Thursday, November 15, 2007

Free Markets and Public Education—The Forgotten Underbelly

First off, vouchers will not and CANNOT by design benefit public schools financially. All of the arguments about vouchers literally increasing funding per student were demonstrable untruths. See my Nut and Bolts postings from the last few weeks if you still need documented proof of that statement. Unfortunately, many Utahns were and continue to be fooled by the “Oreo” argument of increased funds to “redistribute.” Others, I suspect, refuse to carefully consider the realities of public school funding because it strips away a major justification of the voucher plan. (Rep. Laurie Fowlke of Orem claims the financial mitigation aspect of HB 148 is the reason she voted for it after voting against a voucher bill in 2005.) This November 14th letter to the editor gives a succinct view of the misperception.

However, a large portion of voucher supporters locally, and virtually all advocates nationally, philosophically support removing funds from public education as a voucher program expands. They believe that a pure free-market will inevitably produce superior results through private education and increased competition for public schools. Why muddle up the point with circular reasoning about simultaneously increasing the funding of public schools? We can have an honest discussion of free market principles and schools, and people advocating either side should know the true financial impacts of their position.

Hardcore free-market proponents think that almost anything “meddled with” by the government is inefficient, unjust, or both. Senator Stephenson has recently proposed privatizing all municipal golf courses, garbage service, and recreation centers as unnecessary repression of private enterprise. (Link needed) While I was discussing vouchers last week with Senator Dayton, I brought up an interesting book on capitalism that I read a couple years ago. This economics professor, Thomas J. DiLorenzo, thinks that basically everything should be privatized, even road construction and maintenance. I brought this up as what I considered a too extreme application of free-market principles, but Senator Dayton told me she agreed that roads shouldn’t be handled by the government. I submit that most Utah voters would have issues with toll roads and better maintenance of roads in richer areas. (I will say that the story of the Plymouth Rock Colony and work is fascinating. DiLorenzo also almost has me convinced that the Standard Oil breakup was a disservice to the public, but I want to read some other opinions before I buy everything DiLorenzo says.) These privatization advocates dislike government inefficiency and control and argue that the inevitably superior performance of private schools would serve US and Utah students better.

They ignore two crucial points, one of empirical evidence and education philosophy, and one about an aspect of the free market that they consistently downplay:

In the entire history of the world, in all countries with all forms of government and economy, no society before the US during the 20th and 21st centuries has systemically educated poor, disabled, or otherwise disadvantaged students. This still holds true today as other countries start sifting their less capable kids out as early as 5th grade, leaving only elite students to continue to high school and college and whose test scores cause weeping and wailing in the US when compared with our broad cross-section of students. Most American ideals reject that practice.

I can see their point on some of the free-market stuff—public education does have inherent inefficiencies in seeking to provide universal education to all Americans. However, the historic, social benefits FAR outweigh a free market alternative revealed through millennia of empirical evidence in every country of the world. There is no profit in educating poor people, thus it doesn't happen in a pure free market beyond token charity efforts. That is history; that is fact. The American people moved away from education-for-the-fittest for the first time in history during the 20th century, creating the largest and most prosperous middle class in the history of the world. (I possibly owe author, Mike Rose, credit for the last part of that statement. I thought he said it, but when I went back to his revealing book, Lives on the Boundary, it wasn’t there. It’s one of those statements bouncing around my head from college reading.) PCE bigwig, Doug Holmes, indirectly confirms my point:
"We think America was built on the public education system," Holmes says. "People associate public schools with motherhood, apple pie and freedom."
Public education is a fairly recent concept, Holmes says. "For the first hundred years, Americans had a very different approach to education."

He fails to mention that the early approach involved not educating the majority of the population, especially poor people, black people, and most women. Sure, Paul Mero constantly points out that some private schools exist today that serve disabled students. That does not prove that private schools would emerge to serve all disabled students, regardless of their socio-economic status and the severity of their conditions. All of the empirical evidence points to those schools being an exceptional response to the increase in wealth of today's society, rather than the rule, in a private system.

A true free market produces more than just the cream of the crop. The market produces a complete spectrum of service, from excellent to mediocre, horrible, fraudulent, and possibly dangerous.

The voucher advocates claimed that any low quality school would quickly go out of business as families “voted with their feet.”

I almost bought inferior windows for my house this summer at twice the price of the higher quality product I eventually found. I’ve dealt with dishonest car salesmen, bad phone service, and unresponsive college bureaucracies. Individual Utah consumers face problems everyday from unethical car repair shops, overpriced laptops with bad components advertised as the best on the planet, one of the highest rates of mortgage and investment fraud in the nation, many expensive adult colleges and certification programs that function as “diploma mills” while offering mediocre skills development, and even private youth wilderness programs that mistakenly kill students entrusted to their care.

How can this happen? Are these consumers apathetic about their own money, their own educations, and/or their children? Maybe in some cases. But a combination of effective marketing along with a lack of expertise can make anyone a sucker. We’ve all been ripped off sometime, and contrary to the claims of free-marketers, many of the worst companies actually thrive alongside the high quality companies. It’s all part of our sometimes exploitive capitalistic system which is based on harnessing our natural greed and self-preservation instincts for the public good as much as possible. It is not inherently a “virtuous” economic system that always produces the best product. This viewpoint is not one of liberal distrust of parents’ intelligence as twisted by the voucher supporters. An unbiased observation of reality must conclude that negative outcomes are at least as common as positive in private education and that even good people can make bad decisions when presented misleading information. For example, 38% of the electorate voted for vouchers. =)

Acknowledging the complete range of service in the capitalistic jungle has lead society to fund, produce, or regulate some basic public services and goods such as police protection, fire service, road construction, water, natural gas, and other basic utilities to ensure that the public good is served, even at the expense of possible profit. The survival, physical health, and economic health of the community were considered in making these decisions.

For example, a privatized system of individually hired security forces to replace the police would undoubtedly produce some local outcomes superior to what we have now. BUT…the opposite would also hold true. Some cities, counties, or states would end up saddled with expensive contracts for unethical or low quality security service, including head charges for every motorist assisted by one of the security officers on the side of the freeway. Rich neighborhoods could subcontract for superior service, leaving large segments of society to fend for themselves.

Society has rejected this scenario by providing police service for all from common tax funds. True, as in all government services, the rich largely subsidize the poor and may not even directly use the police service. But those wealthier families benefit along with the rest of society from the community being orderly and protected.

