School vouchers

I have posted on the school voucher issue here before.  I feel that a voucher system is proposed by wealthy people to be able to get public monies to fund their children’s private school education.  Additionally I feel that our public school system is often a victim of unfunded mandates and that there are much better solutions than vouchers, which is really not a solution at all.  I feel that vouchers are one more step by right wingers to privatize services in our country.  I agree with my green party colleague in Michigan who says “Most vouchers aren’t generous enough to enable any poor children to enroll at a different school, only to subsidize people who were going to send their children to parochial schools anyway.”

I was happy to see these items come across my desk  yesterday:

Utah State Board of Education Declines to Implement Vouchers Before November Vote

May 29, 2007

For Immediate Release

Contact: Mark Peterson, public relations director
(801) 538-7635 * mark.peterson@schools.utah.gov

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah State Board of Education voted 10-4 today not
to implement a voucher program in Utah based solely upon the provisions
contained in House Bill 174, an amendment to the state’s original
voucher bill, House Bill 148.

The Board’s action came in response to a petition brought by Utah State
Reps. Sheryl L. Allen, R-Bountiful, Kory M. Holdaway, R-Taylorsville,
and Steven R. Mascaro, R-West Jordan along with Utahns for Public
Schools and Vik Arnold, director of Political Action & Government
Relations at the Utah Education Association. The petitioners asked the
Board to refuse to implement House Bill 174 as a stand-alone measure in
light of a recall ballot on House Bill 148, the original voucher
measure. Utahns will vote Nov. 6 on whether to recall House Bill 148.
The amending bill, House Bill 174, passed by a margin that precludes any
recall election.

Voting not to implement vouchers were Board Members Dixie Allen of
Vernal, Laurel Brown of Murray, Kim R. Burningham of Bountiful, Janet A.
Cannon of Holladay, Greg Haws of Hooper, Michael Jensen of West Valley
City, Randall Mackey of Salt Lake City, Denis Morrill of Taylorsville,
Debra G. Roberts of Beaver, and Teresa Theurer of Logan. Voting against
the measure were Board Members Mark A. Cluff of Alpine, Bill Colbert of
Draper, Thomas Gregory of Provo, and Richard Moss of Santaquin. Board
Member Richard Sadler of Ogden was excused from the meeting.

Mark Peterson
Public Relations Director
Utah State Office of Education
P.O. Box 144200
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-4200
(801) 538-7635
mark.peterson@schools.utah.gov

And this piece, by the director of the school where I teach, published in the Salt Lake Tribune recently:
Let’s focus our resources on improving the public schools

School vouchers: Two points of view
By Sonia Woodbury
Article Last Updated: 05/28/2007 08:03:42 PM MDT

We are fast approaching a public referendum on school vouchers.
 Paul Mero (/Tribune, /Opinion, May 20) raised one important point.
 South Carolina anti-voucher advocate Rev. Joseph Darby has ideas of great importance for Utahns to consider before they go to the polls.
However, Mero’s misguided embellishment on the words of this respected Southern leader to form a pro-voucher rationalization for Utah was very disturbing.
    Answering questions dealing with public policy issues, Rev. Darby suggested that in order to build a stronger society and boost everyone’s quality of life, “We need a progressive platform on education that affirms the worth of public schools, assures equitable funding for all public schools, acknowledges past inequities and sets forth steps in money, facility improvements and teacher recruitment to correct those past inequities.”
    This is a worthy blueprint for the improvement of education in Utah. A good education is the foundation of a citizen’s ability to participate
meaningfully in our democratic society. A good education should involve a challenging development of academic knowledge and skills.
Equally as important, a good education is expanded by its occurrence in a socially diverse setting where all children have the opportunity to make sense of civic, character and ethical issues together.
    In order to ensure that all Utah children have access to a good education we must affirm the worth
of public schools and make a good education available in every neighborhood school.
    The fallacy is to believe that vouchers will improve our ability to provide this type of good education. There is no direct correlation between
the choice to send a child to a private school and the improvement of our educational system.
    So far, the vast amounts of money, time and energy devoted for years to pursuing a voucher program have only served to highlight some public dissatisfaction and to help acknowledge inequities in our current system.
Imagine what a difference that same money, and especially time and energy devoted for years, could have made in the public education system by now.
    With vouchers, only parents who have the ability to research options, to supplement the difference between what a voucher would provide and the actual cost of a private school and to provide transportation to a private school would have some freedom to opt for a different school.
    Again, instead of helping to establish a good educational system that adapts to the interests of families and children, a voucher program would only provide for some families to choose another school.
    Rev. Darby offers a better solution to improving educational opportunities than vouchers. He advises that “Successful and enduring
movements for change require those in positions of power to share power and welcome new ideas, and we have miles to go in that regard.”
    Following this counsel, elected officials and representatives would do well to remember that their positions are about so much more than sharing power. Their power comes at the will of the people and it is their duty to
represent those people.
    Results of the upcoming public referendum should direct the future of vouchers in Utah. Secondly, district and school administrators could embrace the idea of sharing power with the parents and students of their schools;
they could welcome open dialogue about, and implementation of, new ideas.

