Saturday, October 13, 2007

$429 million over the next thirteen years?

Ok. Anybody who is against higher taxes ought to really seriously consider how they vote on the voucher issue on November 6.

The voucher program, if passed, is expected to cost Utah Taxpayers $429 million over the next thirteen years. And yes, pro-voucher people, you are correct when you say that this money is not coming from the Education fund... it is coming from the General fund.. the very fund which pays for things like my husband's salary and our family's health insurance and other important things like road maintenance and prisons. It makes my hair stand on end when I see Utah Lawmakers willing to pour $429 million dollars into a secondary education system when many of Utah's state employees and teachers are making lower wages than their counterparts in other states. But I digress.

Utah has been forunate to be in a "time of plenty" the past few years, with unforseen budget surplusses that have given our lawmakers opportunities to really do the right thing for a lot of Utah public services. Utah's economy has been *booming* and our population is growing, which has contributed to Utah's coffers being brimming with bucks. We can only hope this trend continues for many years to come.

But what if it doesn't? What happens if the recent downturn in the real estate market and the mortgage lending industry starts to affect our economy here in Utah? What happens if in places like Iron County, wages don't keep up with national trends and people decide to leave Utah instead of come here?

Heaven forbid such a thing... but what if does? What happens to all of the families in Utah who use a voucher to pay for their kids private schools? If indeed this government program is supposed to help them, it wouldn't be in the best interest of the state of Utah to discontinue a voucher program, no matter how tight things get. In such a scenario, the only answers would be to raise taxes or watch our lawmakers make major cuts to other vital programs in our state so that the voucher program could be sustained.

And to those who think they are getting some "Credit" in their taxes by sending their kids to a private school with the use of a voucher also need to take a look at what it really means -- they won't see any decrease in their income taxes or their property taxes, which all goes to support public education. So your income taxes will remain the same, your property taxes will continue to rise, and you will be forced to pay for vouchers through the other taxes that you pay just because you live in the state. And those of us in rural Utah will continue paying for other people's kids to go to private schools and we'll never have the benefit of doing the same.

So think very carefully. Do the taxpayers really want to sustain a two-tiered education program? Are we willing to do the hard thing if times get tough?

I think Utah ought to do the conservative thing and be leary of paying for a government-sponsored, tax-payer funded private education system that may not be able to sustain itself through the long haul.


The Political Spyglass said...

OK, so if Ref 1 fails what changes for our kids that need different choices. I have not heard anything positive from the Teachers Union. What exactly will improve if Ref 1 fails?

Anonymous said...

Sometimes it is not so much a matter of not improving but of not deteriorating, Political Spyglass guy. If/when Referendum 1 fails, it will be entertaining to watch the payback during the upcoming legislative session. So tragically predictable.

Emily said...

I can't and won't speak for the "teacher's union" but I will speak as a concerned parent.

I have said before and I will say again... we are having the wrong discussion about education.

Instead of dumping public education and giving up on any type of real reform because we feel powerless, let's get in the trenches and reallly reform it.

Instead of having a discussion about "school choice" outside the system, let's work to make public education the BEST thing around.

And let's try to refrain from always bringing the discussion back to money.

Let's take a good hard look at the system, figure out what we want to do with it, and then make it happen.

If it takes money, write the check. If we need something else to make it successful, then let's just do it.

But I do not and will not buy into the idea that public education is going to hell in a handbasket and the only way out is to abandon it.

You want to create better opportunities for your children? Get your butt down to the school and do it.

Paul Mero said...

The Fiscal Analyst memo from where the $429 million derives also shows a savings of over $1 billion.

Let me express this fact another way...the memo that cites the hypothetical cost of $429 million also reports a hypothetical savings of a billion dollars.

Both numbers are ridiculous, but that doesn't stop you guys from saying it like it is true. Kim B. actually has charts based on it that he uses in his public presentations. Of course, he doesn't show the savings. And why? Why show two fake numbers, especially when the second number destroys your point?

We know one thng for sure...the appropriation for the voucher law is $12 million dollars. Period.