Public education provides opportunity for all students and the increased likelihood of students becoming contributing members of society rather than welfare recipients or criminals. Roads likewise make trade, work, and consumer spending possible. The government often makes bad decisions or operates inefficiently, but the tremendous moral and practical benefits these programs provide to society outweigh the disadvantages. Everyone benefits from these public goods even as we sometimes struggle to pay taxes. Trying to simultaneously fund another system of police, road building, or education would only increase the tax burden and dilute the funds needed for an already difficult undertaking. Vouchers neither capture the benefits, nor avoid the pitfalls of a free-market system of education.
American public education may have warts and a limp at times, but it is NOT broken and has produced major social and economic improvement for millions of people. I’m going to copy in the exchange on another blog inspired by posters reacting to the TRUE Oreo cookie ad:

Millard Fillmore's Bathtub
“If you consider paying taxes “financial coercion,” go somewhere else. Here we regard citizenship as a duty, a noble duty as did the Romans, for one example, and the Greeks. Our nation was founded on the assumption that patriots would do their duty to their nation. If you wish not to, make your case directly with the people.

You really want to kill public education? Make the case for doing so.

We have the world’s best system of public education because private education was not fully adequate to meet the needs of our republican government, nor for our economic development. It’s still true.”

So public education dollars predominantly go to services that benefit hundreds or thousands of students at once, i.e. schools, teachers, computers, buses, etc. The myth of "my taxes" going where "I want them"—rather than some sacrifice for society's good—changes the paradigm to school as a paid service where we purchase what we want. Whatever the exact stat is—20% percent of tax payers pay 80% percent of taxes...or something in that range—that philosophy inevitably leads to increased privatization and exclusion of a large portion of society because they can't afford their share. Most Americans and most Utahns reject that, as does the official state policy for education funding.
The second paragraph states "The WPU is NOT a plan of expenditure, or budget...but a mechanism to derive total program cost and distribute revenues." (Caps mine)

Each student shares thousands and thousands of dollars from everyone’s pooled contributions each day as they are taught by several teachers, use computer labs, books, and equipment, and learn in an expensive public facility. None of this would be attainable for the majority of students—not just the poorest students—if each family was responsible to individually finance their children’s education.

Free markets will never provide for the education of ALL children and do not guarantee a quality education to the students who do get educated. However, the rich, and the very rich such as the national-voucher-campaign-supporting Walton family, would still be able to send their kids to great schools while saving literally millions in taxes that previously educated others. Is this really a viable or desirable solution for our education problems?

Friday, November 9, 2007

False FUD Factusations

First, random related musing…I attended the BYU-TCU game tonight. As I enjoyed the game and the atmosphere, I thought about Utah County’s very close split between Referendum 1 supporters and those against the voucher bill, and all of those heated advocates sitting here screaming together at some horned frogs rather than at each other. I wonder if I’ve conversed with any of these people online or seen a sign in their yard as I drove by?

Two voucher supporters, Rep. Steven Urquhart, and Jesse, have written thoughtful commentary on the rejection of Referendum 1, even though I still disagree with many of their base presumptions and hope to influence some of those ideas in the course of discussion. But notice the 11th comment posted below Jesse’s post by Dave Hansen (Who, as best I can find, seems to be the President of The Buckeye Institute, another out-of-state, rightwing think tank trying to use Utah as a national lever for its own agenda and publishing silly propaganda like this. Especially enjoy the comparisons between public school supporters and repressive white leaders in the Old South straight from Patrick Byrne’s election night playbook.) totally attacking Jesse for what Hansen perceives as erroneous departures from the voucher orthodoxy. If Jesse deviates in any degree with PCE’s talking points, then he must be inexperienced, not committed enough like Dave the donor, and must not have read the bill. All this to a vocal voucher supporter who voted for the bill, but was discussing strategy to address opponent concerns after Referendum 1 was voted down 62.2 % to 37.8% in one of the most conservative states in the union. So if this is how some on the voucher side treat their supporters, how must they be justifying their loss to the intellectually inferior public school advocates?

FUD. Fear, uncertainty, and doubt. This was the only strategy used by voucher opponents (and the Satan worshippers at the UEA) because the benefits of vouchers are inherently truthful. Any “Against” vote was from a lazy teacher interested in preserving his/her union power or someone too stupid to mistrust all of this “out-of-state” influence.

This self-justifying attitude is coming from prominent sources and anonymous comments on the message boards, all of it insulting and arrogant.

The public faces:

Patrick Byrne’s IQ Test

Doug Holmes,2933,308936,00.html
Doug Holmes, chairman of Parents for Choice in Education, said opponents used fear to kill vouchers. Prize-winning teachers surrounded by kids appeared in TV ads warning that the program was flawed and a threat to public schools.
"Serious people who evaluated the policy -- the governor, the Legislature, the business community, etc. -- all support this," Holmes said.
(As opposed to all those flippant, jolly PTA moms…)

Rep. John Dougall

Larry Miller?!
(Rep. Dougall wouldn’t agree about his reading the bill being “radical.” The Sidetrack points out some memory differences on the timing of his conversion and ensuing donation.)
I learned a new term, one that I hadn’t heard before. It was that the F.U.D. method was being used, by design, in the NEA sponsored opposition ads. The F.U.D. method is “Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.”

Richard Eyre and Senator John Valentine
But pro-voucher spokesman Richard Eyre thinks voters were more confused than they were opposed to vouchers. And Senate President John Valentine still believes Utahns would support vouchers with the right information.

More from Senator Valentine: (Nov. 6th entry)
No one likes to be served humble pie but, whatever the outcome, I believe it's healthy for government to be reminded that voters are citizens, not subjects. They are the final decision makers on this bill and bear the final responsibility for what occurs as a consequence of their vote.

I initially though this quote showed at least some recognition of the validity of public opinion, but when I shared it with friends, they immediately retorted with, “The fact he had to be “reminded” that we aren’t subjects explains this voucher bill perfectly.” And I hope those consequences don’t include politicization of the school board.

The Peanut Gallery:

From this Deseret News Article:
Concerned | 9:20 p.m. Nov. 6, 2007
GWB Did you actually read the legislation? It's apparent you didn't. Vouchers did not give anything to the rich. It actually helped far more middle and poor class kids. Not to mention the significant increase spent on public schools. I encourage all to read the actual printed law even though it's too late. You will find the Anti-Voucher side LIED!!! And these people teach our kids. It just goes to show that even those who claim they're above the mess will go right into the muck if they feel threatened in anyway.

If the majority is unwilling to sufficiently research their vote where will we end up and what will need to be done when the mess is over our heads?

