Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Voucher conclusions after a conversation with a "fed-up" Utah Republican

Today I met with a small business owner who told me he has voted as a Republican most of his life, that is until this last election cycle where he voted a straight Democratic ticket.

His conversation was not emotional, or angry, but he was very clear that he was "fed-up" with the Republican Party both nationally and locally.

When I told him that I was the vice chair of the Democratic Party he asked, "are you going to finally get rid of Greg Curtis?" I assured him that the Utah Democratic Party had ever intention in doing so.

His big issue?

How could the legislature and Governor Huntsman go forward with the Sandy/ReAL stadium deal after Mayor Corroon's wise and educated decision that was based on what was best for the common good?

When I said, "it really didn't matter if the stadium is a success or not, all that really mattered was those who would profit from building the stadium".

He agreed.

When I asked him about his opinion on school vouchers he explained that he had been a member of corporate America for many years and that he and his family had a great experience in the Pittsburgh Public School System.

"It changed my daughter's life", he explained. "When we returned to Utah my daughter asked if she could go back and finish school in Pittsburgh."

He then explained his belief that the citizens of Pittsburgh have built a system that leaves their students with three problems; whether to go to Harvard, Yale, or Columbia.

As we continued our conversation I explained two of my issues with vouchers. I told him how ironic it is that our Republican-dominated legislature has deliberately put a strangle-hold on public education funding over the last 20 years, and how they are unwilling to take any responsibility for their actions.

I also explained my belief that there is no room for vouchers until we build a public school system that allows every child the opportunity to have the very best educational expedience without their parents having to pay for a private education. To me, a private education is a choice, and that choice has a cost. That is why it is called "Private".

Private: 1 a : intended for or restricted to the use of a particular person, group, or class.

As we continued to talk we both agreed that the most important factor in a child's education is the involvement of that child's parent(s). Michelle and I could not be more pleased with Abby's public school teacher and experience. We know her teacher is doing a great job because we are involved with Abby's class, and because school doesn't end for Abby when when the bell rings.

Michelle reads to our children every night and we allow our children the opportunities to explore and discover their talents, as best we can.

Which brings me to this conclusion: Almost every issue that is used in politics to divide us are issues that will never be solved by the government as long as we look at the government as something evil, or incapable, or "failing". We are the government, and we are not only responsible for our own children, but for every child, whether they share our DNA or not.

I believe in the public school system, and I believe that it is privilege when my tax dollars not only help my children receive an education, but that my tax dollars will also help your children receive an education.

If Michelle and I decide for some reason that we do want to place our children in a private school then I still want my tax dollars to fund the public education system that educated my grandparents, my parents and me, even after my children are raised, and when we no longer have children attending school. You see, for me it is very simple; we all profit from the education provided by public schools.

The choice is there; it always has been there. Vouchers have never been about choice, or the lack of it.

If we really want to build our economy, if we truly want to reach for the stars, then let's build a public education system that is second to none anywhere on this planet. When we do so, we can truly say that we are each others keeper, and that we have achieved something truly great.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Beautifully said!

WP said...

Great post Rob! I have my check book ready to defeat Curtis and so many others in the legislature who ignore the citizens of Utah on so many issues.

Power corrupts and we have seen that repeatedly in our state ever since our late Gov. Matheson left office. Time for a change in Utah. I hope the public will wake up and make the same kind of changes that we are seeing in Washington.

Keep up the good work!

Jenni said...

Rob,

Thank you for this eloquent post.

Jen

Voice of Utah said...

"Get Greg Curtis out of office" will be a great opportunity for Utah bloggers to get together in 2008 for a united effort. I've got my checkbook & blog & legs ready to go.

Cameron said...

Wow, I wasn't aware that Pittsburgh was full of Harvard grads. :-)

Seriously though, what is Pittsburgh doing that got it rated so high by disgruntled republican guy?

A Single Mom said...

Bob,

I take issue with a few of your points:

You state the private education is about cost. All choices have costs.

As one who supports vouchers, I say it’s my choice as a single parent it use government resources that I as a tax payer see fit, rather than someone in the educational bureaucracy.

It boils down to a redistribution of wealth: We have no problems is our society redistributing wealth to welfare recipients, or benefits to illegal aliens or social security benefits to individuals who have never worked a day in their life and have never contributed to the system. You believe in the re-distribution of wealth via our tax dollars for education.

