be helpful either so they are a waste of money) I totally agree with you that when either side makes arguments that don't pertain to the actual effect of the legislation they are both mucking up the issue with tangents.

Great post.

Craig said...

Green Jello,

Thanks for your recent post. I have a few comments - feel free to discount them as well :-)

Apparently it's easy for you to disregard the quotations from the conservative think-tanks as not applicable to our situation.

How do you explain then that within mere hours of the Governor quietly signing the voucher bill (some have even told me it was just minutes later) that these same groups - the ones you say don't apply - issued national press releases hailing the passage of the first universal voucher plan in the United States? Were they hitting "refresh" on the legislature web site or did someone give them a call? I guess we'll never know...

When these groups state, by their own admission, that vouchers are an "incrementalist" strategy to privatize public schools, should I, a supporter of public schools, bury my head in the sand and choose not to listen?

You can cry "conspiracy theorist" all you want but that doesn't change the facts. I bet a little research would yield some pretty strong connections between these groups and those bankrolling the voucher effort in this state.

BTW, our same Utah legislature gave the same now deceased economist a standing ovation when he visited. Care to know the choice remarks he made in reference to public education?

And while you're calling for reason, SenateSite recently posted your article as evidence of someone who is approaching the debate from a sane point of view. Funny that this same group (the OFFICIAL web site of the Republican Senate Majority) also recently posted a Mike Rosen article where he opines about the "educratic establishment" and their supposed motivations for decrying the voucher proposal.

(Rosen definition of "educratic establishment:

"The educratic establishment - from administrators, to the teachers' colleges that staff the schools, to the unions that run them and the school boards they elect"
)

Now...to this nasty "educratic establishment":

>>They covet their power to set the agenda, to dictate subject matter and educational techniques, to influence impressionable young minds and mold the next generation of liberal activists. They've turned their government schools into laboratories for social engineering, downgrading basic academics and old-fashioned notions of American exceptionalism, patriotism and individualism in favor of collectivism, political correctness, diversity, environmentalism, feminism, and delusional self-esteem. They have a death grip on these schools that they're loath to release.

So...while you're condemning my factual evidence (unchanged from the thinktanks' own web sites) what do you have to say about SenateSite posting this type of information? Are you saying the official online voice of the Senate Majority can cry "conspiracy" with no substantiated evidence, yet when I, a citizen, quote web sites that CLEARLY state the intent of these groups, I'm to be dismissed?

Curious.

Take Care,

Craig.

P.S. There are plenty of ways to increase competition and choice without vouchers. I'm happy to discuss this as well...

Craig said...

Sorry...a clarification is in order.

When you state:
>>Utahns for Public Schools is the largest organization heading up the referendum opposing the voucher system, ***they*** believe that Utah's voucher system is merely a stepping stone try and abolish public schools in Utah.

I see nowhere on the Utahns for Public Schools web site in which this is stated.

My opinions are my own.

Thank you,

Craig.

pramahaphil said...
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pramahaphil said...
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pramahaphil said...

Sorry, I had some type o's I wanted to correct)

Thanks for commenting Craig, I appreciate the lengths you have gone to continue the discussion on this issue.

If you like Craig, I will concede every single quote you have used in posts here, Politicopia, and Utah Amicus as the truth -- the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Craig, as I started going through the 'MOUNTAINS" of material you provided (thanks again) it struck me that Paul Mero's, Milt Friedman's, whatshisface's from the Heartland Institute past comments on the issue don't matter.

This debate for me only comes down to three questions:

Will the actual voucher legislation harm Utah education? From actually reading the legislation, I argue that the answer is no.

Will vouchers improve the quality of education in the state of Utah?

Yes, I believe that vouchers quite possibly can improve education in Utah. I find it amazing that any group truely advocating education, would rally against the use of an innovative approach in education (sorry that is my soapbox)

Is any group being discriminated against?

The answer is no here as well. The scholarships are set to be awarded based on income levels - the poorest to receive the greatest amount. Schools are also saved any discrimnant harm by the MITIGATION provision.


You just don't get it Craig. You spend all this energy quoting pundits as evidence that the voucher plan smells to heaven without sticking your nose into the actual meat of Utah's voucher proposal. I don't need to discount you, you do that by continually arguing everything but the actual Utah voucher legislation.

I SAY AGAIN. STUDY THE ACTUAL BILLS. http://le.utah.gov/~2007/bills/hbillenr/hb0148.htm

http://le.utah.gov/~2007/bills/hbillenr/hb0174.pdf

pramahaphil said...

Thanks for visting Jeremy

Rob said...

Look, we all know that Tom Barberi is "The Voice of Reason".

And I agree, you should concede that everything on The Utah Amicus as the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Voucher facts.
Choice has always been there, vouchers won't change that.

Price isn't usually a consideration as to why a parent picks a private school.

96% of Utah children will attend public schools.

PCE is trying to turn this issue into a Republican issue to win their fight instead of winning it on the merits of vouchers.

Joseph Bast is very clear about vouchers being the vehicle to completely separate government from education.

The first audit of voucher legislation will be after the fifth year. New schools (business models) that are created have a high rate of closure in the first three years.

There is no proof that private schools in Utah do any better than public schools.

Where is the accountability?

Private schools pick students, public schools are open to all children.

The majority of Utahns did not support vouchers.

There were (I believe) seven legislative races that were targeted by PCE. They lost all of those races which tells me that the "people have spoken".

What happens next? You do have to look at the motives of those who are spending the money for vouchers. Maybe for you it's no biggy now, but remember the old saying, "if I give an inch"?

Nice blog Green Jello, I know for a fact that it's not easy being green.