We lost. You know what makes it worse? We deserved it. We deserve the gloating and victory dancing from the opponents. Why? Because we let PCE run a filthy low-brow campaign and we didn't do anything to stop it. So now what?
Let's put this legislation to the side for a while. I know, it's really tempting to touch up the defeated bill and wheel it on out again, but we have some real work to do between now and then. We need to spend the next five years addressing all of the criticisms we faced this year.
We need to start founding high-quality, low-cost private schools. We got hammered on the cost of tuition, questions on accountability and standards, and availability in all areas of the state. As right as it is to force the accuser to back up their claims, we need to step up to the plate and take on this issue ourselves. There needs to be absolute transparency as to what certifications and credentials teachers hold. There must be regularly published reports on test scores like the ITBS (you know, the same one that public schools use). Financial reports should be provided to parents on an annual basis. If we really believe ourselves, that private schools can be so much better for a lot less money, we need to get out there and make it happen.
There also needs to be a pro-voucher group completely and totally unaffiliated with PCE and it's major donors. They screwed things up enough on their own. From low-blow "liberal boogeyman" advertising to cavorting with a know spammer and hatchet man, they proved themselves horrendously inept and clueless, easily doing more damage to the pro-voucher arguments than anyone else could have dreamed. (I almost wonder if they took campaign tips from Lavar Christensen.) We need real Utahns in this group, not wealthy out-of-state donors and local multi-millionaires. The "big money" label didn't stick to the NEA's $3M contribution but Patrick Byrne couldn't scrub it off with steel wool. It has to be totally grassroots from the get-go.
Lastly, we just can't talk our way past valid concerns. The switch rate and break even point are valid concerns. The price of tuition is a valid concern. Giving vouchers to upper-income families is a valid concern. Yes, this bill is the result of almost a decade of compromise, but I don't think the Republican-dominated legislature compromised enough. Giving inches here and there isn't compromise. A real compromise doesn't pass by a single vote. A real compromise is less ambitious and much more targeted.
Supporters, we have a lot of work to do. Let's get to it.