I believe that parents know better than school officials on how those tax dollars should be spent – hence vouchers.

So why not vouchers, let me use my portion of my tax dollars to spend as I see fit on education for my children, enable and empower the individuals to give their children the education I want, instead of someone else making those decisions for me.

I’m glad you think it’s a privilege to use your tax dollars for public schools. I’m also a product of public schools, but public schools have changed and not for the better.

Our generation does care about education – we are just frustrated at how many resources go to waste in the public school sector and how the education bureaucracy, unions, the uea and the nea have taken away parents voices in making policies and decisions that effect children.

Parents want a greater say in how their tax dollars are being spent, and question a re-distribution in wealth of tax dollars, when parents are better able to make decisions as to money is spent verses the government.

We are in no way trying to say that education should be denied to children. Every child has a right to an education, but, taxpayers fund those schools, and if I feel my tax dollars are better off paying for a private school in lieu of a public school government should give the right choose; just like I have a choice as to where to grocery shop, or travel or what car I drive or what airline I fly.

It’s about choice – the parents making the decision, not the teachers, not bureaucrats. It’s about having a say on how my tax dollars are spent.

It’s a simple matter of choice and freedom.

For example, if we put with every child a voucher, what ever school we send that child too (public or private) that school gets the money that is ear marked for that child.

That way, we can apply free market methods to our educational systems, successful schools will prosper, unsuccessful schools (and teachers) will be done away with and hence, the free market system works and parents have a greater choice in education and how their tax dollars are spent.

By opposing vouchers public schools, the public education system isn’t looking out for children; it is looking out for itself.

Rather than govt deciding how tax dollars should be spent, lets empower parents to spend their tax dollars on a school that they really believe their child will benefit from.

I also have instilled a love of learning and reading in my home, as a university professor my kids have grown up around learning. I’m amazed at the number of parents in my SLC neighborhood support vouchers, because so many of us send our kids to private schools. As sad as it sounds, many parents have abandoned and walked away from public schools for the benefit of our children and have built a wonderful community around private schools. If government tax dollars are to promote the community, give us a say in how they are spend and let us direct those resources to the schools which we believe are best.

Old Fashioned Democrat Who Votes said...

The Desert News reports today that, “Meanwhile, state leaders will allow a special subcommittee to meet up to six times this year. The group will study privatizing various Utah operations and look at areas where the state is now unfairly competing with private industry.”

I hope that public education is investigated and looked as a monopoly. Perhaps, it would be better if they were privatized.

Emily said...

Single mom and others,

This right here is what you keep saying:

"how many resources go to waste in the public school sector and how the education bureaucracy, unions, the uea and the nea have taken away parents voices in making policies and decisions that effect children."

But so far it's just heresay - does anybody want to go out on a limb and give solid examples - things that really happened - to illustrate this point? So far it's all anecdotal without any meat.

I am not trying to be disrespectful of your position or opinion, but really... if you are going to say these things are happening, I want to know where it is happening and I want solid examples.

A single Mom said...

Emily,

A few examples:

Corruption in Public Schools http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa542.pdf


Battling Corruption in America's Public Schools

http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/SEGBAT.html


The work by Harvard Univ Press is eye opening.

Allie said...

The problem with trying to turn our educational system into a "free market" system, is that in the free market, there are winners and their are losers.

I'm not ready to play games like that with any child's education.

Homer said...

I'm not sure what "Single Mom's" point is with her examples. I checked out the corruption article by the CATO institute.

It was a very depressing list of corruption scandals that have plagued the school voucher programs in Florida and Milwaukee. This seems to illustrate the worst fears of those who oppose privatizing the education of our children for profit.

As a teacher myself, I could tell you all stories of embarrassing incompetence by unprofessional colleagues. But that is something every profession and job works with. That is not an argument for throwing out the entire institution of public education. That is an argument for better administration, a change in the focus of the NEA and UEA from whiny labor unions to strong professional organizations, and open accountability to the public.

By the way, the whole "monopoly" charge is way tired. Public Education is a social institution, not a corporation driven by power and profit to crush all competition.

Instead of calling it evil, let's refocus on what why we pay our public schools to educate our children, and see what we can improve and strengthen.

Anonymous said...

"As a teacher myself, I could tell you all stories of embarrassing incompetence by unprofessional colleagues"

This is a great argument for ending tenure

Emily said...

Single mom -

None of these examples are from Utah.

Paul Hanson said...

