Monday, April 30, 2007

School voucher opponents gather enough signatures for repeal vote

School voucher opponents gather enough signatures for repeal vote
By Tiffany EricksonDeseret Morning News
Anti-voucher organizers challenging the new voucher law set a record in qualifying a referendum petition that would ask voters to repeal the state's new voucher law. Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert announced today that the 124,218 verified signatures is not only a record number on a referendum petition but it's the first time in 33 years a referendum petition has been successful — a land use bill was overturned in 1974. The next steps in the process is for the state's Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel research to enroll a title within 15 days and prepare what language will go on the ballot. The governor has said he will set the election day for Feb. 5, 2008, the day of the presidential primary election. Kim Burningham, spokesman for Utahns for Public Schools and president of the State Board of Education said he was delighted and surprised at the announcement since they had more verifiable signature than expected, calling it a significant victory for the anti-voucher group.
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Ther Captain


Anonymous said...

While I am a product of the public schools in Utah, and my kids attended public schools in Utah, California, Maryland, Virginia, Nebraska, I have not found any of the arguments against school vouchers in Utah to be even semi-rational. It is obvious that students will not be adversely affected in any way. What will actually be harmed are the teachers union and the school district bureaucracies, which will lose their monopoly power and have to begin justifying their budgets to parents and taxpayers as it becomes obvious that a good education can be obtained for less money than the $7,500 per child per year that the public schools are spending.

I emphasize the teachers union, rather than individual teachers themselves, since they will have more options. They can pick either unionized public schools or non-unionized private schools. They may even decide that they would like to start their own private school, either non-profit or for-profit, and have more control over the curriculum and other policies that irk them in the public schools. Some teachers may realize that, by eliminating the bureaucracy, they can actually increase their own salaries. The unions can always try to unionize private schools, but will have to go at it school by school because they won't be able to coerce an entire school district at one time.

There are four myths that are at the heart of most anti-voucher rhetoric. One is that the public has a duty to preserve public schools as presently constituted, in other words, that the purpose of education funding is to support the public schools per se. The reality is that the purpose of the educational system and funding is to support education for K-12 students. If it can be accomplished through other means, then there is nothing wrong with giving parents the funds to pursue them. The public schools' doctrine that the interests of individual students and their parents are only secondary goals is the major reason why they need to be given a wake up call.

The second myth is the assertion by teachers unions and district monopolies that parents are not smart enough to buy quality education for their kids. Parents might be allowed to pick doctors, dentists, colleges, cars and jobs for their kids, and to decide where to take them to church, but they are too damn stupid to know a good school from a bad one. Since most Utah parents were educated in the Utah public school system, this accusation is an indictment of the incompetence of the public schools in preparing Utah students to have the judgment to make important decisions likie educational institutions. If it were true, that would be all the more reason to break the cycle of incompetence and give parents options.

The third myth is a corollary of the second, namely, that teachers who are not "certified" as in public schools are not capable teachers. It is very simple to see the bombacity of this claim about certification. I have tuahgt courses at the college level in California, Nebraska, Utah and Idaho, based on my two graduate degrees in law. However, I would not be allowed to teach the same course to high school students because I am not "certified" by taking lots of boring "education" courses that have nothing to do with the subjects I would teach or my actual skills. When I was a college student, the "certification" courses were a direct disincentive to anyone with good test scores and grades from even getting a minor in education, because even the education majors admitted they were a waste of time. The "certification" requirement perversely pushes the most potentially capable teachers of mathematics, sciences, and other specialties out of education. While efforts have been made to reduce the barrier, there seems to be no clear reason why it should exist at all. It is easy to tell in practice whether someone can reach teenagers and get them to learn a topic. They can be weeded out quickly, and in a private school environment can be dismissed. Firing a public school teacher is very difficult.

The fourth myth is that "public schools" are somehow more noble than "private schools", especially when it comes to consuming public funds. The chutzpah in that assertion is mind-boggling.

Other than the buildings themselves, everything else about a "public school" is just as private as any private school! The teachers in both public and private schools are all private individuals who can use their salaries in any way they wish, includi8ng donating it to churches and even sending their own kids to a parochial school! (Something many public school teachers actually do!) The desks, computers, paper, and equipment is all purchased from private companies, just as in private schools. The buses for both kinds of schools are bought from private companies, as is the fuel for them. The school buildings themselves, though the money to finance them comes from taxes, the financing is done through offering public bonds, which are sold on the market to private investors through private brokers, in deals set up by private law firms (mainly by the one I used to work for), all of which earn a percentage of the deal. The actual construction is done by private companies who purchase building materials from other private companies, which generally have to pay sales tax on the purchases! Private schools can borrow construction funds the same way as other businesses or non-profit organizations, and hire the same contractors and buy the same kinds of materials from suppliers. So unless there is some special virtue in government owning school buildings, as opposed to getting education services without the liability of such ownership, public schools are exactly equivalent to private schools in what the money goes for.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but I'm paying taxes to support public schools, not private schools. In private schools, students are less likely to encounter new ideas and people different from themselves. Our democracy depends on public schools.

Anonymous said...


If a public school student transfers to a private school because of a voucher, you'll be paying less ($2,000 compared to $7,500). Therefore, you benefit, even if you have no children or live in a rural area.

Can you back up the statement that "students are less likely to encounter new ideas and [different] people" in private schools than in public schools? Public schools, particularly elementary schools, are among the most race- and class-segregated institutions in America.

jmanni7 said...

It is such a fraud for you to claim that we will be paying less for the students who leave.

First of all the right number of students who are the right age need to leave each school before average class size is even slightly affected. Second, the taxpayers will be paying a fortune from the general fund for the costs of setting up and maintaining this program and its subsidies for private schools.

Taxpayers won't be better off and the argument that students will be better off hasn't ever been effectively made by the pro-voucher people. Utah's schools are doing an excellent job preparing our kids for their futures. Why waste money on a new program when the one we have which we know is working could benefit so much from further investment?

In Utah vouchers are a foolish idea.