From this Tribune Article:
Tumbleweed Tom: 11/7/2007 9:35:00 PM

Anything But: You think conservatives aren't united by anything but
greed? We've shown you and will continue to show you how united we are against liberalism, socialism, anti-religionism, porn, crime, gun control, abortion, the UEA and the NEA (because they bash conservatism and embrace and try to indoctrinate about libralism). We don't oppose teachers, only teachers who try to endoctrinate our kids w/ the liberal crap. In that sense most politicians who are endorsed by the UEA or NEA will find that the endorsement is a ball and chain. The best thing the teachers of this state could do is completely cut themselves off from both unions and hire lobbyists who can convince legislators that teachers do not want to attack the core values prevalent here. The defeat of vouchers doesn't mean our values have changed, only that confusion or uncertainty of vouchers prevailed. Our legislatures, most of whom on all other issues, share the core values of the majority here, may indeed blame the UEA for the failure of vouchers. That probably means the two unions will be considered DIRT more now than ever before. Teachers, if you want to make headway w/ the Legislature, get rid of the UEA and NEA and use the money to hire effective lobbyists (who have never had any affiliation w/ either UNION).

From the initial KSL report of the referendum’s defeat:
I agree 100%
by tifflynn @ 11:52 pm - Tue. Nov. 6th, 2007

I really think people just trusted what they heard the most of. When
one side is spending literally 3x as much as the other, as was the
case here, the first is bound to win. Few people were able to look
into this program with an open mind. It was obvious to me (as I spoke with several teachers and PTA members) that someone was persuading most everyone in the public education system to think one way and one way only. I don't think too many teachers or citizens were able to look at the issue head on and read the facts to decide what was best on their own. It's too bad because we should be fighting for better education all around. Competition would have been very good for the public schools, smaller class sizes would have happened, increased funds would have helped. But I believe it just comes down to someone or some group wanting control for themselves. Fear of losing that control is what drove the anti-voucher campaign and somehow a lot of people bought into it all too easily. It's just too bad.

What a bunch of bologna! That is exactly the opposite of my observations and what has been recorded by those willing to share their reasoning. Those thoughtful enough to read the bill were more likely to change their minds from a vote "for" to a vote "against":
Here, here, and here.

Bear in mind, these are people who support vouchers in principle, but found too many flaws in this bill. I never found a similarly reasoned admission from an anti-voucher advocate switching to be pro-voucher.

As far as being informed, I asked my state senator if she had read the USU study used to claim over $1 billion in savings. She hadn’t. I seriously doubt that Speaker Curtis and Senator Valentine have as well. (See as well this “honest and sincere” questioning of the public’s ability to do anything right.) As I researched exactly how the bill funding language worked and read PCE’s own studies, I blogged about it and posted my findings on some other blogs that were pro-voucher. In the heated atmosphere of online debates, these four blog comments, based on the financial details of HB 148, had not been responded to as of early Friday, Nov. 9, 2007. I believe it is because my comments are indisputable on at least these two points of funding:

Utah Politics:

A marketing/PR guy with lots of ideas who works for the Utah Jazz on game nights--which I mention because it is cool:

A nice guy recommended by Rep. Urquhart:

Rep. Dougall (I was most nervous about posting to this blog as his replies tend to be caustic, but I definitely read the bill and concluded it was flawed. I've been ignored so far.)
I’ll quote this one because I think it’s the most succinct:

I personally believe that voucher supporters were more guilty of light reading than voucher opponents. The claims of $1.4 billion in savings were accepted and promulgated without question by PCE and repeated in the last letter to the public from Sen. Valentine and Rep. Curtis. I'm doubting they read even the executive summary of the USU study they cite, let alone the in-depth statistical twisting necessary to save $2675 more on the marginal cost of each student leaving school than total cost put in per student including capital costs.

Lines 309-315 of HB 148 reveal the shell game. When the general fund disperses a $2250 voucher to a school, the district ALSO has to give $2250 back to the Uniform School Fund...where it just sits until rolling back into the funds for the next year. That money is counted in the total student funding which makes the funding statistic look better, even though the local school and district both lost money. And after the five years of mitigation, the district loses the entire MSP.

I feel the true financial impacts of the bill have been nailed down fairly well now, besides a few factoids dependent on legislative intent that we may never know…such as whether the MSP withdrawn per student would be a statewide average, a district average (these two would differ by thousands of dollars in some cases), or the actual MSP of that student which would in most cases be only the WPU of $2417, resulting in mitigation refunds of only a couple hundred dollars. I’ve got further things to say about the UEA and my ideas for school improvement in the coming weeks.

Go to any article written in the last few months about vouchers in the Deseret News, Salt Lake Tribune, or Click on the comments and see for yourself. The only FUD is that being spread by the voucher supporters to counter anti-voucher fact. They use “the status quo” as a buzzword about our “failing,” “broken” school system. They refuse to acknowledge the permanent, historical underfunding of our schools by claiming the state has been “throwing” money into the failing system with no results. The UEA or NEA is the strawman bogeyman that opposes all improvement, and therefore, voucher opposition is about “power and control."

Even voucher supporters mentioned above acknowledge the huge cost and inequality of HB 148 as written. Hundreds of thousands of smart, conscientious Utah voters rejected vouchers because of sincere philosophical objections to an instrument designed to destroy public schools. Regarding tax contributions as individual payments to be distributed back to the individual taxpayer inevitably leads to privatization and exclusion of those unable to pay. We don’t receive individual allotments of roads, police protection, fire service, etc. because the system would break down and exclude large portions of society. Society as a whole, including the wealthy taxpayers ultimately funding these public goods, benefits from an educated, protected populace. It cannot be about “I got mine.” That is not fear; it is principle.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Vote! TRUE cookie commercial...Quick reviews

Vote! 1. It makes you, the state, and the country better. 2. The pro-voucher supporters are tightly organized and getting out the vote--a surprise would make us all sick. 3. CRUSH vouchers. Send a message. The higher the margin of victory, the less likely that the legislature can turn around and try it again, despite the campaign contributions. You don't have to think public schools are perfect to vote vouchers down.

The TRUE Utah Voucher Cookie Ad

A quick, but revealing overview of the confusing voucher funding:

New visitors--why the voucher "savings" are untrue AND Nuts and Bolts of Voucher Funding part 5

A longer, more detailed analysis of what really happens when a student takes a voucher:

The Nuts and Bolts of Voucher Funding -- Parts 1 1/2, 2, 3, 4, and a response to BYU professor, Clayne L. Pope

The pro-voucher side is NOT giving up. This is from their email yesterday. I shouldn't be, but I am continually staggered by their hypocrisy about out-of-state funding.

Turnout will push Referendum 1 to victory

Some polls done by the media show that the school voucher law is behind in statewide opinion surveys. While we always knew this Referendum would be an uphill battle against a wealthy entrenched special interest union with millions in out-of-state cash, we remain confident.

This election will be decided by turnout. Normally, odd-year elections have very low turnout. Conventional wisdom has been that Referendum 1 would lead to higher turnout, but early numbers show that voters have been less than expected.

