Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Real Oreo Cookie Voucher Video

I wanted to make one of these, but this guy did it much better than I could. It shows exactly what I have been claiming all along, that the funding circumstances depicted by the Richard Eyre commercial is simplistic at best and just plain false at worst.

Here is the Real Oreo Cookie Voucher explanation:

Will Parents Really Make the Right Choice?

I want to believe that most parents will make the right choice for their children when making decisions about their education. In general I think they will. However, the Milwaukee voucher program raises troubling issues in this area:

"...parents selecting choice schools for their children sometimes are not making selections based on extensive research. Their choices are based on gut feelings and word-of-mouth. Something clicks for them, and it can be as simple as a uniform requirement, a kind exchange with a school staff person, or the fact that their sister's kids, or the children of their neighbor's brother, attend the school.

Thousands of parents are seeking - and finding - schools they believe are safer, better environments for their kids. But the informal nature of the school search process also means parents are less likely to spot troubled schools, or pull their kids from them immediately. As a result, weaker schools in the choice program manage to survive - in some cases, even thrive.
Even the staunchest advocates of school choice admit today that the marketplace theory, which held that parents would pull their kids out of bad schools, or not choose them to begin with, did not pan out.

"The reality is that it hasn't worked like we thought it would in theory," said Howard Fuller, head of the Institute for the Transformation of Learning, at Marquette University. "I don't think anyone that is truthful can say that has occurred.""

There may be many reasons that parents might make one choice over another. If vouchers are implemented here, I hope that what they saw in Milwaukee is not what happens here.

It's also interesting to note that the marketplace theory (competition benefits everyone) so often touted by voucher supports as a positive is not what seemed to occur in Milwaukee.

Voucher War Causes Memory Loss

Paul Rolly has some interesting information today in the Salt Lake Tribune:

"Voucher supporters have touted projections of a 153,000 net increase of students in the public school system in the decade between 2005 and 2015. But they don't mention the projected increase of wage earning parents whose efforts will naturally expand the tax base. They don't mention a Governor's Office of Planning and Budget projection that there will be 36 students per 100 working adults by 2010, 39 per 100 working adults by 2020 and back to 36 students per 100 working adults by 2030. To put that in context, there were 48 students per 100 working adults in 1990. "

So, compared to 1990, we will have 12 fewer students per 100 working adults by 2030.

It's interesting how everyone conveniently forgets part of the story when trying to make their case.

Bramble Scrambles Again

In what seems like a recurring theme, Senator Bramble scrambled again this week in trying to refute some comments that he made in the voucher war. Paul Rolly, Salt Lake Tribune Columnist, wrote a column called Bramble flubs figures on vouchers where he pointed out some math problems with the percent increase in students that Bramble has claimed in the voucher war. Senator Bramble, refuted Paul Rolly's claims on the Senate Site in a posting called Utah's Increasing Student Population (where in addition to other things, called Paul Rolly one of the Tribune's less accurate writers). Paul Rolly responded in his article entitled Sen. Bramble, I know what you said.

This sounds eerily similar to an exchange I had with Senator Bramble on this site. I heard Senator Bramble claim something that was incorrect regarding the voucher bill (HB148) on KSL's Nightside project. In a comment to my posting called Did I Miss Something? Senator Bramble tried to claim that he had not said the things that he really did say. All you have to do is go back and listen.

Vouchers and Choice

One of the things about vouchers that makes see red is this name that has been attached to it which uses the word "choice". Pro-voucher supporters have used this word to create an implication that without vouchers parents don't have choice. And I think they do it to create an atmosphere of distrust, that somehow there choice is being removed. How dare someone remove their right to choose!

If they mean that they may be financially unable to send their child to any school they desire then they are correct.

But since when does that mean we don't have a choice? The truth is that are choices in virtually anything have always been limited by factors of various kinds.

Do I have a choice in what car I drive? Of course I do. I can't afford a Lexus right now. I suppose if I wanted one bad enough, I could work two jobs, make other sacrifices so that I could purchase that Lexus. I have that choice. Always have, always will.

Do I have the choice to go to whatever doctor I want? Of course. But my health insurance limits what doctors they will pay for me to see. But I can see anyone I like if I am willing to pay for it.

Do I have a choice in what resturant I eat at? Of course.

And so it is with education. There are factors and bounds and limits that are part of the choices that parents have in the education of their children. There always have been. But there has always been the choice. What choices currently exist? They include:
  1. Attendance at your zoned public school
  2. Attendance at a public school other than the one for which you are zoned
  3. Attendance at a charter school
  4. Attendance at a private school
  5. Attendance at a home-based school

If Referendum 1 is passed by the voters, and the voucher program enacted, what education choices will now exist for parents? They include:

  1. Attendance at your zoned public school
  2. Attendance at a public school other than the one for which you are zoned
  3. Attendance at a charter school
  4. Attendance at a private school
  5. Attendance at a home-based school
Hmm...They look suspiciously the same.

