Utah votes for vouchers

By one vote, the Utah House passed a school voucher bill, which is “expected to sail through the Senate and win the governor’s signature,” reports the Salt Lake City Tribune.

After weeks of back-room arm-twisting and spirited lobbying on both sides of the issues, supporters managed 38 yes votes to the 37 opposed — there were no representatives absent. Surprise supporters included Rep. Brad Last, R-St. George, and Rep. Keith Grover, R-Orem – two former public school officials.

. . . HB148 will let parents spend public money on private school tuition. Every Utah family, with the exception of current private school students, would be eligible for a voucher ranging from $500 to $3,000 depending on family income.

Utah’s public schools operate on very low per-pupil funding and have large class sizes, relative to the rest of the country. It will be interesting to see how many parents use the vouchers to help pay for alternatives.

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Comments

  1. wayne martin says:

    The following is from a Guest Opinion in the Salt Lake Tribune on vouchers, written by two members of the Board of Education:
    —–
    Vouchers are an attack on our public institutions:
    http://origin.sltrib.com/opinion/ci_5138641
    …
    Vouchers compromise the separation of church and state and violate the Utah Constitution. Respect for religious diversity has never been more important than it is today. We must shore up the 200-year-old constitutional protections for our rights of conscience. By opening the door for public money to flow to religious institutions, in direct violation of Utah’s Constitution (Articles I and X), vouchers chip away at those safeguards.

    Make no mistake. Vouchers are weapons employed in a strategic attack on our public institutions. The voucher movement betrays the public good by encouraging narrow-minded self-interest and a willingness to turn away from our responsibilities to each other. The goal is to funnel government support toward private and corporate gain and to de-emphasize government’s social stewardship.
    —-

  2. charles R. Williams says:

    It hardly seems fair to deny vouchers to children currently enrolled in private schools.

  3. Oh, not nearly as unfair as denying an education to children currently enrolled in public schools.

  4. mike from oregon says:

    I agree with BOTH Charles and Allen –

    Is the voucher an ‘attack’ on the public school system? I don’t care if it is – the public schools are and continue to do a pathetic job, allow parents choice WITH the money that they now involuntarily ‘contribute’ to those pathetically performing public schools.

    I fear it will be struck down in the courts until we have judges that look out for the folks, instead for the liberals.

  5. Since the Supreme Court has rendered their opinion on the use of vouchers at parochial schools the impediments are at the state level. They’re not small and they’ve been in place for a long time. They’re called “Blaine Amendments” and they were designed to preclude any funds going to religious, in this case Catholic, schools from the states.

    There are a number of state-level law suits going forward to overturn the Blaine amendments but so far I don’t believe any has succeeded. They could, quite possibly, fail since there’s nothing overtly discriminatory about the amendments; they preclude funding any religious school.

    If you want to reform public education and as a matter of practical politics, I think charters are the better choice. They represent a smaller, less scary step away from the status quo then vouchers. Parents are still sending their kids to a public school so there’s less of an act of faith involved.

    At the same time parents are also exercising a much greater degree of choice in the education of their child.

    But hey, choice is choice and I don’t think there’s much danger of parents, having taken control of their children’s education, will easily or lightly relinquish that control.

  6. “Vouchers are an attack on our public institutionsfat-cat way of life”.

    Hardly fair to expect us to actually do something, don’t you think?

  7. edschoolprof says:

    When the “voucher” approximates the amount that I currently pay in taxes to support government schools and that amount follows my children to the school that my wife and I choose for them, then that will be progess. Unless you think me heartless, I don’t mind paying taxes for poor children’s schooling. But, I should not have to pay for the schooling of my neighbor’s children if I choose to send my children to a different school.

  8. But, I should not have to pay for the schooling of my neighbor’s children if I choose to send my children to a different school.

    OK, so long as you don’t mind if I don’t pay for the fire department to come to you when you accidentally set your house on fire.

  9. edschoolprof says:

    Actually, the fire department comes to everyone’s house in the event of a fire. I cannot choose to use a private fire department because there are no such entities, at least in my neck of the woods. Therefore, my taxes and my neighbor’s taxes should go to cover the expenses of the fire department because it serves both of us. Sounds like a win-win situation for both of us because we pay and benefit equally for fire protection.

    However, I can choose to use another school for my children because there are other entities that exist to educate students. My neighbor chooses to use one school so his taxes follow his children to that school. I choose to use another school so my taxes follow my children to that school. We both pay to help poor children so that they don’t have to attend crappy schools. Sounds like a win-win situation for everyone.

    And, no, I am not taking money away from the local public school because my money follows my child who attends another school. As Walter Williams has said many times, the local public school does not need my money anymore because my child is not there. If my money continues to go to the school that my neighbor’s child attends, I am now paying for his child. Sounds like a winning situation for him and a losing situation for me.