    What is at stake in the school voucher debate is having our attention diverted from the real issue of providing every student in Utah with an
exemplary education. What parents deserve is not vouchers, but quality public schools in every neighborhood.
   


    * SONIA WOODBURY is executive director of City Academy, a secondary
public charter school founded in 2000.

2 responses to “School vouchers

  1. Charters and Vouchers
    You work at a charter school and you oppose vouchers? I think you’re missing the big picture. The arguments that the teachers union has and still uses against charter schools (especially in states that are still fighting for them) are the same arguments they use against vouchers.
    It’s the same ol’ play book and it’s done for the same reason–fear of competition.
    If it weren’t for the efforts of us “wealthy, right wingers” who want to subsidize our private schools, you wouldn’t have a charter school to work at or send your kid to. You’re welcome.
    I have to disagree with your friend in Michigan based on real evidence from a voucher program that;s already working in Utah. In addition, if the top voucher amount isn’t big enough, then let’s make it bigger. It’s not us “wealthy, right-wingers” who are keeping the top voucher amount lower than it could be.
    Children First Utah is a non-profit in Utah that gives low-income families scholarships worth up to only $1,800 to send their kids to a k-12 private school. They give out about 300 scholarships and have thousands of applicants every year. Their average family makes under $25K a year and pays $2,000 out of pocket to pay the rest of their tuition (that means the average tuition they’re paying is $3,800). 51% of Children First Utah families are minority and about half are single parent homes.
    Sincerely,
    Dave Hansen

  2. Re: Charters and Vouchers
    There are a couple things I believe you are “missing the big picture” on:
    1. Charter schools are public schools and we are working with the same amounts of public money, the same amounts of public scrutiny, the same amounts of public accountability, and the same open enrollment policies as all public schools. None of that is the case
    for private schools. Charter schools are working within the system to try to help improve it. What are private schools offering to the educational system in their state?
    2. It isn’t “wealthy, right wingers” nor any other particular group who subsidize charter schools, we get our funding from the state. We do not even receive the funding from property taxes that districts receive, particularly from their wealthier constituents; all that money stays in the district schools.
    3. Children First Utah is making an effort to help low-income families be able to choose private education for their children. If the average tuition their families are paying is $3,800, then those students are not attending most of the private schools in the Salt Lake Valley, especially not the high schools. Further, those same children from low-income families who attend public school have all their fees waived and their expenses absorbed by the budget of the school they attend. Additionally, according to national statistics quoted in the lead article in the Trib yesterday (Sunday, June 3), it costs about 50% more to educate low-income students, an expense also absorbed by the school. Using those statistics, public schools are providing much more than $1,800 per student for low-income families, and the family doesn’t also have to come up with any additional money.

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