Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Voucher Balancing Act

In eager anticipation of the onslaught of outstanding new private schools that will inevitably arise as a result of vouchers, the Sutherland Institute has revamped their web site, UtahSchools.org.

"Since the voucher bill passed, we decided it would be a good time to give utahschools.org a facelift," said Katie Christensen, the Web site's spokeswoman. "We hope it will help parents choose the education that best fits their child." (source - Daily Herald)

That's great! I applaud them for taking these steps. As Paul Mero proclaims - "There is no greater measure of success in a child's educational experience than the degree to which a parent is involved." (blogger's note - should we all be homeschooling our kids???)

So, let's say these same parents want to compare the ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT of private schools with their public school counterparts? Last time I checked, academics are an important component of a school.

In a quote that might cost Katie her job (or at least a fatherly lecture from Mr. Mero on the dangers of speaking to the liberal press), Katie had no choice but to admit:

Since we can't do academic rankings for private schools, it's hard to actually compare private and public schools side by side.
(source - Daily Herald)

Hence the dilemma for voucher agitators & apologists - if we regulate, we discourage business interests from entering the new private-school-entitlement market (e.g., Challenger Schools). If we deregulate, we end up with fraud, waste, abuse, court cases, and constitutional challenges.

I invite comments on how this could actually work, because so far the voucher experiments elsewhere have been a royal mess.

P.S. I was recently admonished by a fellow blogger to stop quoting the conservative elite who are seeking to end public education and, instead, to just study the bills. To this suggestion I invite my fellow friend in the blogosphere to read my previous post "100 Unintended Consequences of HB148 - School Vouchers." There is some good news to report, though - HB174 fixes 3% of the 100 problems identified in the original bill (not that it will matter after Utah citizens repeal HB148.)


Paul Mero said...

Hey guys,

Regarding Katie's quote, we can show the academics of private schools (and perhaps we should anyway) but to do so on a site that compares and ranks apples to apples, when we have private school oranges (difficult to even compare private schools because each uses their own criteria), is useless. I'll talk with the staff to see how we can address the academics of private schools in a more helpful way.

BTW, your intro to Katie's quote reminds me to mention that not everyone is ill-motivated. Katie wasn't "forced to admit" anything. You made her comment sound so "revealing." All anyone (you) has to do is look at the FAQ associated with the site and read why private school academics weren't listed. Any-who, like I said, perhaps there is a way for us to present those individual private school scores in a useful way. We'll work on it.

Best, PTM

Craig said...


Thanks for visiting. The tone I hope was a little tongue-in-cheek as my main point was to highlight a key problem with vouchers - the difficulty to compare actual academic performance when each private school uses its own criteria.

BTW, curious commentary from you on EdSpresso. For the record, I know for a fact that Utah teachers, education leaders, and, yes, even the big-bad-teachers association absolutely do care about the children. Some of the most capable, compassionate folks I've ever met belong to the UEA. It's unfair and untrue to swallow the PCE line and chalk voucher concerns up to a greed-motivated "turf war."

(descending from soapbox)

Regardless of such differences of opinion, I am fascinated by a blogosphere that allows us to even have this dialog. Thanks for being a part of it!



Paul Mero said...

We should have that dialogue about the motivations of special interests in education. I think it would be constructive. I cannot disagree with your statement, but the statement is narrow. So perhaps we ought to expand it some day soon.

Best, PTM