  10. Edschoolprof: It can easily be a losing situation for both of you – because his kid may not be getting an education.

  11. Michael write:

    OK, so long as you don’t mind if I don’t pay for the fire department to come to you when you accidentally set your house on fire.

    As long as we’re drawing parallels:

    If that fire department isn’t actually responsible for putting fires out, doesn’t do all that impressive a job with the fires they do fight, may simply decide not to fight a particular fire if it looks like the building’s owners didn’t do enough to prevent the fire and all fire individuals are atwitter over “higher-order” firefighting which doesn’t hold fire fighters to the artificial standard of putting the fires out.

    I could go on but what’d be the point?

    The fire department puts out the damned fires or there’s a new fire chief in town and pretty damned quick. Any performance-related measures that’ll send a lousy school superintendent packing if the a third of the high school graduating class is functionally illiterate? Any performance-related measures for anyone at all?

  12. edschoolprof says:

    Edschoolprof: It can easily be a losing situation for both of you – because his kid may not be getting an education.

    markm–Good point! I thought I might be missing something and indeed I was.

    The fire department puts out the damned fires or there’s a new fire chief in town and pretty damned quick. Any performance-related measures that’ll send a lousy school superintendent packing if the a third of the high school graduating class is functionally illiterate? Any performance-related measures for anyone at all?

    Superintendents don’t like performance-related measures for themselves or their students.

  13. edschoolprof wrote:

    Superintendents don’t like performance-related measures for themselves or their students.

    What a coincidence! Me neither but I haven’t, and neither has the fire chief, managed to achieve that enviable state.

    Maybe you could shed a little light on the means by which the public education system disdains and avoids any standards of performance?

    There ought to be a book in it at least.

  14. edschoolprof says:

    Allen,

    Unfortunately, the “book” has been written but in the form of laws. State proficiency tests came into existence primarily because local superintendents (and the personnel in school districts) did not like performance-related measures for themselves or for their students. The performance-related measures developed by states did not work to raise student achievement. (Of course, tests really are not designed for this purpose–they are designed to measure performance.) Now, the new “book” is called NCLB, which was passed because states (for which superintendents and teachers serve as proxies) did not really like performance-related measures. Now, there is talk about creating and administering a national test for college graduates! Why? Because the skills of college graduates are so weak. Will this test eventually become a reality? I don’t know but I do know this–college presidents, like superintendents, really don’t like performance-related measures. Like superintendents, they will fight any performance-related measure tooth and nail.

  15. If there were wide-spread acknowledgment that the public education system were doing a splendid job then the antipathy towards performance measurement might have some ethical basis. But that’s not the case as the large numbers of remedial classes in colleges makes pretty clear.

    The inescapable conclusion is that testing will highlight the lousy education the public is paying for and the anti-testing folks know it. Public realization that we’re not getting what we pay for would precede a serious effort to change the situation and that would upset the current state of affairs.

    As to your odd claim that there’s any serious discussion of a national college graduation test, link please.

    The talk about extending NCLB to high schools might be said to create a defacto national high school graduation test but that would be incorrect. So, where’s this talk taking place?

  16. edschoolprof says:

    Allen,

    I’m not certain what you mean in your first two paragraphs. It almost sounds as if you agree that schools are indeed bad. If so, welcome to my world. Because I know about ed schools, what they teach to prospective teachers about student learning, and the types of students who become teachers, I know that state achievement tests and the extension of NCLB to high schools will have little or no impact on student performance. That doesn’t mean that states and the federal government will stop trying to measure performance.

    As to talk of a graduation test for higher education, it is just talk right now and may indeed never come to pass. But, when politics meets higher education, anything can happen. Follow these links and see what you think about the possibility of a national test for higher education. When the federal government starts talking about “national standards” for higher education, it cannot be good. (Sorry, but I can’t paste in the links. You will have to type the addresses.) First, read Larry Arnn’s article in the Fall 2006 Claremont Review of Books.

    http://www.claremont.org/publications/crb/id.3/article_detail.asp

    Then, go to the website for the National Commission on the Future of Higher Education and peruse the website.

    http://www.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/hiedfuture/reports.html

    Then, read the draft that outlines what should be done to promote national standards in higher education.

    http://www.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/hiedfuture/reports/schray2.pdf

    After reading these publications, you will agree that there is talk of creating so-called “national standards.” That talk of “standards” will eventually lead to a test. But, there is talk only because of the failure of our nation’s schools to teach basic skills early in school. That failure works its way up the system and has now infected higher education. The federal government’s way to “help” is to develop national standards for higher education and then measure whether colleges and universities are teaching those standards with a test. If you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail, does it not?

  17. Bill Woods says:

    Michael: “Any performance-related measures that’ll send a lousy school superintendent packing if the a third of the high school graduating class is functionally illiterate? Any performance-related measures for anyone at all?”

    Isn’t that what happens to high-school football coaches?