We have the votes to win, if those voters will show up and cast their ballots. The most important thing you can do is to get to the polls on Tuesday, and take other Referendum 1 supporters with you. We can win this election if you show up and vote!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Face-to-face reasoning with invested individuals OR a chance encounter with Senator Margaret Dayton

I'm going to start with a seemingly unrelated item. I got a little board game as a stocking stuffer last Christmas. I tried it out with family members and we just didn't like it. In fact, we thought it was poorly designed. I later posted my opinion of the game on a website that gathers reviews and information and didn't think any more of it. A few months later, I received an email from the designer of the game, apologizing for not meeting my expectations and offering me a free game if I tried his company's products again. I was taken aback. I had never previously felt bad about criticizing Monopoly for example, but now I had received a friendly email from a designer who had laid the results of his creativity and effort bare to the public and was probably trying to earn at least part of his livelihood with the product. The purpose of the site I posted to is to gather useful information so that others can make better-informed decisions, and I felt like my criticism of the game was fair, specific, and accurate...but I still felt uncomfortable with the situation.

It's not quite the same, but I've been pondering if I'm comfortable with what I write in this public forum. I met Senator Margaret Dayton today in her driveway right after taping my personal anti-voucher flyer (see Oct. 30th post) to her door. It was quite a surprise to recognize her there, right in front of me. We had, I guess, a six or seven minute conversation about vouchers. (And for the sake of full disclosure, if you read this Senator, I really don't remember who I voted for in your race last year, but I'm guessing I would have learned your voucher position and voted against you.)

Sen. Dayton was nice and gave me experienced campaign advice on how to best tape flyers to doors so as to not annoy the owner. I was thinking on the way home that it is hard to reconcile my normal neighborly feelings to someone in the neighborhood and my strong negative views of something she firmly believes in. She could be a friend or advisor if we were acquainted under different circumstances. We share a common neighborhood, an interest in kids and schools, and probably the same religion. I get along fine with my voucher-supporting neighbors and have had excellent discussions that gave me a lot to think about (I've convinced at least one, maybe two of my neighbors to come around and see the problems with vouchers now too =). ) But they're not for the most part emotionally attached to the effort, and we can talk rationally about the different issues without feeling attacked.

During our discussion, I saw that we have vastly different perceptions of the UEA, teacher pay, and privatization of services. My experience with unpaid school level reps. and unpaid district level reps. who negotiate things like co-pays on prescriptions, and feeling attacked as a liberal, socialist, and power-hungry lover of the status quo, etc. differs dramatically from hers as a long time capital hill battler, negotiating with the paid UEA people, while journalists, the public, and lobbyists watch your every move. She remembered a specific ad from a couple years ago that took me a minute to recall and was obviously referencing specific bad memories where she felt things were done in bad faith. How do you communicate to someone that is saying they care about your contribution and profession, and apparently even believes they care, the intense disconnect between our perceptions, between what I have felt as attacks and other ideological priorities over education? That we're "not grateful," as explained to me by an Orem city council candidate relating a conversation with Sen. Valentine, because we don't feel that giving the largest education funding increase ever last year, in what was also the year with the largest surplus ever, when public opinion polls heavily favored more money for public ed., was some huge favor. Couldn't it just as easily be seen as a duty to your constituents? Especially because it could easily be perceived as an attempt to guilt trip anti-voucher people in education from speaking out against the voucher bill.

Or how do I communicate the ignored, bad faith feeling of a bunch of teachers over last year's legislative session? We had actually defeated one of the PCE candidates in the Republican primary, Jim Ferrin, who was and is continuing to profit from charter school construction enabled by laws he worked on. I was personally impressed by his successor, Stephen Sandstrom from his even-handed comments while on Orem City Council. He had an intense personal disagreement with the principal of his son's school, but didn't illogically carry that thought over to "public education, or at least this district is broken." He had campaigned as someone from the outside, not a "good ol' boy." Teachers were emailing him frequently as reports of the Republican leadership pressuring all of the new legislators came out. I have a copy of an email he sent in response to a Jr. High teacher, promising to stand with us public education voters, just a few days before the house vote. But then the canceled vote and the extra day of leadership twisting arms happened...and Sandstrom caved to the rest of the Utah Valley delegation and voted for vouchers. We don't know whether to be more frustrated with him or with those who pressured him. We too feel betrayed.

Just while writing this, I think I might have had a stroke of understanding. I think most teachers feel this way--I perceive myself as closer to the people than the legislature. I'm not an elected official, but I feel like I'm in the trenches together with my students and parents fighting for correct principles against a distant, entrenched body with different agendas than ours. (A little stadium with your vouchers?) And I think Senator Dayton, and maybe all of the legislators kind of feel the same way in reverse--democratically elected officials representing the interests of Utah citizens against greedy, protective unions with personal agendas. That could partly explain why our base presumptions are so different.

Anyway, I'm determined to try and express my vigorous disagreement in productive terms, but how do you say something is a lie, purposeful or not, and be respectful?

I have it on very strong neighborly authority that John Valentine is a kind, gentle man who is easy to get along with. But my resolve gets tested when I see this: President Valentine and and Speaker Curtis again cite the USU study that claims more than $1 billion in savings. This makes it hard to believe they really care about truth over ideology. Have they read this study...even once? A little bit? Are they telling the public that they read the Executive summary, or pgs. 45-47 and actually accept a marginal cost thousands of dollars more than total cost per student because of "Cost Function" estimates? That the state and local district actually save $8675 cumulatively each time a student leaves the district? Really? How can I conclude that they're prepared or honest if I don't believe they've read the fantastical study they use as evidence? I am forced to conclude again that the incomprehensibility of voucher funding is their greatest defense. Thus, this blog.

Or do they really think that they're making a case for understanding when they try to use the "out-of-state" union money as a reason to vote for vouchers? It's like the deep ebony pot calling the grey kettle black. The public knows where the money came from for both sides. Or scheduling a voucher advocacy meeting, but just calling it a "voucher discussion" in the paper and wondering why people don't trust you? The "trust the parents" movement treats the public like they're stupid and it's inconsistent with their stated views.

I'd like to work together with legislators and respect each other's views, but as I explained in all of my Nuts and Bolts posting, I must conclude the entire shell game of funding is a lie, and apparently a purposeful one. The Legislative Fiscal Analyst gave them different information; he or they told the legislature about the best estimates and scenarios, and they chose to believe their agenda rather than their own analyst's estimation of reality. And as Rep. Daw explained at the meeting last Thursday, they go out on a limb with their own assumptions partially because they received 4,000 applications for vouchers. But they simultaneously chose to ignore the fact that many applicants would be ineligible, and that there were over 3,000 eligible kindergarteners and current private school students under the income line who would be applying:

Senator Dayton, or whomever else reads this, please see that my anger gets stirred up by the conflict of ideas, not personalities. Just like your voice and demeanor stiffen a bit when talking about local rights versus national encroachment, something you feel strongly about, I get riled up when I see what I interpret as deception. Maybe we can have some real discussions of common ground after the vote and furor die down a bit.