Best, PTM

alienated insider said...

political spyglass:

I think you've been tapping too many toes with Republican Senator Larry Craig; your stance is getting too wide...

CraigJ said...


Be serious, man. Are you really this foolish or just misinformed?

You need to read the impartial analysis. There is no $1 billion savings.

You're referring to the "Bramble memo" which is a meaningless Red Herring in the context of the voucher debate. You really should know this by now. Perhaps you do.

The $429 million is the cost of the program over 13 years.

The low savings estimate (assuming only WPU expenditures) is $95 million. The high savings estimate (assuming no fixed costs whatsoever) is $265 million.

That leaves you with a NET COST over 13 years of $164-$334 MILLION!

Your comment is the silliest you've made in your whole campaign for Referendum 1.

Kim Burningham's chart does show both costs and savings. It's the same chart I used in my Oreo response on this blog. You can clearly see three lines: RED for costs, BLACK for low savings, and GREEN for high savings.

For you to say the numbers are ridiculous or meaningless is to say that the impartial analysis is ridiculous or meaningless.

The impartial analysis is required by law to be impartial. If you don't think it is impartial, I would suggest filing suit against the Lt. Governor's office. Please - go ahead. What are you waiting for?

The $12M is the cost of the program in the 2nd year. But the costs escalate sharply as more students who never intended to go to private school in the first place become eligible for the voucher.

The costs far outweigh the savings.

You're not always wrong but on this issue, you are completely wrong.

Show me you can acknowledge a mistake. Read the impartial analysis. The spreadsheets of costs vs. savings are clear. The chart that uses the exact figures from the LFA makes it even clearer.

It would be a tough sell for your side to say the impartial analysis is off by hundreds of millions of dollars!

Repentance is a gift :-)

Paul Mero said...

Oh yeah, it was a government analysis...impartial. I forgot, sorry.

Also sorry, I stand by what I am saying. The "cost" and the "savings" are based on subjective assumptions. Both numbers are bogus if we are actually discussing reality.

BTW, I know I have you when you go off the hook! :)

You really must feel invested in this debate to jump on every little thing, never admit that there are nuances to "facts" that we must all live with, and feel so threatened that you feel compelled to repeat "impartial" four or five times in one comment.

The cost/savings of this program is one of the LEAST reliable points in this debate.

BTW, it was the Jones memo before it was the Bramble it's the impartial analysis.

Lastly, I have the Analysts spreadsheet. You're wrong about its content and value in this debate.

BTW, relax, it's Sunday, a day of rest. :)


Paul Mero said...

You know, I just re-read your comment. This is fascinating to me.

A government bureaucrat makes up numbers based on some ridiculous (there's that word again) assumptions and you hold it like scripture (sorry for the religious reference, it is Sunday).

I am stunned.

And then you challenge me to file a complaint with Gary...about made up numbers that couldn't get any more sure if you and I sat down and agreed on them.

Seriously (no really) do you think this debate is about the money?

All we know is that the voucher appropriation is $12 million. That's it.

If you want to speculate about future costs, then run the numbers of what it would cost to educate every child in a private school versus educating every child in a public school. Then we would begin to get a real picture of costs.

I know what PCE argues. All I have argued are two things: 1) Utahns, especially LDS folks, would do well to examine their "education identity," including the history of public education in Utah, and 2) this voucher is about helping low-income minority students in public schools that are failing them.

Any money arguments Sutherland has made, in its Fact Sheets for instance, are only relevant as a sub-text about affordability and as rebuttal, to help clarify things for decision makers, to your side's obsession with "the cost" of vouchers.

The only "cost" number that is not bogus in this debate is the money actually appropriated.

You are so quick to jump on a perceived "advantange" in this debate, there is not a lot of room for actual discourse. But, alas, that is guys and PCE are made for each other. The rest of us will have to do the real thinking, the real dialoging, the real decision making. Admittedly, that is hard to do when the kids can't play nice in the sand box and all they care about is winning at all costs (and when the contention is all the media cares about).

Okay, thanks for letting me vent.

