Saturday, February 3, 2007

The esteemed representative from Parents for Choice deigned to comment on this blog.

The esteemed representative from Parents for Choice deigned to comment on this blog. Here is my response.

Steve, your attempt to dismiss my criticisms, if it was that, was incompetent and/or arrogant, typical of how you have framed this debate. First of all, you ignored all the statistical evidence I presented that vouchers have not been proven to work. Second, you ignored the accountability issues within your own bill. Third, you ignore that I do not disagree that any lawsuit may have trouble getting by on its merits, but you again ignore that a lawsuit in and of itself costs a lot of money. Finally, you ignore the fiscal flaws in your bill's appropriation for only $100k for your program's administration.

As to your constituent's approval, I challenge you to produce a poll on that issue, and not the push polls PCE used to bully your colleagues in the House. I would suggest that even in St. George, the majority do not stand in favor of vouchers as you have proposed them. Ask them: "Do you favor or oppose the legislature allowing parents to take taxpayer dollars to send their children to private schools?" Don't ask them do they favor choice, because they have that; don't ask them if they believe parents are the best decision-makers on their children's education, because they usually are. Furthermore, don't ask them whether the legislature should take money from public education to fund a voucher program, because I know that is not what you have proposed. You could ask them if they favor the legislature taking money from fixing roads in St. George, or maintenance of Snow Canyon, or providing full vision and dental for Medicaid recipients, or even a tax cut, to fund a taxpayer-supported voucher program. That is the choice you have made, and you will have to live with the consequences.


Jenni said...

great response

Dave said...

Davis, vouchers are still a win win for public schools and for the entire education system.

Even if the vouchers were paid for out of the education fund, they would still leave more money for Utah to spend on more roads or more education spending.

Here's how:

The average voucher amount is predicted to be $2,000. When you consider all costs to public education (buildings included), we spend over $6,000 per student. So on average, for every student that uses a voucher who would have gone to a public school, Utah saves $4,000. Even if we gave vouchers to the entire 3% of the student population that goes to private schools currently, we would still save on vouchers as long as at least 2% of the current public education students switched to private schools using a voucher.

And based on your and your anti-school choice friends' predictions that everyone and their dog will leave the public schools for private schools, Utah will be saving tons of money thanks to vouchers.

Every random assignment test done on vouchers has shown that students using vouchers do as well or better than their counterparts in public schools. Even if vouchers students showed no increase in performance, you're still educating the public at 1/3 THE PRICE!!! If someone found a medicine that did just as well or better than a current medicine but cost 1/3 the price, who wouldn't be jumping on it????

So what is your problem with vouchers? Is it because you don't trust low-income parents to make important decisions about their kids education? Or is it because you think we can only achieve social harmony through government coersion (which by the way has failed. Studies have shown that private school students are often more tolerable of other political ideas and actually interact with people of other ethnicities more than public school students)? Or is it because it hurts you to think that free enterprise might do a better job of educating our children and preparing them for citizenship than government-run programs?

And finally, your suggested poll question is worse than the Tribune's. I think the Center for the Study of Democracy and Elections at BYU had a great one last year, and frankly it's one of the few I trust as a solid poll question. Why? Because 1) it came from a university center that has a reputation to keep with the public and the federal government (if you recall, it was a professor from the Center who was a key witness before the Supreme Court in the campaign finance reform hearings) and 2) their political science department is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans (with Democrats probably having a slight lead).

Here's their question: Some have proposed that the government provide a certain amount of money for each child's education. The parents can then send the child to any public, parochial, or private school they choose. This is called the "voucher system." Would you like to see such an idea adopted in the state of Utah?

The results: 55.6% in favor. 34.8% opposed. And if the question had included the fact that the voucher system would save Utah money that could be used on education or roads or medicare, etc., I bet the number who supported it would have been even higher.

Davis Didjeridu said...

Dave, I disagree with your numbers. I have seen those numbers out there, even given by my Representative. The reason I disagree with them is that they are entirely too simplistic. They discount the potential social costs from students who leave the few (and I admit there would be few) private schools that promote extreme views. Those students could be the cause of major social problems. You later assert: “Studies have shown that private school students are often more tolerable of other political ideas and actually interact with people of other ethnicities more than public school students.” I have not seen any evidence of this in either direction and I would like to see a few of these studies.
Also, I have to correct your assertion that I am anti-school choice. I do believe in school choice; my parents choose to send me to another school for a grade. Where I disagree with you is that you appropriate that term to include only those who want public money to go to private schools. People have choice now; what you want is private school subsidization.
I would like you to cite where you got your assertion that “Every random assignment test done on vouchers has shown that students using vouchers do as well or better than their counterparts in public schools.” That is not what the Department of Education found, or what the researchers at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government found. Please provide statistics to back up your assertion. This also brings up the point that we won’t know how these students who get vouchers will perform academically because there are very few standards placed upon them, leaving any analysis between public and private schools still an apples and oranges comparison. I don’t think the public is served well by unaccountable government entities.
Furthermore, as to your idea that we should accept that students are getting a poor education for 1/3 the price, that indicates the flawed attitude that many Utah legislators (at least 38 of them) believe. That we as a state should be happy with “fair” schools that do “ok” on tests, that we should be content with Cs and Bs, that we should not even try to get an A+, let alone spend money in order to get it.
You ask what my problem is with vouchers. I hope you will read my previous posts about this issue, detailing: how the concept is unproven; how money can be better spent on class size reductions; how specifically HB 148 has serious accountability issues with how tax dollars could be misused; how it is open to legal challenges, that regardless of their merit, will inevitably and unnecessarily cost taxpayers money; how specifically HB 148 drastically under funds the administration of its voucher program; and how this bill has at least the appearance of being bought and paid for by outside interests purchasing legislators. Finally, I believe applying the paradigm of free-market economics to education is fundamentally flawed. The goal of such a economic paradigm is to promote accelerating programs and businesses while devaluing and eliminating those that do not lead to profit. Our state’s constitution has expressly rejected that model by stating: “The Legislature shall provide for the establishment and maintenance of the state's education systems including: (a) a public education system, which shall be open to all children of the state; and (b) a higher education system. Both systems shall be free from sectarian control.” (Article X, Section 1.) Our schools must take in all students, even children whose parents don’t care, children with disabilities, children that don’t perform at high levels. A voucher program will create a two-tier system, one where the best students will be allowed to go to private schools and the rest will be disallowed and forced into a public school system.
You state that public education has not produced social harmony. I argue that it has. We have schools, especially in Utah, that allow children of varying religious, ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic conditions to work and play well together, producing exceptionally well-informed and well-intentioned citizens. This occurs in spite of the drastically low budgets the legislature continues to give schools.
As to your poll question, I would like to see the citation for that. I don’t doubt that it exists, but I would like to see the question as it was asked. I fail to see what the problem with the Tribune question was; there are obvious disagreements as to why they found such a different result from the Desert Morning News’ questions, but that does not mean the question was not valid. However, numerous other polls have confirmed that the public would like to see vast more amounts of money be spent on our public school system than any voucher program.