(I'll post my thoughts about the union, and about the free market in education over the next couple weeks as I won't have to worry so much about the specifics of this bill.)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Philosophical reasons of Referendum 1 supporters AND the nationally funded movement to replace public education with private schools AND Jay Greene

There are two broad groups of people voting for Referendum 1. Type A Voucher Supporters are staunch free-market advocates who think that government and public education can't do anything right and shouldn't even be providing education because it's not in the constitution.

The second group of people, Type B Voucher Supporters, see the problems in our educational system, but would be horrified to know that vouchers are designed to destroy public education. They have been fooled by the outright lie that vouchers will BENEFIT public schools. These are the people that I am trying to reach out to in the TRUE Utah Voucher Cookie Ad. Vouchers take thousands from public education each time a student leaves. I really explain the funding arguments thoroughly in my earlier entries under the “nuts and bolts” posts. The entries are long, but they make you wonder how the voucher ad people sleep at night.

A poll by the Tribune published today illustrates my point:

For the one-third of Utahns who staunchly support education vouchers, parental "choice" is the driving force - not helping low-income families, the more idealistic reason the movement's leaders hammered home.
"It has always been a major theme of the voucher movement, that vouchers are a way out for minority and poor kids," says Hoover Institute fellow Terry Moe, a long-time researcher on vouchers.
Instead, a new Tribune poll found that a mere 6 percent of Utahns cited helping poor students as the reason they support vouchers.
… On the other hand, two out of three respondents said they support vouchers because "parents deserve more choice in guiding the education of their children."
About a quarter of those who would vote for vouchers supported the program because the public school system is "broken."

You can at least say that I and those voucher supporters have legitimate, honest philosophical differences about the proper role of government in education.

However, the public campaign for vouchers in Utah is NOT honest. The arguments publicly presented almost completely ignore what their supporters really believe. The pro-choice buzzword is thrown around, but attacks on public schools are swept under the rug because they know the large number of TYPE B voters will not vote for their true agenda.

Go to and type these words in the search box: vouchers, utah. 64 entries come up as I’m typing this. The TRUE cookie ad will come up as well as many debates and about a dozen ads by VoteFOR1utah. These are the ads they aired on TV. Watch them…please. They trot out a few teachers who support vouchers, the legislators who support vouchers (Wow. The politicians ignored the public about the stadium AND vouchers this year…that really motivates me to support them…), and the big lies: vouchers “reduce class-sizes, increase teacher pay, and save either $1 billion total or $5500 per kid.”

(The Truth Test clips from a KSL feature will also show up—watch the “Truth Test” and read this backpedal from KSL as they realize they’re on the hook for faulty reporting: …”True” really means “True, but.” C’mon guys. Just issue a retraction and move on. Read about KSL saying that the voucher mailers are putting “spin” on their bad reporting, plus their big, red disclaimers on every voucher article: . Then read my nuts and bolts entries about funding and the text of the bill about accountability.)

Go to and read the six DID YOU KNOW’s on the front page. Four of them are lies about money implying that public education will be strengthened. Nothing about privatization.

Roll Call of the National Voucher Movement with Lots O’ Links

But the signs of the national voucher movement are there. Go back to the Tribune article above and notice the name of the organization of the researcher quoted in the second paragraph, the kind of thing we usually just skim over. It’s the Hoover Institute, a big “think tank” dedicated to promoting certain ideas. I went to and typed these words in the search box in the lower right: education, free market. One of the first links about education (environmental stuff with similar titles came up as well) is this note from the editors explaining how they’re looking for somewhere to do a large experiment with vouchers where they mention “The carefully conducted research by Caroline Hoxby and Jay Greene.” More on those two in a minute. Two links come up for a book co-authored by Joseph Bast Notice the endorsement by John Walton at the bottom of the article.

Joseph Bast is the president of the Heartland Institute. In a not-so-surprising coincidence, the senate sponsor of HB 148, Senator Curtis Bramble, is a “Legislative Advisor” to Heartland Institute: . I like Joseph Bast because he doesn’t beat around the bush like the Utah voucher advocates—he tells you what he wants and why. In the site’s “school reform education suite,” there’s a new section entitled Why Conservatives and Libertarians Should Support Vouchers . In this essay, , Bast tries to convince libertarians to accept the halfway step of vouchers because they are necessary to “wean” the public from public schools. Fascinating stuff. (And incidentally, on pgs. 8-9, Bast admits that the studies show that private schooled students don’t do any better than public schooled students when they’re from the same demographics. His ironic explanation is that the “lavishly” funded public schools are too hard to compete against =).)

There was a guest opinion in the Daily Herald on September 27th by a Ryan Harriman. He complained how the out-of-state teachers union meddled in laws about vouchers nationwide. The print edition gave only his name. The online article gave us his affiliation, which was ironically, the out-of-state Evergreen Freedom Foundation. Click on the Issues tab on top, choose education, and scroll down to their advocated “Strategies.” 1. Deregulate schools to basic health, safety, and civil rights standards. 2. Mandate that 90% or more of allocated education dollars follow each student to the school chosen by parents. 3. Change teacher licensing requirements. An adult with a degree in a necessary field (English, history, computer science, business, etc.), who does not have a criminal record, and who has demonstrated the ability to teach students, should be able to do so in Washington state public schools.

These two organizations give “report cards” to states based on how privatized their education systems are:

The Cato Institute
Here’s their philosophy about what would rate a 100% rating. From pg. 1, “It’s a system where schools can offer instruction in any subject, using any method, for which families are willing to pay.”
Pg. 2, “It is a system in which educators have complete control over the curricula they offer, the teaching methods they employ, the prices they charge, and the hours they work; in which anyone who wants to open a school has the right to do so; and in which the profit motive drives the innovation and expansion of some substantial share of the education sector.”

The Heritage Foundation

Their contact people in Utah include Leah Barker of Children First Utah, Elisa Clements of Parents for Choice in Education Foundation (Ms. Barker is also the public spokesman for Parents for Choice), Mr. Paul T. Mero, President of the Sutherland Institute, and State Senator, Howard Stephenson, President of the Utah Taxpayers Association.

