It seems that strong opinions and high emotions are working hard to keep clarity in the voucher debate well at bay. In the last several days, I've witnessed an incredible number of absolutely false statements concerning Utah's voucher law ranging from simple misunderstandings to outright fallacies. It's time to reign in some of the egregious un-truths so we can stick to the facts.
MYTH: Utah's voucher law has no accountability.
FACT: Section 5 of HB 148 requires regular achievement testing for all students participating in the voucher program. It also requires full disclosure of test results to parents AND disclosure of anonymized results to any third party that requests them. This is in additional to regular audits by an independent CPA to be given to the state both prior to becoming eligible and every four years thereafter. You may argue that this portion of the law is not enough accountability or that you don't believe it will be properly enforced or used. You cannot, however, say there is zero accountability.
MYTH: This will only subsidize students already in private schools.
FACT: The bill actively prohibits participation by any student who was not enrolled full-time in a public school prior to Jan 1, 2007. A student can also be eligible if he or she was born after Sep 1, 2001 or was not a resident of the state prior to Jan 1, 2007. This means that until the bill is amended, current private school students may not participate and eligibility is restricted to new enrollments at private schools.
MYTH: Vouchers violate the Utah State Consitution's prohibition on appropriating state money to religious organizations for educational purposes.
FACT: The United States Supreme Court has already held that such provisions in Ohio do not prohibit a voucher system. Because this issue has already been decided by the highest court in the nation, the Utah Supreme Court is likely to defer to that judgment should a lawsuit be brought on those grounds.
Now carry on. I've heard plenty of well-reasoned opposition to vouchers that don't have to depend on things that just aren't so.