Desperation From the Anti-Voucher Lobby

A new group calling itself Utahns for Pubic Schools has recently jumped into the voucher debate to try and derail it with a voter initiative. Their goal is to get the voucher program recently passed by the legislature overturned by voters. This effort will do nothing but put egg on their face.

The big initial challenge will be getting just over 92,000 certified signatures to get the issue on the ballot. Anyone who's had any level of involvement with initiative petitions (present company included) knows that a significant number of the signatures will be disqualified for various reasons. Some folks think they're registered to vote but aren't, the registrations are inactive because they moved and didn't re-register, the information on the petition doesn't match the voter rolls… between the myriad reasons, you can count on at least 25-30% of the signatures being discarded despite your best efforts. This sets the bar somewhere around 110-120,000 signatures to pass the muster. Add the time constraint of 45 days to collect signatures and the task just got that much more difficult. What if you fail certification? Get ready to start all over from scratch.

Even if they pass that high hurdle, it's still an uphill battle. Since the state will be loathe to drop $3.5M on a special election, the soonest we're going to see this on the ballot will be November 2008. That's a lot of time to let the voucher program settle in and win more ground. Already Utahns are split almost exactly down the middle on the issue with the last poll in January showing a 48-46 split on the issue. The previous poll in December of 2005 showed the split being 40-54 for vouchers, so there's already been a strong swing towards the voucher camp. With that much time, you can bet you'll see a flurry of hyperbolic news releases, sensationalist news stories and mountains of PR money spent by both sides to try and turn that slim margin into a decisive one for either camp.

So what if voters sign off on the voucher bill? That certainly won't be the end of it. You can bet that if the legislature and the voters won't shut down vouchers, these groups will have no qualms about turning to the courts to declare the program unconstitutional. If they're so confident in that argument, however, why don't they just go ahead and file suit? For all the bluster, it seem that this is another one of the long-shot FUD arguments I've previously mentioned. It would certainly require less money and time to skip straight to the judiciary to settle the matter, especially with such a slim chance of getting a "the people have spoken" victory.

If these people were really interested in improving public education, why are they not spend their time proving how good the public schools are instead of spending millions of dollars and countless manhours on a Quixotic crusade to tilt the voucher windmill? I suspect it's because, once the crusade is over, they can go back to their normal lives of depending on someone else to do all of the work of educating children. Taking the high road of being actively involved requires a long-term commitment with no clearly defined end result. You can't say "game over, I won" when the job of actively improving education in meaningful ways is ongoing.

The alternative is the coward's way, the lazy man's way. It's preserving the status quo because the status quo doesn't expect much of you. Pay your taxes, make sure your kids show up at the building and wash your hands of the responsibility. These desperate actions show why education alternatives are even needed in the first place.

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12 Responses

  1. Jason says:

    I wanna hear your political insight on the newfound connection between Strom Thurman and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

  2. Jeremy says:

    The alternative is the coward’s way, the lazy man’s way. It’s preserving the status quo because the status quo doesn’t expect much of you. Pay your taxes, make sure your kids show up at the building and wash your hands of the responsibility. These desperate actions show why education alternatives are even needed in the first place.

    What an ignorant statement. I’ve never met any caring parent who sends their kids to public or private schools who thinks this way. Arguing for or against vouchers is one thing but don’t label your opponents as disinterested in their parental responsibilities for their children. Your argument is untrue and it tends to make most decent parents who might be interested in what you have to say needlessly defensive.

    You’ve proven in the past on this site that you have an ax to grind with Utah’s education system but you’ve never specifically stated what your problem is. As a taxpayer I can understand that you’d want more accountability from our government school system and you stated as much in your previous education post. Fair enough. What actual evidence do you have that the system is failing? Are public schools so broken that we need to just give up and give parents the money to get their kids privately educated? The burden of proof that public schools have failed is on the anti-public education side of the argument and you haven’t shown any actual evidence yet that this is the case.

  3. Bill Fox says:

    public schools nationwide are producing more and more graduates theat can’t read at level, don’t have the foggyest idea what math is for, have been brainwashed that political correctness as their god, and you want proof. This program is not talking about shuting down public schools or costing more money. It’s about choice & competition. If the government is paying “X” per student for education today, and it is going to pay “X-Y” for each student (that qualifies) that makes a choice (key word) how can that cost more money. In all probability it will allow administrators who bow at the alter of lower class sizes to get their way. Open your eyes and smell the hot cocoa, this challange is about unions not about kids

  4. Jesse says:

    And it’s qualifiers FTW. Caring parents aren’t the problem. It’s the parents who de-prioritize their involvement that are the problem. It’s non-parents and parents without children in the system who don’t participate beyond paying taxes that are the problem. Most in those groups would rather take the easy way out (slapping vouchers out of the way) than put themselves on a lasting course (proving that public schools are better). Decent parents don’t fall into that category and they know it. You’re a parent and you know it.