[Sidenote—I was at the voucher debate at UVSC in early October featuring Paul Mero and Patrick Byrne (the instate, $2.71 million PCE donor,5143,695223402,00.html ) on the pro-voucher side. A woman asked Mr. Mero if his goal was privatization of education during the Q and A. He gave her a hard glare and pompously chided her for being so cynical. He believed in Utah schools and was just doing it for the poor kids. Right, Paul…right. I can’t understand why your political affiliations would cause anyone to be cynical of your motives.]

This link also gives the history of the voucher/tuition tax credit fight in Utah. Voucher or TTC bills were introduced and defeated in 1988, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006.

What changed in 2007 when vouchers finally passed by one vote in the house?

I’m glad you asked:

Half a million dollars into the 2004 and 2006 Utah legislative elections happened. Who are All Children Matter? Do you know which family owns Wal-Mart and has 3 of the top 5 or 6 richest people in the world? Google: All Children Matter, Waltons and research it. You’ll get their foundation’s propaganda and lots of other sources detailing money poured into lots of states. “Utah was one of 10 states that All Children Matter has targeted to affect state elections, spending about $8 million nationwide in the 2003-04 election cycle.” How many schools do you think get built just from the Waltons’ taxes? What kind of incentives would they have to privatize education? Who would have the resources to cherry pick legislators a few at a time over 2-4 years through a Utah proxy group until obtaining enough votes to pass the most comprehensive voucher program in history? What possible proxy group already employs dishonest former Republican candidates?

And coming full circle to our extremely trustworthy researchers for The Hoover Institute, google Jay Greene, Waltons, Arkansas. One article you will find is this:
The Waltons gave the U. of Arkansas 300 million dollars, and then another 20 million to start the The Department of Education Reform. Greene’s job and those of the other professors, including an “Endowed Chair of School Choice,”—I’m not kidding—are completely funded by Wal-Mart money. Isn’t the University of Arkansas embarrassed at becoming a tool of a selfish agenda? Doesn’t this seem like an excellent arrangement for a privately paid-off stooge who continues to work for his previous employer, another far-right think tank, The Manhattan Institute, to borrow credibility from the name of a large, public university? You will see Greene’s name on over 50% of “pro-voucher” research. I wonder why? Almost all of the rest comes from the graduate students, staff, and advisory boards of the department, which includes Caroline Hoxby. And yes, some of these academics-for-hire, you can cross-reference all the names, have already complained that Utah’s voucher law is not comprehensive enough.

Greene has done a number of studies of the voucher program in Milwaukee, trumpeting the success of the voucher students. He doesn’t do his own research, but digs through the numbers of a University of Wisconsin professor who was the state's official evaluator of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program from 1990 to 1995. John Witte found some good things about vouchers, but more bad. And this long article by Witte from 1999 does something else for me. We always hear different sides of an issue arguing that the other side is misusing statistics or doing faulty research, but I often have trouble evaluating those claims. This is long, but Witte clearly explains exactly what Greene did in a way that makes sense. I don’t think Greene can have any more credibility (if he still had any) once you read this:
(It’s on a liberal think tank’s site, but it’s a reprint of a college journal article.)

This is just a small sample. Browse the links I provided and they link to even more organizations. See if you believe these think tanks provide objective information and check out all of their purposes, mission statements, etc. They are all devoted to promulgating their viewpoints. They are literally attacking the foundations of public education. Using the money of various millionaires, they have succeeded in buying Utah’s legislature.

There is no “safe” voucher. They are specifically and pointedly designed to weaken and destroy public education. The backers of the movement in Utah know this and lie about it. I believe that includes many legislators—they are not ignorant of what kind of national foundations they affiliate with. Other supporters of vouchers, they Type B supporter, have been fooled into thinking vouchers are “just a little shake up” that will actually strengthen public education. Study the true financial impacts of vouchers. Read Witte’s info about what vouchers did to Milwaukee.

Parent’s for Choice in Education has a Myths and Facts page:
In answer to myth #4, “Any accountant will tell you, there is no such thing as “fixed” costs.” Right.
But here’s Myth #5: Vouchers are the first step in an effort to destroy public education, and the groups pushing vouchers have ulterior motives.

They answer by using research based on Greene’s bad numbers to show public schools improved in Milwaukee and then say “As for allegations of a master plan to destroy public education, you can decide whether that conspiracy theory should occupy more than a second of your thoughts.”

Read the links. Read what the organizations say about themselves. Read their “unbiased” research. Look at the campaign financing and voting records in Utah. And then decide if that rhetorical answer is an excuse to avoid the question.

Find out how much PCE money your legislator got and do something about it.

Note added 11-5: Wow.
has been one of favorite, well-researched, and thought out blogs since I got really connected in the last month and a half. But I had neglected to go back and read all of his older research until now. Wow. Just go to the months August,, and September, and read his posts from Aug. 15th through September. The PCE is only about 12 people; they receive most of their funds from out-of-state interests and Patrick Byrne; and which legislators got how much money during the 2006 election in Utah is documented, including several dishonest reports. [See Sep. 4th for the complete list and other days for case-by-case analysis.] He gives multiple, documented details of All Children Matter's millions spent, state by state. (Can the PCE's attacks on the national union money get any more hypocritical?!! Seriously...would it even be possible?) We are being used as a destructive experiment in radical education theory.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

New visitors--why the voucher "savings" are untrue AND Nuts and Bolts of Voucher Funding part 5

Hi. For a more concise summary of what this website is about, look at the Oct. 30th entry:

There are many voucher supporters who philosophically wouldn't mind hurting the public schools in a voucher program to spur competition or punish the teacher unions. While disagreeing with their reasons, I can respect these opinions as honest differences.

But the voucher program is being sold as something it isn't. Many voters believe it will actually increase student funding and help the schools. Organizations and letter writers berate the opposition for ignoring the “simple math.” The truth of voucher costs would dissuade many voters if known.

I'm holding a 16-inch long door hanger from VoteFor1 that claims in bright yellow to reduce class sizes, increase teacher pay, and add 1 billion dollars to public schools without raising taxes. The back claims The State of Utah spends $7500 per student, so a voucher leaves $5500 in the system, "adding" $1 billion dollars to public schools. VoteFor1 literature was also given to me at a meeting with most of the Orem legislature members on Thursday.

$7500 false
What they don't tell you is that the $7500 figure includes federal money, local district bonds, and trust lands money dispersed independently of the state. That money is almost completely devoted to school construction and maintenance, or strictly defined federal programs. To claim it as "savings" is dishonest and misleading. It cannot be redistributed.

The TRUE Utah Cookie Voucher Ad:

The state uses a complicated formula to claim "savings”
The state funds districts through its headcount formula called MSP, which is an average of $3800 including all of the money for special ed., ESL, etc.

The WPU, which is all the money a district gets for a student who isn't in any of those categories, is only $2417.

