Saturday, November 3, 2007

What does the Tribune recommend?

They tell us here (, but I'll save you the time:

The Republican legislative leadership would have you believe that the voucher law on Tuesday's ballot is a solution to the problems plaguing education in Utah. It is not. Rather, it is a product of right-wing ideologues far from Utah who would like nothing better than to take education out of the hands of the taxpaying Americans who pay for it and turn it over to private interests.

These adherents to the philosophy of the late economist Milton Friedman have tried for years not just to undermine public schools, but eventually to eliminate them. In Utah, they have found an array of acolytes willing to ignore the will of the people and strong-arm enough of their colleagues to get the nation's first universal voucher program written into law - by a single vote.

But the Legislature's privatizers - led by House Speaker Greg Curtis, House Majority Leader Dave Clark, Senate President John Valentine and Senate Majority Leader Curtis Bramble - underestimated Utahns' desire to control how their tax money is spent, and their commitment to public schools.

Referendum 1 was forced onto Tuesday's ballot by a groundswell of opposition to vouchers by a populace unwilling to compromise their neighborhood schools by allowing tax revenue to be siphoned off to pay private school tuition.

Beyond the radical political and philosophical goals of the voucherites, there are other sound reasons for pounding a stake through the heart of this perennial push on Capitol Hill: the potential of vouchers to rob public schools of funding, and the questionable constitutionality of sending public funds to religion-based private schools.

The Utah and U.S. constitutions rightly forbid using public money to fund instruction in religious doctrine. That is why implementing the law would surely trigger lawsuits that would put taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars in legal bills. Regardless the outcome in court, it can be said with certainty today that the voucher law is an offense to the spirit of separating church from state.

The voucher law would not only create a system of private schools that are not accountable to taxpayers, but deal a devastating blow to public schools. In the 1980s and '90s, when Utah was suffering chronic recession and state revenues were tight, members of the Utah Legislature told underpaid educators in overcrowded, underfunded classrooms, "There's only so much money."

State revenue had to meet all the state's obligations, including public education. The same is true today, and can be applied to the impact of spending finite revenues on vouchers. Whether that money were to come directly from the state's public education fund, or from the general fund, it's all the same pot. Reduce the pot by hundreds of millions of dollars, as vouchers eventually would, and the remainder would not be enough to maintain public schools, let alone improve them. This erosion would not await the end of the voucher law's five-year provision to hold public schools harmless. Nor is there anything to keep the Legislature from further squeezing public schools.

The point is, Utah, with its high birth rate, simply does not have the money to support two separate systems - public and private. As it is, lawmakers have not adequately funded public schools, in bad times or good. Class sizes remain the largest, and per-pupil spending the nation's lowest, while teachers still are woefully underpaid.

Moving down the featured items on the bill of goods being sold to voters by voucher proponents is their comparison of the Utah law to voucher programs in other states, programs they claim have achieved some success. There is no legitimate comparison. No other state funds public education so poorly, and no other state's lawmakers have been foolhardy enough to install a universal voucher program at the expense of their public systems.

Utah's voucher law also fails as an antidote to the expected influx of 145,000 new students, many of them low-income immigrants, in the coming decade. Most poor families cannot afford private school for their children, even with a $3,000 voucher.

The bottom line on vouchers is simply this: Sending tax money to private schools is a bad idea. Vote "AGAINST" Referendum 1.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

God bless you and Amen.