Monday, September 17, 2007

Isn't there a big difference?

The Trib also reported this weekend that NEA is sending $1.5 million into Utah to help teachers oppose the November voucher referendum. For one thing, it's not a surprise -- figures as high as $3 million have been thrown around for almost a month, mainly as a tool to help raise more money for Parents for Choice in Education and the pro-voucher ads we can expect from them.

But another fact I've learned from talking to teachers I know -- yes, members of Utah Education Association and NEA -- is that they see this as "their" money already. As members, they pay dues and contribute to NEA for various purposes. And now, when something comes up that they see needs their attention, they call on NEA to send some of that support back. If that's the case, then I subscribe to that, too. We're talking about regular, working Utahns -- people who make funeral potatoes and green jello, who can't eat a whole "mini" by themselves at the Iceberg -- each asking back the twenty, or fifty or hundred dollars they make have given over the past five or ten or twenty years. That adds up, maybe even to $1.5 million, maybe even to $3 million or more. When I think of the money I give to organizations over several years' time, I know how it adds up.

And I also think there's a lot of difference between those tens of thousands of small contributions over several years, and a handful of wealthy political activists giving hundreds of thousands of dollars each, who only picked Utah because they thought it would be an easy state to run a voucher plan in.

But here's something that caught my attention in reporter Dan Harrie's story here (

But on the other side, the national group All Children Matter reported zero spending on the Utah election so far. That organization pumped $240,000 into Utah elections last year, helping elect legislators who passed the voucher law. A spokesman for the local pro-voucher group, Parents for Choice in Education, estimated it has raised less than $500,000 so far for the referendum. But those figures are still being compiled and will be filed by Monday's disclosure deadline.

"Zero spending" sounds misleading to me. Even the $240,000 figure is misleading, because it represents only the contributions given by All Children Matter and its funders in 2006, when PCE has been contributing money -- including ACM money -- to political campaigns and caucuses since well before 2006. If I can, I'll total up all the ACM funds that have come into Utah since it first began sponsoring PCE, and I wonder if that might come close to $1.5 million. If so, then Utah teachers are just catching up.

I caught this note too:

"We see what's coming," said Parents for Choice in Education spokeswoman Leah Barker, predicting the anti-voucher side will far outspend their opponents. She claimed the NEA has committed $3 million to fight Utah vouchers.

Barker's group sent out a newsletter this week that referred to the claimed $3 million NEA pledge as "3 million pieces of silver," an apparent biblical reference.

Giving credit where it's due, Copper0707 wrote this on this morning's Trib message board here (

Amounts of money don't always equate to majority views, but perhaps in this case it is indicative of the commitment of normal, regular citizens and their groups to try to get their views recognized over the views of the few, powerful and connected representatives who are clearly not being responsive to the desires of their constituents. Then in their stated arguement the pro-voucher people throw in the biblical "pieces of silver" reference trying to make people feel guilty, as if their pro-voucher battle is equal and akin to the betrayal by Judas of Jesus (isn't interesting that Jesus' betrayal was handled by a few well placed people influencing the government representatives).

I thought it was a great point to make, and I'm glad someone thought of it.

Finally, Mr. Harrie's story included one more note from PCE's new spokesperson, Leah Barker, who "painted the money as an attempt to 'try and buy an election to take... rights away from Utah families'."

Parents for Choice in Education just launched TV ads Friday, Barker said, adding that radio ads that have been running were funded by a concerned citizen, "who wanted to remain anonymous."