Hang on to those "impartial" looks like that is all your side has going for it...oh yeah, and the fact that most Utahns' lives are wrapped up in their public schools. How could I forget that?

CraigJ said...


I suppose it remains a day of rest as countering your arguments requires very little effort ;-)

The intensity of my reply is in proportion to the silliness of your arguments. Accordingly you do seem to get me riled up :-)

In most circumstances I imagine we would be friends - but I admit I'm perturbed by your dressing up this bad bill.

The only reason I bring up money at all is the other side deceives people saying that the bill will save money. This is false.

I don't care if the IMPARTIAL analysis is an advantage or not - I simply reject your argument that the Legislative Fiscal Analyst is off by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Your advanced rhetorical skills can't whitewash that away.

Talk to Gary and tell him you feel that the impartial analysis is ridiculous. Tell Gary the guy should be fired for incompetence.

And tell Gary that he lied on Fox radio when he and Greg said that private schools have to be accredited.

Gary is a government bureaucrat, too.

It's safe to say we're both invested in this. Just how many articles, debates, interviews, and essays have you undertaken on the subject?

But of course you're not campaigning.

You're clouding the facts of this bill. You've discredited the fiscal analyst and you expect the rest of us to do the same. I don't think voters are going to follow your advice.

The content and substance of the spreadsheet is clear. Vouchers cost far more than they will save.

I'll debate any aspect of vouchers or differentiation or school choice with you. But remember that you brought up the bogus Bramble memo on our blog.

And please don't compare Utahns for Public Schools with PCE. That is an insult. PCE's tactics are disgusting. You know that to be true.

Should I start comparing you to Rick Koerber? Oh might find that flattering.

Hmmm - moment of reflection - Paul Mero is telling me that he has the moral high ground and is flaunting his perception of superiority. Note to self - don't take his bait. That's all it is.

Now the family and I are going to have Sunday dinner with my parents - staunch Republicans - opposed to vouchers.

Paul Mero said...

I hope you are having a wonderful dinner and that this hasn’t added to any indigestion.

Yes, I can see your point about the money and who said what first. I am sure it feels good to have an “impartial” anybody countering what your fiercest opponents are saying. But that doesn’t make the numbers correct, good, or true. But in politics those qualities don’t count. You’ve got yours, they (PCE) have theirs, and we (Sutherland) have ours.

I would trust ours. I know the processes we go through and there are many gaps in the information we have, but we have done the leg work and detective work…and we have found that there is much out there we cannot use because it’s faulty. The “total cost” number is one example. We finally, just the other day, produced a Fact Sheet on total cost but only based on the Fiscal Analyst input. There was no reason for us to attempt to touch that issue because it all would be speculation.

And then, viola, it appears. Its genealogy (another Sunday comment for credit) went like this…Pat Jones memo, Bramble memo, Fiscal Analyst report. It is all the same thing. The $429 figure was there in the Jones memo from the beginning…meaning the same assumptions were in play from Jones to the FA report. And, if the root is bad the branches are corrupt as well. (Another biblical analogy!!)

What good would it do to go to Gary at this late date? But my point is what good would it do at any date? Gary must have felt the voter guide needed some numbers, maybe it’s even required by law for him to produce numbers…and the only ones available (because no one was going to waste time speculating) were from the FA/Jones/Bramble string.

I know you think I am part of the “campaign.” I guarantee, more than you’ll ever know, that I/Sutherland am not. We have produced honest information, but you guys are so quick to jump all over anyone who disagrees with you, you simply can’t appreciate that “honesty” is a part of any of this.

True, we (Sutherland) officially and legally lobbied for HB 148. In fact, there is a long back-story there that you would drool over about how this whole voucher thing came to be. But that is for another day (probably after all of the folks involved have died off to avoid embarassment!!).

And, yes, I would love to see this law (it is a law passed and signed) implemented for exactly the reasons I have continually stated. But that is the extent of my/our involvement.

My job doesn’t change. I do what I do every day. I don’t get paid to do anything else. I don’t have a “real” job and then come do policy work as a hobby. No matter how the voucher debate goes on November 6, I wake up November 7 and go back to work on policy stuff…maybe even voucher stuff again. My point is that my “investment” is long-term and, while I am human and have a passion for issues, my psyche doesn’t depend on the voucher fight. And Sutherland’s existence doesn’t depend on it either.

