Thursday, February 1, 2007

No on HB 148, No to Vouchers: An Unproven Risky Scheme

I am rolling out what I hope will be a blogswarm about this issue, today and probably tomorrow. Here is the first of several parts.

An Unproven, Risky Scheme

Most analyses of other voucher programs, and private education in general, have made conclusions that are at best, inconclusive.

  • The best example of this was the July 2006 Department of Education National Assessment of Educational Progress’ study which included the major section entitled “Cautions in Interpretations.” The inherent differences in schools prevented the study’s authors from coming to any decisive conclusions. (http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard//pubs/studies/2006461.asp) Subsequent analyses of that study have found similarly unsettled results when they did attempt to apply different models. (http://www.ksg.harvard.edu/pepg/research.htm)
  • One report issued by the General Accounting Office in August of 2001 reviewed Cleveland and Milwaukee's voucher programs. It found that "the contracted evaluations of voucher students' academic achievement in Cleveland and Milwaukee found little or no difference in voucher and public school students' performance..." but warned that "none of the findings can be considered definitive..." because of methodological differences in different studies. They did warn that funding for evaluations was dangerously low, noting: "For example, Wisconsin has not funded voucher student academic achievement evaluations since 1995, thereby losing data on program performance during the years when the program had grown the most." (http://www.gao.gov/docdblite/summary.php?rptno=GAO-01-914&accno=A01676)
  • HB 148 continues this trend by the sponsor’s unwillingness to fund achievement evaluations at all and avoid auditing until 2014.
  • The sponsor has not included any major incentives to target this program to the very few failing schools in Utah, or areas underserved by existing private infrastructure (rural areas, high density urban areas).
  • Numerous groups representing various segments of Utah society oppose this bill, for example: the Utah State School Board, Utah Education Association, the Utah Parent Teachers Association, the Utah School Employees Assocation, the Salt Lake Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and many more.

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