Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Vouchers -- Will the REAL Legislative Fiscal Analyst Please Step Forward?

In my last voucher thread, Rep. Urquhart stated that the voucher math is rather straight forward. However, judging from the debate the Legislative Fiscal Analyst's report has created in the blogosphere I would respectfully disagree.

I would like to offer top posting to the Legislative Fiscal Analyst to explain the results of his report regarding HB148 and 174. However, if blogging on the issue in a private site is unacceptable, than I wonder if there could be some other opportunity to have the man who came up with the numbers explain the report, and respond to questions about the report to anyone in the blogosphere. I will fully admit that there may be something that I am missing in the math, but if that is the case than I know I'm not alone.

I would like to ask if Ric Cantrell, Steve U., or some other blogger on Capital Hill could help set up such an event?


Jesse Harris said...

I whole-heartedly endorse that idea. Maybe some kind of online chat would be an appropriate venue for such a thing.

steve u. said...

You're not missing a thing. The key is the switch rate. The LFA used a switch rate of 4/10ths of 1%, based on elasticity studies in other states. If that turns out to the the number, vouchers cost the system. If the number exceeds 1%, vouchers save money.

Let's set up a forum! I really do think the arguments (at least the financial ones) are congealing a bit.

Tonight I'm debating Utah PTA president Carmen Snow. I'll post a video and transcript, and maybe that will be helpful.

Cameron said...

So what's the status of this forum?

Don said...

I'd guess that at this late date the forum is probably a no go Cameron.

It's too bad. The one person (from the several blogs we all seem to frequent) who probably could have set up something like this (Rep. Urquhart) isn't even answering the simplest of questions on his own blog these days concerning voucher fiscal analysis.

Steve's claim that a 1% switch rate would be the break even point for this voucher program is dubious at best. I e-mailed several people at the LFA over a week ago to see what they had to say about it, but have not heard back. Steve is also curiously mum about the numbers and assumptions behind the 1% projection.

It sounds to me like voucher supporters are content to just wait out the inevitable demise of their beloved monster. Every time they try to score a point on the money side of the issue it seems to backfire. Is anyone seriously saying that this program is likely to save over a billion dollars anymore? And the 155000 new student "nightmare"? That's not gaining any traction, because it's just not as dire as UTA and others would like us to believe (thanks Governor for telling it straight.) Now we've got "switch rate" scenarios flying around, but no one from the pro-voucher crowd seems willing to back up any of their guesses with some concrete analysis.

Personally, I think the only rational conclusion from all of this is that the fiscal side of HB148 just doesn't add up as being anywhere near a plus for Utah taxpayers. If Referendum 1 is upheld we will end up spending way too much money for way too little public benefit.

pramahaphil said...

A little too late I know.

From what I understood the LFA could not be part of any such open forum.

UtahTeacher said...

Also late, but I found this post very interesting. Rep. Daw of Orem outlined why he disagreed with the LFA in a meeting at Orem City Hall on Nov. 1st. To me, it basically boiled down to wishful thinking because they got 4,000 applications for vouchers in the short period available to apply last summer, ignoring the fact that there were almost 4000 eligible kindergarteners and low-income families currently attending private school, and that many applicants would be ineligible or end up not using the voucher for practical reasons anyway. I would love to hear the LFA defend their reasoning.

I also think the single greatest victory of the voucher proponents was successfully defining the finances as $7500 - $2000 = $5500 "savings." Even voucher opponents and the LFA often accepted this faulty premise.

The census excludes capital costs because they are not meaningful in terms of determining the quality of instruction. Funds in the public system are specifically allocated to reach multiple students with each dollar, not for individually purchased benefits packages. The state's own definition of WPU specifically explains that it is NOT the specific cost of educating one student, but just a convenient way to distribute funds and compare stats with other states.
(2nd Paragraph)

The marginal savings for a school losing one kid is a couple bucks in paper--far, far less than what the district would lose per voucher. Once you lose enough students from the same school to cut a teacher, you've lost $50-$75000 dollars in vouchers. Net loss.

Look at PCE's studies page:

Susan Aud's 2007 study specifically explains all of the fixed costs, concluding that most of total spending could not be "redistributed," but then defines those fixed costs as a "savings windfall" anyway.

The 2004 USU study claims that the state saves $8675 if a single student leaves a publicly funded school! Seriously--pg 6 of the executive summary or pgs. 45-47. Vouchers greatest defense was that no one, including the one legislator I had the chance to ask personally, was willing to wade through this junk to challenge the $1 billion in savings out of thin air.