I hope you will take this as humorous, but Sutherland is like a great horror movie (I know you like that analogy…”see, honey, I told you they are monsters”) and every liberals’ and money-grubbing businessman’s (sorry, I was thinking Soccer Stadium) nightmare…it keeps getting back up and coming after you…because we are truly an independent public policy group…we aren’t in anybody’s back pocket…no one phone’s us and can pull the plug (well, lots of poobahs call us and try to influence us and try to get us to do what they want, but we politely thank them for the call and tell them goodbye).

I do this sort of thing (such as write to you on these blogs) for the long-term benefits for Utah. If we can communicate effectively (even if it takes a long time) then perhaps “politics” gets easier down the road for everyone.

Another way to express what I am saying is to tell you that there is a difference between Sutherland’s approach to this fight and PCE’s. We care about long-term education reforms and, while they might say differently at any time, PCE is more of a one trick pony, like Utahns for Public Schools. And that is the “investment” that you have and what both groups have in common. You guys act like your lives are on the line. What you get from me on this issue is what you would get from me on any issue that Sutherland chooses to cover.

Sorry for the lengthy narrative but it is important for what I am about to say.

I have no reason for dishonestly discrediting the FA. He/she, whoever that person is, didn’t have a chance. Anything he/she would produce is bound to be wrong and easily attacked because it is all speculation based on subjective assumptions. Maybe the real thing to take away is to get rid of any law or rule that requires some sort of subjective fiscal analysis on this sort of voter referendum, because it is impossible to be “impartial” or “objective” or correct.

You guys hate the Oreo thing because it is not only a simple and effective rhetorical device, but because it’s true. But you won’t see PCE folks precisely trying to pinpoint how much money vouchers will save with their Oreo math. Everything anyone needs to know about voucher cost is that more is left in the system than is taken. Period.

As far as comparing you guys to PCE, I am only going from what I have personally experienced with both of you…them from the inside, and you guys from the outside. Frankly, it is dishonest for Kim Burningham to hold up charts based on the “impartial” FA’s analysis and then bristle when I suggest that he isn’t telling the whole story…even when we have the exact same paperwork and spreadsheets in front of us. He then says, “your figures are based on incorrect assumptions!!” What the hell? I am using the same figures, the exact same pieces of paper, as he is. It’s like me telling you the sky is orange when it is clearly blue and you saying, “no, it’s blue” and me saying “no, it’s orange” and having all of my colleagues say “yeah, it’s orange.” Incredible chutzpah.

I know you hate what I am saying. But let me predict something. Sutherland will produce something in the future that just so happens to help your point of view on some issue and you will embrace it. We’ll produce it because we’re honest policy analysts with a passion and rhetorical skills to push a thought effectively (to hit the right nerve and emotion)…and you will like it just because it helps your side.

In that respect, you guys and PCE are no different. Both of you are in it to win. We’re in it to get to good public policy for Utah.

You can ridicule that sentiment as “moral superiority” or whatever you want but that’s why we exist and that is what will continue to drive us.

No, we’re not impartial. No human with passion, goodness, and a desire to truly help others is ever impartial. But a lack of impartiality does not mean we’re dishonest, corrupting, corruptible, or shills for anyone.

Oh, yeah, one last thing. I’m right about the FA!! Have a great rest of the weekend.

Best always, PTM

CraigJ said...


The law is in abeyance.

My LFA can beat up your LFA.

Nice speech. I'll ignore the moments of condescension - I guess you're just doing your job.

And I never said you were dishonest. I reserve that for PCE.

I do want the citizens to vote down this bad bill but aside from a desire to prevail I/we have nothing in common with PCE. Someday I hope you will see this to be true. Deep down I hope you can tell there is a difference between folks like Wayne, Rob, Christian, and perhaps even me from the win-at-all-costs crowd.

Kim Burningham is one of the most decent, honest people I've ever met. He cares about all kids - including those who would never register on the free-market radar.

