Monday, November 3, 2008

Vouchers absolutely are a voting issue... Selective memory and posturing aside

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The relevant summary:


Congressional or legislative incumbents generally tout their experience and “stand by their record,” trying to impress voters with the issues they supported and bills they sponsored. This is common and important. We judge whether the legislator represented us adequately and honestly and decide whether to vote for them or not. The current legislative races are following this pattern except for one thing which many incumbents just want you to forget as a “non-issue”…vouchers.

The polls showed that the public overwhelmingly rejected the concept of private school vouchers before, during, and after the referendum debate. The legislators who sponsored and voted for vouchers knew the public in general disliked the idea and knew who their dependable campaign donors were.

The legislators then strangely formed their own lobbying fund and lobbied the public using slick Utah Taxpayers Association materials, getting reimbursed for their time, mileage, etc. from the funds donated principally by Patrick Byrne.

In fact, due to lack of grassroots support, Patrick Byrne provided almost all of the funding for PCE’s entire pro-voucher campaign.

Many, many voucher supporters of all stripes based their financial arguments on falsehoods.

The public strongly rejected the flawed idea in the referendum vote. Voucher supporters, both within the legislature and from the general public, proceeded to insult 62% of Utah voters who just “didn’t understand” vouchers and were “afraid.”

The point:

But you are supposed to forget all that and just “move forward.” The voucher vote was a year ago and is not relevant to the election today. Punishing legislators would be wrong. Just look at their record…except for vouchers. After years of stagnation, they voted to actually educate the large percentage of new student growth as well as increase school funding during two of the three largest budget surplus years in the history of the state of Utah, so all that other stuff doesn’t matter…especially vouchers. Forget the fact that more moderate legislators would have voted for those same measures AND listened to their constituents by rejecting vouchers. And really, you shouldn’t evaluate many incumbents’ entire anti-public-education attitude continued by the omnibus bill, corporate-handout laptops for preschoolers, $190,000 a year spent on additional bureaucracy just to spite a State Board of Education employee who dared run for public office against Greg Hughes, and successful manipulation of the State School Board election process. Ignore the double standard when candidates rightly disagree with their opponents' records, but expect you to ignore theirs. (That is an affliction common to all politicians of all political parties, but especially prevalent this year in regards to vouchers.) And ignore the extremism dominating much of the public policy discussion in our legislature, such as Senator Stephenson believing public education is "socialism." (The last two paragraphs of the post.)

Speaker of the House Greg Curtis has said vouchers are dead under his watch. Senate President Valentine said he thinks Utah voters would “support vouchers with the right information.” (i.e. bad numbers and propaganda…) Both my House Rep. and my State Senator have told me they would vote for vouchers again if it came up. People in the audience at the Utah County Republican Convention this year agitated for vouchers, and the only organization I remember having a booth in the display room along with the candidates was Parents for Choice in Education. That group continues to pour out-of-state money into legislative races this year to further their agenda. But don’t worry. Just trust your legislator that it will be all right. House Majority Whip, Dave Clark, for example:

"I don't know why folks keep dragging (the issue) up," Clark said. "To waste so much time looking backward when we have so many challenges ahead of us is a poor, poor direction."


Learning from the past is poor judgment. Got it.

Education is a voting issue! It is a cornerstone of our democracy and accounts for over half of the tax money spent in this state. Vouchers are a wealthy subsidy that would erode that funding for public schools. Basing a large part of your voting decisions on the differences between candidates’ positions on education—including vouchers—is prudent morally and financially. Don’t listen to vague name-calling and discussions of “one-issue” voters meant to divert attention from the many dismal legislative records in support of public education.

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7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I read your links and was intrigued by your comments on the $7,500. You say that money can't be saved on construction costs. I find this astounding. If a school district like Alpine is anticipating 3 to 5 percent annual growth, they'll have to spend tax dollars to build these schools.