The state takes all of that funding, "mitigating" a bit during the first five years. That mitigation money provides the difference for five years--it does NOT leave all of the funding. Read the bill: Lines 309-313

Lines 309-315 of the bill show the funding shell game at its finest. The cost of the voucher is allocated to the district, and then taken back out to the Uniform School Fund to sit until the next year. It counts as allocated public funding even though it doesn't go to a school and sits unused in a state account all year. See my Nov. 1 entry for the example of Timmy.

To sum up the voucher hustle -- For a first grade student next year who switches because of the voucher law HB 148, the state gives the districts an average of $1800 for five years in exchange for taking $3800 for twelve years. That money taken or withheld each year sits in the Uniform School Fund until the next year, NOT being redistributed or spent on classrooms, schools, or teachers, but still counted as education funds to fuel the deception of 1 BILLION DOLLAR SAVINGS!

Major Fiscal Untruth about Vouchers #5: Subsidizing the tuition for ALL private school students forever, but phasing in the implementation of that aspect of the bill over thirteen years to hide “what will become essentially a subsidy for students who would have attended private school in any case.” —Randy Raphael, Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst, 2-16-07

ALL private school students will be eligible once the law is fully implemented. AND they are estimated to be the ones who will principally use the vouchers. That means we will be giving a subsidy to all of the families who were already going to attend private schools—about 20,000 students in 2020. You can read this in the Impartial Legislative Fiscal Analysis of HB 148 provided as part of your official voter’s guide:

The Fiscal Analysis of HB 174, the amendment to the real bill, HB 148, is even more blunt. Read the bottom of page 1 where the analyst says that the bill will most likely be "essentially a subsidy for students who would have attended private school in any case."

Then scroll down to pg. 3 of the fiscal analyis for HB 174, and check out the first two years of the program. In 2008, a bunch of kids use the new program. But in 2009, they estimate that only three--yes, you read correctly, three students will be able and desire to switch because of the voucher subsidy. But five lines below, we also see that 1224 new kindergarten students who would have attended private school in any case--at NO cost to the public--will also be eligible for a voucher. So in 2009, we "help" 3 students, and give a tax-funded handout to 1224 students.

This subsidy for the rich will cost taxpayers $71 million a year according to the legislature’s own analyst! NOT save a billion or “redistribute” $5500. They know this. They use the misleading figures anyway. Then they accuse everyone else of being misleading when they’re called on it.

Honesty counts for something. EVERY claim of savings for vouchers is false.

Tomorrow, I’ll post links to a few of the varied national organizations wanting to privatize education. It is not a myth—they’ve sent thousands of dollars to Utah through Parents for Choice in Education to further their agenda.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Part 5 preview -- The Legislative Fiscal Analyst comes clean

I haven't even begin to talk about how ALL private schoolers get vouchers as the program deceptively implements over 13 years. The Impartial Fiscal Analysis of HB 148 that appears in the official voting guide estimates they will cost $71 million a year once they all qualify. Various legislators have disputed that figure from their own office.

But most haven't seen the even more damning fiscal analysis of HB 174. Remember this amendment bill passes along with HB 148 if the referendum passes. The analyst is even more blunt here:

The analyst actually says that even with the tuition help, this will become "essentially a subsidy for students who would have attended private school in any case." This is one more thing the legislators have seen and and disputed because of the number of applications for vouchers.

The Nuts and Bolts of Voucher Funding -- Parts 1 1/2, 2, 3, 4, and a response to BYU professor, Clayne L. Pope

I attended the propaganda meeting, errr, I mean "voucher discussion" advertised on the Herald's front page in the Orem city council chambers on Thursday, Nov. 1, 7:00 p.m. I almost went to the more exciting sounding debate at Provo High, but felt I should go and see what my legislators had to say. I'm GLAD I did. Before the meeting started, a man passed out VoteFor1 newletters. Various people asked why there weren't representatives from both sides. I soon realized I was in one of the "cottage meetings" being held around the state to "educate" us 60% of voters against vouchers ( why the politicians are right. I passed out the copies I had brought of my flyer (see my first blog on Oct. 30th) and received over a dozen happy thank you's afterwards.

I got to meet my senator and my representative. Senators Valentine and Dayton and Reps. Daw and Fowlke were there. I will say that they were very respectful of teachers and of everyone attending, even though 90% of the questions were doubting their assertions.

I was concerned by a lot of the positions they were taking, I was answering some questions from other audience members afterwards, and I had my previous plan to explain all of the funding. Then I saw this:
Guest opinion: BYU professor urges: Educate, don't brainwash

I read those smug, condescending words to all those who actually read the studies and bill language and have philosophical objections to the superiority of private schools while regarding public schools as one of the principal causes of America's greatness...and I just had to respond... completely, thoroughly, rationally, truthfully, to defend the good people I met at the discussion last night and teachers everywhere. So I will be giving some more blow-by-blow of what was said at the forum later. Here is the truth...

Which also happens to address Major Voucher Untruths:

2. Ignoring, or deliberately diverting attention from the true amount of money the state actually sends districts per student in WPU and MSP.

3. Misrepresenting the mitigation money as a full refund for the money lost from the voucher and allowing the misconception that the mitigation money goes directly back to the affected school.

4. Claiming that the schools won’t lose any money because the voucher check itself is written from the General Fund rather than the Uniform School Fund.

The entire cookie rationale and increase in per-student spending is dishonest, unethical, and a bunch of other words.

Public education is about pooling tax resources to educate the children of the whole society, even those who can't pay for that service on their own, because that's consistent with our public standards of social justice and morality and our capitalist principle of teaching them how to fish rather than giving them a fish (welfare). Education is the true social ladder.

So public education dollars predominantly go to services that benefit hundreds or thousands of students at once, i.e. schools, teachers, computers, buses, etc. The myth of "my taxes" going where "I want them"—rather than some sacrifice for society's good—changes the paradigm to school as a paid service where we purchase what we want. Whatever the exact stat is—20% percent of tax payers pay 80% percent of taxes...or something in that range—that philosophy inevitably leads to increased privatization and exclusion of a large portion of society because they can't afford their share. Most Americans and most Utahns reject that, as does the official state policy for education funding.

The voucher amount and mitigation monies are based on MSP:

The largest part of MSP is WPU:
Notice where it says "The WPU is NOT a plan of expenditure, or budget...but a mechanism to derive total program cost and distribute revenues." (Caps mine)

A teacher doesn't teach a class of five students because of a cookie commercial claiming each student has a right to $7500 of unique funding, and a student benefiting from at least $245,000 dollars worth of teacher throughout his/her seven classes doesn't take away those funds from others. The entire cost/savings argument of the voucher movement is based upon these false claims.