I hope you keep on fighting for what you believe. It does help me to define my own beliefs by drawing contrasts and re-evaluating my own biases and preferences.

Later dude.

Frank Staheli said...


I don't know specifically about the $429 million and Paul Mero's $1 billion--I suspect they are both correct approximations. But I think the indisputable fact is that for every public school child who chooses vouchers, the state will save approximately $5,500 ($7,500 per child in public schools - average $2,000 voucher amount that goes to the student)--every student, every year. That is a huge savings to the state. The only thing that needs to be fixed is for the legislature is to earmark this money back to the public schools. This enhances education all around in Utah.

I really do think it is that simple. Voucher proponents as a general rule are not dissing public schools, although I know some are. What we are saying is that this program saves Utah money. And I think most legislators would be glad to direct (at least a great deal of) that savings back toward the public schools.

I support Utah School Vouchers.

CraigJ said...

I think we've already beat that subject to death.

BTW - I recently took a test indicating which President I would support...try it :-)

Anonymous said...


Many of us in the SLC area have given up on public schools and we want a choice...and vouchers are the key to that freedom.

It's the teachers union that are scared of change, not the public.

Its time to give a parents a choice with their tax dollars.

republican said...

Ananymous 11:10

Ya our kids are better than those big government kids.

We deserve a $3ooo.oo from the government each year, because we earn more money than those liberals do.

Frank Staheli said...


I took the quiz, and I only disagreed with Ron Paul on the death penalty (he is opposed, I support, and if it had used the word "Federal" in that question I would have agreed.)

Also, I wasn't sure if Emily and others had been in on the "horse beating" over at Simple Utah Mormon Politics--thus the link. ;-)

Emily said...

Last comments...

I am not sure this will save money over the long run. It is a new government program - starts with good intentions but grows into a bureaucracy, making the whole thing inefficient and difficult. For those who want good and responsible gov't, why would you want to add another layer to it?

I have always thought we should work smart... not sure if vouchers are "smart" or not. Over the long term, our hard-earned tax dollars will be paying for them. That's a two-tiered education system, no matter how you look at it.

And I keep asking the question... what are we trying to fix with vouchers? Is something broken? I have said and will continue to say that Utah schools are not broken. Our students do remarkably well, even though our per pupil spending doesn't keep up.

If Utah's public schools were really terrible, and if there was no other way to help our students succeed, I would be having different feelings. But I think the Utah voucher law is a solution looking for a problem... and I can't understand why the law was passed in the first place.

Don't tell me its about "choice" - parents have always had choices, even within the public school system. I advocate to create more choices within a free education system. Why haven't we been fighting for that?

Paul Mero said...

Today's "Accountability" blog by anonymous (such courage!!) is very interesting and appreciated.

Because "Accountability" will not allow any comments from me, or anyone who disagrees it seems, I will leave my mark here:

I accept obfuscation about the total cost/total savings conundrum by "Accountability" as a formal apology from all of you.

And, in all sincerity, I would like to pick up Emily's dropped guantlet and say, I for one am in favor of making our public schools great...the question is, will I be invited to that table?

Best to all, PTM

Rob said...

I'm not the "decider" Paul , but you should have a seat at the table.

BTW, I'm not ignoring your letter, I'm still playing catch up.

I'll call you this week.

Emily said...


You are always welcome at the table. Everybody is.

CraigJ said...

Rats! I just finished a comment and Blogger timed out. I forgot my own rule to write in Notepad and paste it in.

Alright, here goes...


Yes - everyone is welcome at the table; that is the whole idea of shared responsibility and the social contract.

However, to be completely honest I have to tell you that I am not convinced by your answers a few months ago regarding your signing of the Separation of School and State Pledge.

I think the evidence is clear that you signed it.

So, while everyone may have a seat at the table, I would hope that you truly desire to help build up our public schools, not tear them down by reducing them to "welfare schools" as you recently indicated.

I started a charter school -- I believe in differentiated opportunites. I believe in innovation. I believe that research, development, excellence, and choice can take place - all while honoring the public trust.