PCE claims that those that couldn't afford a private school before will now be able to afford one. Perhaps. But why should that be done with my tax dollars? And it ignores that fact that many still will be unable to afford private schools. Just like I can't afford a Lexus and my son can't afford to attend Stanford.

The truth is that choice existed before vouchers and it will exist after vouchers.

PCE says there are 120 private schools in Utah. The truth is that all but 34 of them are located along the Wasatch front. Andy many of those not along the Wasatch front won't be eligible for vouchers. So what about those that live in rural areas? Should their tax dollars be spent to provide a voucher payment for someone in Utah County that chooses to go to a private school? Those in rural areas won't have that choice.

By they way, if this was truly about choice, why weren't home schoolers included in HB148? If you aren't enrolled in public schools on January 1, 2007 you won't be eligible for vouchers until the program is fully implemented in 13 years.

Choice really won't change with vouchers.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Vouchers and Accountability

Those who oppose vouchers complain that there is no accountability in the voucher program, and those that are for vouchers claim that that there is.

The proposed voucher program defined by HB148 and HB174 has some accountability measures in it. But are they enough?
  1. Schools that accept vouchers can only hire teachers that have bachelor degrees, or special skills in the areas that they teach. That seems pretty weak. What constitutes a special skill? If I was a merit badge counselor, would that count? How about if I took a class in that subject in college? Who is deciding? And who is monitoring those decisions? When requirements are put into law, as this requirement was, there should be some means of holding the school accountable for those choices. And there are none.

  2. Schools that accept vouchers have certain financial and attendance requirements that they must meet. These are audited when the school first applies to be eligible for vouchers and then are rechecked every four years thereafter. Four years? That means there is no accountability during that time. Four years seems much too long to me. Some intermediate accountability measures should have been added. There are none.

Some claim that vouchers provide the ultimate accountability: parents. They claim that parents won't send their children where they don't want to spend their money, and that they will hold the schools accountable for how their money is used, and how they educate their children. There is probably some truth to that.


  1. Experiences in the Milwaukee voucher program showed that parents did not always make great choices in choosing schools, nor holding them accountable. So while it may be true that some parents will hold schools accountable, it is equally true that not all of them will.
  2. I believe that it is important for parents to hold their schools accountable for the money that they pay to them to educate their children. But with vouchers, parents will only be paying part of the private school education. There must be accountability for the portion of the cost that they are not paying. And that accountability is to the tax payers, through our state government. It is not enough to relegate accountability to the parents.
  3. Just how do parents hold private schools accountable? By taking their money elsewhere? But if there are others on their waiting list ready to replace those that leave, it isn't like just because you complain and say you are going to leave, that the school will change. They will change only if they want to, or if they can't get enough parents to pay for the way they do things. That is the only way they change. In addition, it isn't like you can just leave one private school and then go to another one down the block (like you might do if you are choosing a different gas station). You have to find another one that is close enough (doesn't do you much good if the only one you can find is in Ogden if you live in Provo). You have to apply. You have to get on the waiting list if they are full. And you may never get into that school, since they can choose whoever they want to attend their school. With that kind of process, it seems more difficult than it might seem to hold your private school accountable.

Some claim that there is no accountability in public schools. I hold my school and district accountable by attending school board meetings, knowing personally my school board member, voting for the school board, serving on the school's community council, attending parent/teacher conference, attending school district community meetings, and knowing personally the principal of each of the schools my children have attended. And the principals know us by name. If we don't like something, we complain. And more often than not, we are listened to and changes are often made.

Why do I do this? Because the education of the children is at stake. And the education of my neighbors' children. And my tax dollars are being used. So I want to hold my schools accountable. Do they always make the changes I want? Of course not. Nor will a private school.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Voucher Supporter Presents Solutions for Education

If you ever wanted to know what should be done with kids that underachieve, CEO Patrick Byrne will tell you.

Make sure you are sitting down.

This is what one of the biggest financial supporters of vouchers in Utah believes. His comments are so appalling that I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen the video. Do the citizens of Utah really want to vote for a program that is so heavily supported by this man?

I, for one, do not.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Voucher Advocates Get Desperate

I suspected it was going to happen. Our sign, asking people to vote against Referendum 1, was stolen from our front lawn. Not only ours, but a total of three in our neighborhood were taken. I'm sure there were a number of others.

I guess that some of the people that are advocating for "choice" don't want choice for everyone (as in my choice to express my view on this issue) nor do they believe in the First Amendment.

I suppose it shows desperation. I hope that those are fighting against vouchers aren't taking pro-voucher signs. I know I haven't. I will try and make my points without resorting to criminal acts.

When we get another sign, I am already scheming ways to defeat those that I'm sure will continue to try and steal it again.

UPDATE: We got a new sign, only had it a couple of days, so I hadn't had a chance to exercise my scheming ways, and someone stole it again. That does it. Tonight, I will be working to make it extremely difficult to take again.