Average Timmy's true average financing in Utah in 2005 (year I have definite stat's from) without vouchers:
District receives $2220 from local funds that are almost entirely devoted to buildings and maintenance.
District receives $597 in federal money inflexibly dedicated to special programs.
District receives $3508 in MSP from the state to the district. The vast majority of this MSP is spent on salaries and benefits of faculty and staff who benefit many students, rather than just one--less than $40 dollars of that money is sent to his actual school because of head count. (Money sent to an Alpine District Jr. High in 2007-08 is 37.99 per student.)
The school spends $2-3 uniquely on Timmy rather than on resources that benefit many students from that about $35 dollars sent to the school. (Considering the cost of reams of paper and utilities vs. the unique paper and electricity usage of Johnny)
First 3 numbers from:

Average Timmy's true average financing in Utah in 2005 in a bizarro back-in-time world with vouchers:
$2220 from local funds that are almost entirely devoted to buildings and maintenance.
$597 in federal money inflexibly dedicated to special programs.
(Both of these are not based on head count, and both flow in and are automatically spent on fixed costs regardless of Johnny leaving the district for Private School 101.)
The district gets mitigation money, the difference of Johnny's average voucher, $2000, and MSP, $3508, for 5 yrs, thus receiving $1508 this year.
The state general fund disperses a $2000 check to Private School 101.
The State allocates the remaining $2000 dollars equivalent to the voucher from the Uniform School Fund to the district, but then removes it and deposits it...back in the Uniform School Fund...where it sits until next year. Lines 309-315.
Timmy's departure was not enough to let go of a teacher, so the district has to absorb that $2000 loss to its budget offset by the $35ish dollars not sent to the individual school. (And if the district would have lost enough students in a single school, 25-28ish students, to hire one fewer teacher, it also would lose an average of $50000-56000 in voucher funding and classroom size would remain the same. NOT because of district spite, but because of the lesser amount of WPU's allocated per head by the same state legislators who passed vouchers! And in a much more realistic scenario, if 25 students leave from 15 different schools, the class size is minimally reduced for one year and the district just eats the average $2000 loss for each student while releasing no teachers. AND after 5 years, the district doesn't even get the $1500 in mitigation money.)

Final results of student voucher: Total taxpayer money allocated is $2000 more. Total funds per student in education money appears higher [(District student population - 1) divided by same amount of money originally allocated] even though both the district and school actually LOST money. The $2000 that was sent to the district so it could be called school funding, but was shell-gamed back into the Uniform School Fund, just rolls into the allocations for the next year. Or it accumulates because of many vouchers and the legislators cut taxes because of the "surplus" while the actual schools and districts slowly bleed to death, leading eventually to the ultimate goal of complete privatization.

The typical classroom is almost entirely fixed costs until you remove enough students to get rid of a teacher.

The Susan Aud study I quoted above admirably sums up MSP and exactly what amount of funding comes from the state, completely contradicting all of PCE's and the pro-voucher legislators' $7500 statistics that count state MSP spent on teachers and local and federal funding as "leftover" that can be redistributed.
But being the biased person she is--her words, not the opening disclaimer of her study--she then proceeds to label leftover local funds which she acknowledged are fixed construction costs as a windfall."

This USU study of a previous Tax Credit for Private School bill from 2004 has two very relevant points to this discussion:
First, it explains very well on page 34 that the average school district in Utah budgets on average of 75% of its funds to salaries, benefits, and capital projects (construction). You can't redistribute those things in any "reasonable projection" that doesn't involve large groups of students leaving the same schools rather than small amounts from many schools.
But the study also goes CRAZY, like seriously bonkers/nuts/weird-professor-proving-that-one-plus-one-equals-three-with-arcane-statistics-that have-no-bearing-in-the-real-world crazy. In the Executive Summary, the authors state that the marginal cost “per WPU” (huh?) in 2002-2003 is $8675...when the actual WPU for that year was $2116 and the “total per student” was just under $6000. I am not misreading this. Here is a direct quote from page 6:
“But, this is then also the value that state and local districts can be expected to save from public school appropriations if a single student leaves a publicly funded school...This figure significantly exceeds per student spending...This is to be expected and is a natural result of school district managers doing their job well.”

So they admit that public schools are extremely well run, and then...what?!
I actually read most of what I could understand in this 149 pg. monster until pg. 45 which contains the table with the crazy "marginal costs." I will be the first to admit I did not understand much of what I read about all of the stats. But any reasonable person can conclude that claiming marginal savings higher than the broadest possible total cost statistic is a fraudulent way to claim over a billion dollars in savings.

The laymen version of this is that the study claims, for the year 2002-2003, that when the state put a kid in school and sent the local district the WPU of $2116 (plus some more if he was special ed.), the state somehow then gained $8675 if the kid moved out. I repeat, it is fraudulent to publicly claim that taxpayers save $1 billion dollars from this "magic money."

And that's just what the voucher supporters do:
The entire "vouchers help public schools" case is dead. Aud's study counts local money specifically devoted to fixed costs and "savings" sitting unallocated in the Uniform School Fund to reach her conclusions, and the USU professors, the ones whose claims are the basis of all of those doorhangers and PCE's front page claiming "over $1 billion in savings, defy belief. Did no one ever read this?! Is the incomprehensibility of voucher funding their greatest defense?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A Fast Entry--Talk to people TODAY!

This will be a fast entry. More tonight on funding, especially the true meaning of WPU and the mysterious MSP: (Lines 309-313)

But anyone reading this who cares about the true impacts of vouchers needs to talk to someone about it today. Most of my neighbors are not strongly one way or the other. They care, but want to avoid confrontation, so they stay out of it, just watching and reading about it. In most of the blogs and online forums that have been examining HB 148 rigorously for months, even most voucher supporters have relinquished the BS claims of $1.4 billion in savings. And most when pressed acknowledge the $7500-2000=5500 in savings is ridiculous. But there's so many opinions online, it's easy to forget what a miniscule percentage of the real people I interact with each day are connected to this web of debates online. They might read an online paper and a stupid comment board under a D-news or Trib article, but they miss out on the meat of the majority of discussions. The opposing images they have of voucher effects are the cookie ad vs. some teachers saying "That's not true!" The teachers may be right, but they can't give any explanation in a 30 second TV spot.

There is a large George Will article today where he repeats every talking point of PCE. I seriously doubt he did any research of his own. He reflexively (that's the word he ironically used about our opposition) takes the "conservative" viewpoint and just repeats what some PCE bulletin told him. My neighbor got a PCE door hanger on Monday that repeats in huge type on the front the $1.4 billion lie! And the back consists almost entirely of teachers oppose $5500 in extra money per kid, so that means they're just preserving their power.

This is what people are seeing and hearing. Take 2 minutes and explain the true meaning of voucher funding to someone today.