I don't know why this concept is so difficult for you to understand, much less accept.


Paul Mero said...

Craig, everything I have shared with you is up front. I have written more candidly in the public record than most people in the state.

I explained the Separation of School and State thing. And still you doubt me. What I explained is true. Your continuing doubt or disbelief is the cynicism at work I referred to. It's poison.

We can make government schools better, even great. But they will remain government programs. That is a fact...a reality. Government programs run as efficiently as they can and surely the public school system can be made to run better for the people it serves. But it will remain the least efficient form of schooling on the planet.

If a seat at the table means I have to buy into your romanticized view of public schools, then maybe I can't sit down with you.

If a seat at the table means that everyone must adhere to your paradigm then there will always be contention.

If a seat at the table means everyone has to buy into the idea that citizens exist to serve the system, rather than the system serving the citizens, then I can't sit down with you.

But if we can both envision a reform movement that can share equal seats at the education table (not simply the public school table) then there is hope for true unity and reform in behalf of children.


CraigJ said...

You said:

"I for one am in favor of making our public schools great...the question is, will I be invited to that table?"

But then you say:

"if we can both envision a reform movement that can share equal seats at the education table (not simply the public school table) then there is hope for true unity and reform in behalf of children."

So which table do you want to be invited to?

Are you talking about greater public-private collaboration? Are you suggesting an integrated educational framework that binds public and private schools together in a cooperative partnership?

Are we discussing universals or particulars?

I'll walk the abstraction ladder with you until the air is thin. We can talk reductions to practice down to the gnat's hind end.

The only way to have this type of discussion is for all to recognize their own biases and preferences within basic continua: Collectivism vs. Neo-Liberalism; concrete thought vs. abstract thought; authoritarianism vs. libertarianism, etc.

If we wish to map out unified, integrated concepts leading to practical solutions, we have no choice but to confront our biases and preferences. We must deconstruct, provide interoperability standards, and then repurpose to provide encompassing contexts.

For this effort to progress beyond unstable equilibrium, immense energy, patience, and goodwill must be expended.

Such activity can take place only amongst those most able to act against their own brain wiring for the duration of the repurposing effort.

I do believe in the spirit and reality of encompassing truth. And span we must if we wish to build unity. For unity is our God-given desire. The natural man seeks division. (That's as much religion as I'll inject into this discussion). Such efforts won't take place in the political arena. Politics exist to advance good ideas and to squelch bad ideas. But the effort to build unity will rest with those truly willing to make a difference at the most fundamental level - the level of conceptual architecture. It's where the good stuff truly begins.

Anonymous said...


As a parent, I do feel that schools are broken and I want a greater say in how my tax dollars are spent ... vouchers give me that voice.

Let's move away from public education and try something new. Haven't the mistakes of the last 30 yrs of public education opened your eyes?

Anonymous said...

"If it takes money, write the check"

Tax and spend liberal

Emily said...

Anonymous -

Show me where Utah's schools are broken. Give me real live examples.

I admit that there are problems and things we could address. Why aren't we addressing them? Do not give me the line about hte teacher's union, because i have been on capitol hill and I watched the UEA fight for higher wages and etc. for our teachers... If they were so powerful, why aren't they making that happen?

To imply that the schools are "broken" beyond repair to the point that we have to abandon it all together... well, that's a cop out and I'm just not going to buy it.

Fact: Utah ranks dead last in the nation in per pupil expenditure and class size, but the state is ranked fourth or fifth in the nation for students who graduate and students who go on to college. Clearly our students do remarkably well with considerably less.


And for the other anonymous who called me a tax and spend liberal -- you just don't get it, do you? Did I say anything about raising taxes?

The point of this post is that the education of our children is the most *important* thing for our country. You are very mistaken if you think I'm advocatng just "throwing money at the problem."

It is the exact opposite. We have PCE telling us that our schools are broken beyond repair and that we MUST move the MONEY into private hands in order to improve it.

Hello? Who's advocating tax and spend? It was our REPUBLICAN legislature with the influence of PCE that decided it was a good idea to start giving away MY tax dollars in a government sponsored entitlement program for the wealthy.