    My purpose here isn’t to show a need for vouchers. Rather it is to show how this anti-voucher lobby wants to try and embarrass the Legislature with their “will of the people” dog and pony show. If their goal was to get rid of vouchers and they’re so sure that the constitutional question is solid, why bother with the showmanship? They’re trying to play tough guy, aren’t so sure of their bogus argument or a combination of the two. When you see that someone is willing to be dishonest to achieve their ends, why should they be trusted? How many other lies have they engaged in?

    As someone who’s lived outside of Utah and watched education systems crumble, I can see the writing on the walls. What’s coming down the pike is ugly and must be corrected for before it arrives. What are these warning shots? The hundreds of millions spent on classroom size reductions without any appreciable results. The unions jobbing new teachers on compensation while getting raises for established teachers. The declining number of college grads. The rapid increase in public support for vouchers. Closed-door meetings in the Jordan School District about budgeting issues. All of these are symptoms of corruption, ineffectiveness and parental frustration. We may get a lot of bang for our buck, but I think we can thank parents for that more than school districts.

    If you want to see what’s coming from these problems, look at other western states. California schools that were top-notch in the 60s and 70s have become edifices of waste more intent on social engineering that education. Las Vegas’ school district spends over 55% of its budget on administration and maintenance costs. Arizona public schools have rapidly stratified into bilingual and monolingual programs, often among class lines.

    Don’t think our neighbors aren’t exporting this to our state. (Where do you think all of these transplants are coming from?) As districts grow, they spend an inordinate amount of resources on managing their resources thus inflating costs. The knee-jerk reaction is to split off smaller districts, but then they fail to accomplish economy of scale and spend just as much (or more) on administration. As more people move here from California, you’ll see more “diversity training” nonsense taking the place of meaningful instruction. As our immigrant population increases, we’ll see more stratification between immigrants and citizens as the demand for “separate but equal” bilingual instruction goes through the roof.

    You can’t expect all of the union groups on this bandwagon to promote real change anyway. Their primary concern is, always has been and always will be to get the most money possible into union coffers. Getting increased compensation is simply the method they use to ensure it. Improving educational quality is a marketing ploy the unions use to try and sell a nicer image to the public. Union members want better, but their union has taken on a life of its own and it controlled by extremists, just like most political parties these days.

  5. Mike says:

    Luckily, all the pro voucher camp needs to do is re-run that 20/20 episode about it.

  6. Jason says:

    I’ve read more this morning than I did in all of high school.

    But strangely, I’m entertained.

  7. Rob Miller says:

    This is just silly.

  8. John M. says:

    Labeling is how Anti-Public School groups work. For twenty years they have had legislators starve the education system and now vouchers are the solution.

    Funny how this is parents and children against unions when 95% of children and parents utilize the Public School system.

    Lies, lies, and more lies…

  9. Jesse says:

    Increasing education funding by 54% between 1998 and 2005 is starving when student population rose by only 9%? Even if you presume a REALLY high rate of inflation (like, say, 5%), the funding has still increased. I don't get how your numbers work.

    I must admit, though, that slamming labeling while engaging in it is either the paragon of intentional irony or unintended doubletalk. Either way, I'm amused. 

  10. Bill Fox says:

    Lets break this down to the most basic. A kid in private school costs the state less money with this voucher system than if the kid stayed in school. This program is more beneficial for the poor than the rich. Any students taken out of the public school system will make class size smaller without having to increase bonds. Private schools do not require bonds to build schools and they cost less to run. If someone has stats that say that private schools can’t do as good of a job as public in the education of our kids,I’d like to see that data. Lastly what kind of country are we living in when competition and choice are deemed bad. There can only be one conclusion this is a case of union thugs (not the rank & file) seeing someone syphoning off their pot-o-gold and they will use the money they extort from union members to do everything they can to see it not allowed

  11. Robert says:

    I love how some are bringing up funding here. Yeah we spend less than most other states per student, but have we stopped to look at how much is spent by each taxpayer ? I would venture we are near the top of percentages of state and local money going toward education. Lets face it those who continue to fill the educational system with kids need to shoulder a little more responsibilty for paying for it. The more kids you have, the lewss you pay? Why they place more burden let them shoulder more. I’m not saying make them pay it all but why do we make tehm pay less the more kids they have?

  12. Shauna says:

    Well, I *can* tell you (as someone who’s worked in the payroll industry for nearly 8 years in multiple states) that the number of dependents one claims affects Utah workers least. Put another way, people with tons of kids here do not get as big a tax break as people who have tons of kids in California or any other state.

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