Single mom,

BYU is a private school and they have tenure.

BTW, I didn't know that vouchers had anything to do with tenure.

You should stop comparing apples with oranges.

I laugh when voucher advocates use words like monopoly and choice.

Jenni said...

There are so many options in the public school system these days -- even before the charter schools.

I started my oldest daughter in an optional program in the Salt Lake City School District called "The Open Classroom" back in 2000. That program had been up and running since 1977. Just last year, the OC applied for, and was granted, charter status -- but it's still free public education.

The great thing about the OC is the parent involvement -- it's a parent co-operative school and we consider ourselves a "community of learners".

Just one example of the type of progams available in the free public school system -- and I know there are others.

Natalie said...

The SLTribune quoted a study that showed that although test scores in Milwaulkee haven't gone up, parent satisfaction has. So, the parents are happier, but the quality of education is the same!

If you want to be a satisfied parent, and you want your child's test scores to go up, volunteer at their school. Read to them. Join the PTA. Help your kid with his math homework. Take the family to the zoo.

Look into the magnet program in your district. Check out open enrollment. Any good charter schools in your neighborhood? Do you want to start one? Gonna stick with the neighborhood school? Join the School Community Council - work on the School Improvement Plan!

Just don't shortchange our schools so that you can have "choice" when you've already got it.

Anonymous said...

I love how Democrats talk about how great charter schools are but were opposed to them at the beginning.

Emily said...

Anonymous, be careful with the generalizations. This particular Democrat has *always* thought Charter schools were a good idea.

Natalie said...

And I'm a republican.

Truth in Politics said...

Natalie just pretends to be a Republican.

Craig said...

Anonymous - you have no idea what you are talking about.

Charter schools began as the brainchild of Ray Budde, a liberal Education professor at the University of Massachussetts. The ensuing legislation in Minnesota was a collaboration between Democrats and Republicans. In fact, it was AFT, a teachers' association, that was one of the earliest endorsers of the concept.

Charter schools are about decentralization and site-based decision making. There is a healthy contingent of just about every political flavor found starting, operating, and improving our charter schools.

The charter school community is split on the voucher question.

It is only recently that the mostly far-right "School Choice Movement" (their phrase, not mine) has co-opted Charter Schools as their own. But the truth is, they didn't come up with the idea and many outside of the supply-side mentality embrace Charter Schools as a successful, non-partisan means to bring innovation and differentiation to our public schools.

Some resistance to charters has taken place simply because at times those proposing the legislation were clearly looking to establish "private schools in waiting" (future voucher schools).

But in the end, nearly all states now have charter schools and this year's Utah charter school omnibus bill, which provides increased funding as well as protections against conflicts of interest, passed the House and Senate unanimously.

Thanks...Craig.

Homer said...

I teach at a Charter school and enjoy the different professional opportunities it gives me personally as I still work to do the same old job of educating the young people. Hopefully, the option of our charter school gives some students an opportunity or even second chance they might never receive ina more mainstream situation.

The Charter movement in Utah has an interesting political subtext that reflects Utah's unique political struggles.

In the past few years at the Charter school meetings it has been like two sides preparing to battle for the vision of Utah's Charter School future. On one side you have the Aaryan nations and on the other you have the rainbow coalition--those who see charter schools as another alternative to reach those students who don't quite fit into the mold of the mainstream school and also to reach out to those who are traditionally under-respresented in high education and advanced programs in mainstream schools.

Some in Utah simply see Charter schools as a way to improve schools by finally filtering out the yucky people or undesireables with low test scores. Some of them become quasi-private schools by using for-profit management companies and skirting or winking at state and federal anti-discrimination laws.

However things go in the future, Charter schools are at least an open and flexible attempt to meet the needs of different students in the public system in a creative and hopefully reform-minded way.

By the way, can I just reemphasize that charter schools are still public schools that do not charge tuition,are openly accept applications without discrimination, and must comploy with all applicable state and federal laws for public education.

Richard Watson said...

An interesting point made here by the "fed-up Republican". Democrats seem to forget that Republicans have been slowly draining funds from public schools for the past 20 years. Republicans complain about how bad government is and when Utahns elect them, they prove it.

Anonymous said...

Craig--

I don't know or really care who started the charter school movement. What I know is when Brian Allen ran the original bills on charter schools in the late 90's the votes were not unanimous.

The charter school movement in Utah was opposed by legislative Democrats.