I have been swamped at work still finishing off returns from the 2006 filing season. (I have two days left thanks to an underhanded trick of the trade) :) As the month begins to progress work has continued to pile and I'm doubting that I will have the time to complete the earth shattering, in-depth analysis I was hoping to be able to present before the November vote.
I have been reviewing the LFA report again and again, and I have hit a paradigm shifting roadblock in my support of vouchers. I do still believe vouchers would produce a fairly decent net savings for the first few years (savings ranging somewhere near4-6.2 millon or in a worse case scenario a loss) , but there will come an equilibrium within 5 to 6 years where the savings break even, and when vouchers fully implement in the 13th year and onward vouchers will inevitiably begin to net annual losses. One might argue about the ambiguities of savings from private school student who would have gone to private schools with or without vouchers and the students who may attend private schools because vouchers make the difference, however it is impossible to get around the fact as time goes by (especially after year thirteen) all students in private schools will be receiving voucher money (whether or not they wanted or needed vouchers to incentivize them out of the public school system).
Judging from the Legislative Fiscal Analyst's Report, from year 13 (and I assume from then on) vouchers will net annual losses between $43,088,978 and $59,492,020. There may have been some options that could have alleviated this undesirable effect of subsidizing students who were "no-matter-what-the-cost" private school bound such as requiring a 1 or 2 year period of public school attendance for voucher eligibility. However, with the exception to the eligibility of current Utah-residing, school-aged students no such requirements were included in HB148 or 174.
Idealogically, I do agree with the philosophy of allowing taxpayers a say in how their tax dollars are used to fund the education of their children. The one size fits approach to public education needs innovation and options. Charter schools are a great menu item in our education mix, and I believe providing more accessibility to private schools would also provide another great option for students who need a non-traditional approach to their education needs if it could be done without creating an additional drain from Utah's taxpayers and from the already underfunded public schools system. However, referendum 1 doesn't succeed in this point. After the 13th year and beyond it would be a drain on the public coffers, and I'm afraid it would be viewed as nothing more than another entitlement program.
If HB148 or 174 would have had a provision forcing voucher recipients to enter public school for at least a year or more before being voucher eligible, the thirteen year savings to loss issue may have been solved. This is not the case, HB148 would have its beneficial savings for a season but in the long-run would become a drain of Utah's tax dollars. I hope that if and when Ref 1 is voted down the Legislature reconsiders the issue, and looks at how to resolve the 13 year crunch.
Regretfully, I think I will be dropping my support of referendum 1 with the forlorned hope that the idea doesn't die permanently in this state. If this damages my credibility -- so be it. The idea is good, but the plan's execution has that 1 major flaw for me. This paradigm shift has not been an easy one for me to embrace.
I blog for myself. I find clarity in writing and verbalizing my opinion, and often I find out through my writing that I am wrong.
Have fun everyone!!