Wednesday, November 7, 2007

And what did the people say?

The people said, No.

With only a handful of precincts still out, 62.19 percent of Utah voters said they don't want a voucher program. If that margin holds through the counting of those last few precincts, it will eclipse all of the polls that had been released by newspapers, radio, televisions and anyone else since the referendum was certified by the Lieutenant Governor at the end of April.

The Trib's headline this morning calls it a "crushing defeat." I think they're being gracious. Especially to Patrick Byrne, who orchestrated much of the late funding behind Parents for Choice in Education himself, and who appeared throughout the night on television to prove many of the worst things that are said of him, accusing fellow Utahns of failing a "statewide IQ test" and charging that Utah parents "don't care enough about their kids." This, from a person who reminded a debate audience last Friday night that he holds a doctorate in philosophy from Stanford University.

Even in his grudging acknowledgement that Utahns dismissed his pet project, he held out hope that other populations in another small state -- South Carolina, he suggested -- would approve of his plan.

The Trib's coverage is here (

Voters decisively rejected the will of the Utah Legislature and governor Tuesday, defeating what would have been the nation's most comprehensive education voucher program in a referendum blowout.

"Tonight, with the eyes of the nation upon us, Utah has rejected this flawed voucher law," said state School Board Chairman Kim Burningham. "We believe this sends a clear message. It sends a message that Utahns believe in, and support, public schools."

More than 60 percent of voters were rejecting vouchers, with about 95 percent of the precincts reporting, according to unofficial results. The referendum failed in every county, including the conservative bastion of Utah County.

Voucher supporter chief executive Patrick Byrne - who bankrolled the voucher effort - called the referendum a "statewide IQ test" that Utahns failed.

"They don't care enough about their kids. They care an awful lot about this system, this bureaucracy, but they don't care enough about their kids to think outside the box," Byrne said.

PCE co-founder Doug Holmes continued looking for others to blame.

Doug Holmes, a key voucher advocate and contributor, said, "We started hugely in the hole and it's always been the case. The unions have done this in four different states, where they take the strategy of confusion to the people."

But Holmes said, "You don't run away from something because the odds are stacked against you."

PCE spokesman Richard Eyre, whose appropriation of Oreo cookies for television ads did little for the Nabisco brand on Election Night, used the same language to KCPW's Julie Rose here (, saying,

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.

I have a feeling that 62 percent of Utahns weren't confused. It may well be that 62 percent of Utah voters happened to believe as the Utah Education Association believes, on this issue, without any confusion at all. After all, voters said from the beginning of the process that they weren't interested in the idea. The more they learned, the less they liked it, as the Trib noted.

The tidal wave of cash changed few minds, however. As far back as January - before the Legislature approved the voucher program - a Tribune poll showed voters opposing vouchers 57 percent to 33 percent.

I think a wise man once said, You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all the people all the time.

Take Mr. Byrne's insistence that his life's work is helping poor and disadvantaged children:

Voucher supporters countered with more than $4 million, nearly three-quarters of that from Byrne and his family. Byrne says vouchers are the only way America's "broken" public education system can stay competitive with other industrialized nations.

"What's got to happen and it might take Utah five to 10 years to understand," Byrne said, "they are at the bottom of the heap [educationally] and the heap is at the bottom of the international heap."

He shrugged off the fortune he poured into the referendum, saying he leads a fairly modest life as far as CEOs go. "The fortune that I'm making is all going toward educating lower income and especially African-American and Hispanic kids," Byrne said. "So this is not a terribly big deal to me."

Given his comments about the intelligence of Utah voters and uncaring Utah parents throughout the evening -- and his earlier remarks that high school dropouts should be "burned" -- I doubt that his altruism to poor and disadvantaged youths guarantees his nomination for sainthood soon. Just as I doubt that Governor Jon Huntsman will do the nominating.

Both sides, at one point, embraced the governor, who Byrne blasted Tuesday for his lukewarm backing.

"When he asked for my support [for governor] he told me he is going to be the voucher governor. Not only was it his No. 1 priority, it was what he was going to be all about," Byrne said. "He did, I think, a very tepid job, and then when the polls came out on the referendum, he was pretty much missing in action."

But Mr. Byrne holds out hope that his voucher dreams, declared dead-on-arrival by Utah voters last night, will find a home among some unsuspecting voters in the Deep South.

Byrne said the referendum defeat may have killed vouchers in Utah, but "There are other freedom oriented groups in other states - African-Americans in South Carolina are interested in it."

God help them.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations to the people of Utah for showing wisdom and discernment. Pray for the people of South Carolina.

Bob said...

I hope you keep up the heat on our Utah Legislators!