If vouchers, a moot point now obviously, could cause parents who would normally send their children to public schools would instead send their children to private schools, Alpine could build fewer schools over the same period of time, which would be a savings for taxpayers.

Jeremy said...

Anon,

Beating that dead horse again eh? We covered all of that ground months ago. Voucher adopters weren't going to make a significant difference in capital expenditures and the new subsidy for private school tuition represented a pointless new increase in additional spending

Utahns lost every way you look at it under that foolish scheme.

Jesse Harris said...

I would argue that references to "single-issue voters" mean that judging a candidate (or even just their education policy) on vouchers alone would be a mistake. I would tend to agree with that sentiment as I do not think any single issue can clearly define a candidate's entire approach on a particular policy area.

The said...

Jeremy,

Reactionary people like you said the same thing about charter schools ten years ago, that only a few parents would bother sending their children there. Therefore, they argued, that public schools would be stuck with "fixed" costs.

Now there are nearly 29,000 students in charter schools which is more than 5% of the total, and the waiting lists are huge. The only thing slowing charter school growth is that state can't approve new ones fast enough. Within ten years, we'll see at least 10% and possibly 15% of our enrollment in charter schools.

Ten years ago, people like you complained about the charter school "subsidy" and how these funds would drain money from existing public schools. Many of you are still making this baseless argument, even though school districts would have to increase operation and capital expenditures if these charter schools were to shut down and the students were to show up at their local district school.

The fact is that providing alternatives can reduce costs, or at least not harm existing district schools.

A well-designed voucher, which the previous one was not, could provide savings. By increasing the voucher amount to $5,000 or $6,000 and phasing it out so that high income people didn't receive a voucher, we could have provided competition and saved money, or at least we could have broken even.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon Utah Ed Blogger,

You sound like your desperate to have Utah voters hate people as much as you do. Yes Utah voted down vouchers, so what? Most Utahns have moved on, but you seem to be stuck in the past like the jock who kept hanging around the locker room after he graduated.

You repeatedly hold up the fact that 62% voted down vouchers as proof that Utahns have given the establishment a mandate to stamp out reform ideas. Rather, then spew your hatred towards anyone who would seek to change our school system, why don’t you offer some ideas on how to address our problems. Or are you too bent on protecting the status quo that you can’t admit there is problems.

Is your hatred so blinding that you don’t see anything wrong with the fact that 72% of Hispanics don’t graduate in Utah. Or that only 75% of Utah students taking the ACT have a score that shows they are NOT ready for college. An August 2008 survey conducted by Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG) at Harvard University, 80% give our public schools a C or below (http://www.hoover.org/publications/ednext/26380034.html). Does any of this suggest that might be good to have a respectful dialog.

I hope that soon you will consider posting some ideas on how we might improve our public schools.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:16,

Here are some ideas on improving education:

1. Reduce class sizes
2. Pay teachers more
3. Early childhood education.

OK, I admit that we've been doing this for years and haven't had a lot of improvement, if any. But if we dedicated more resources, we can increase our spending per student. And that's the main issue.

And where do we get the money? We have to tax corporations and the wealthy. And we have to do it now before Obama does it or there won't be anything left to tax.

Anonymous said...

Those are good ideas and yes we have been trying them for years. Unfortunately despite large funding of class size reduction we have seen hardly any change.

Spending more money sounds good but with 100% of our income tax and 56% of our property taxes going to fund public education already it is hard to see how we can spend much more. Sure it sounds good to tax corporations and the wealthy more but that is the last thing we should do with our current economic crisis.

Besides, despite more than doubling per-student expenditures, reading scores in U.S. schools have remained relatively flat (national numbers), I’m interested in your ideas about how we can be more effective.

One idea might be to work on the bureaucracy. For example, did you know that once the Governor signs a funding bill there are 15 to 16 additional approvals that are required before the funds are spent in Utah’s public education system. That compares with only 3 to 4 in Utah’s higher education system. Each layer of bureaucracy gets paid and has their own turf to protect.