Monday, June 18, 2007

Vouchers -- Bureaucratic Turf War

At Steve Urquhart's blog he commented on some of the bureaucratic infighting that seems to be the norm between the Board of Education and legislative committees. State Board Chairman Kim Birmingham in an email respectfully, although in my opinion with a little spite, refused to come to the table with a committee of the Legislature to discuss education issues.

Last week I read a post at KCPW regarding pleas and desires of Governor Huntsman that the State's Education Bureaucracy and the Legislature resolve differences and move past vouchers and the rancor that has existed between the two throughout much of the voucher debate. The first two commenters on the post were Pat Rusk (former NEA president & current Utahns for Public Schools leader) and Sylvia Anderson State representative from district 48. The comments went like this:

Pat Rusk Said,

"Residual impact"? The voucher rancor has clouded every single legislative session for nearly a decade. The past few months have simply brought the issue before the public. Educators working to secure funding and respect for public schools and public school employees have met with the "vouchers or else" mentality for years. Residual impact? You bet there will be residual impact. Many legislators hold not only citizens, but each other hostage with their power. But fortunately the public will now see what many of us have dealt with for years. THEY can end not only the voucher nonsense but also reign of those legislators whose superiority over the rest of us must never be questioned."

Sylvia Andersen Said,

"As a new Legislator, I am surprised and saddened at the "them against us" attitude the pervades the discussion about education. I came to the Hill hoping to be in the Legislature what my role in life has been, that of a peacemaker and facilitator. I met with a couple of leaders in the UEA even before being elected, I suggested a meeting in which a representative of each group associated with educating our young people would gather around a table, putting the needs of our children in the center of the table, and offer constructive suggestions of how address those needs. I suggested that we should have a member of the Board of Education, a member of each of the different organizations that educate our youth; Home Schoolers, Private Schools, Charter Schools, Public Schools; the PTA and Parents for Choice represented at that meeting. The Response to my suggestion was "I won't meet with Parents for Choice!"

How can we ever improve our educational system with this obvious need to control all that is related to education so prevalent in the attitudes of those who are supposedly serving our youth. I have been so immersed in an atmosphere of "protect your organization's territory at all costs" that it is difficult to see where these organizations prioritize the needs of our children. Is it before or after protecting their own organization and the power they wield? Can it be that it is more important to maintain the status quo of control over funds, power, and our children than addressing all possible options for improvement? Can any one organization possibly think that "they" know what is right for every child and every family? Can any group be so insecure regarding their viability that they refuse to consider ANY other options that would include change? Can we as citizens feel that it is our right and need to control the opportunities for each tax-paying family to determine what will serve the educational needs of their child(ren)best?
I believe that if we worked TOGETHER to address the serious issues surrounding education, without concern for "protecting our territory" we could find the answers, implement the change, and secure a path of success for every child in Utah.

We, as Legislators TOGETHER, passed the largest increase in funding for education in the history of our state. As a percentage of increase, it was the largest in the US. If funding is the measure of our commitment to education, then how can it be doubted?

I know that every Legislator with whom I work is dedicated to doing what is best for their district and the State as a whole. I have not found a single Representative who displays and air of superiority, each has sacrificed a great deal to serve their fellow citizens.

Since then there have been a few other commenters on that post, including Kim Horiuchi, Dixie Allen and others. The former and later commenters were very articulate and even handed in their arguments respectively. However, Ms. Rusk and Andersen provided a very telling look at the bureaucratic infighting that is clouding this debate.

I am afraid that much of this rancor amounts to a proverbial turf war. Some educators (although I disagree with the term "educrat", some look like ducks, walk like ducks, sound like ducks, and therefore are likely ducks) seem wholly opposed to vouchers because it is out of the realm of the classic public education system and a personal affront to their worth. While some elected representatives have come close to using dictator-esque force in dealing with the education bureaucracy.

We have clarity in the referendum vote, and we have many solid arguments for and against vouchers that should be addressed. May the bureaucracies of this state do as the governor recommends, move on with the business of running the state.

From this post, I think it is demonstrative of the stifling, group think, effects that bureaucracies have on innovation and progress.

El Cartoonista had it right with his recently censored cartoon. What is best for Utah's children?

This is the last time I will harp on the tone of the voucher debate. (My wife says the blog is getting stale)

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