Yes, it does take money to educate children. Even our legislature realized that when they decided to divert $429million tax dollars to private education.

What are we coming to in this country? We want everything but we want to pay for nothing. We want to be the most powerful nation, but we aren't willing to invest in our people - in this case, the students - in order to make it really happen.

I refuse to sit and complain about how rotten our public education system is. I would much rather spend my energy working to make it the best in the world.

And I will do it. Anybody who wants a place at THAT table is welcome to join me.

Paul Mero said...


Communication has been a huge problem in this debate. I always have felt that the “market forces” crowd and the “manifest destiny of public schools” crowd speak two different languages.

Here we have another example of two languages. I speak “educational freedom” and you speak “public school.”

The table I want to sit at is with people of good will including people in public education, but there the primary language spoken is educational freedom. IOW, parents and their children are in control and every form of schooling exists simply to serve them at their command.

The language of “pubic school” is different. It says, the system is special in and of itself. It has civic value that transcends the individual interests of any one family or child. Its value trumps every other consideration.

This is why “us folks” talk about how “you folks” only care about systems not children.

Utah law is equally of two-minds. In one breath, quite literally, it says that education is a priority of state and local government…that it is good to provide all children with a public school education. And then, in the next breath (the next immediate section of code), it says that parents have the primary responsibility for the education of their children and that state and local governments exist singly and solely to support parents in their responsibilities.

That’s a distinction I think we ought to hold a referendum on.

Anyway, the table I want to sit at is filled with people of good will who seek the latter vision under the law…and that vision includes public schools.

I wrote that historical essay precisely to make this deeper point. Utahns are of two minds when it comes to education: the “parental responsibility” mind and the “delegate it all to government” mind. This is the source of every education conflict in this state…ever.

Not believing that this dilemma will ever be totally resolved I have opted for what I call a “seamless” education system that gives first priority to parental responsibility and then allows parents to choose the “right” education of each of their children across a spectrum of options.

BTW, I have never advocated that home school families (like mine) should accept tax dollars to do their business. But I have advocated, as you well know, that if families need financial help in educating their children (like in the funding of public schools) then they can get it (like in private schools).

This is good public policy. It provides the right incentive for personal responsibility (like we do with every other government involvement) and then helps with tax dollars where needed.

Why does this seem so unusual to you?


CraigJ said...

I reached out in my last comment but you're just continuing to defend your biases.

Oh well it was worth a try.

Paul Mero said...

Let me go back and re-read your last comment...I guess I missed something.


Paul Mero said...

Okay, I re-read it and am wondering at what point you reached out? What is the exact invitation? (Seriously, I can't find it.)

Don said...

Paul Mero,
Your first post in this thread regarding the $429 million and over $1 billion figures from the "Bramble memo" betrays one of two things. Either you have no idea what the numbers mean, and therefore have no idea what you are talking about. Or, you have taken an ideological stand and refuse to admit that the $429 million in costs is based on real world assumptions while the $1.8 billion in savings is based entirely on fantasy.

You say that both numbers are ridiculous, but that simply isn't true. The $429 million is a real cost projection based on the number of students estimated to use vouchers.

The $1.8 billion is a fantasy projection which has no basis in reality. It is based on the amount it would cost to educate all of those same students in public schools.

In reality, a large majority of those students would never have gone to public schools, regardless of receiving a voucher. It is ridiculous to worry about how much those students would "cost" in because they would always cost nothing.

One can only imagine why Senator Bramble wasted the LFA's time in asking for such an unnecessary analysis . . .

Paul Mero said...

Don...come on,'re beating a dead horse. You can't seriously use the words "real," "projected," and "estimated" in the same sentence.

The assumptions for the "costs" are the same assumptions for the "savings." Again, if the root is corrupt, then so are all the branches.

Give it up.


Rob said...

Paul says, "Again, if the root is corrupt, then so are all the branches."

Kind of like Parents for Choice in Education?

They are the corrupt root Paul.

Thanks for your wisdom.

Paul Mero said...

You're welcome. :)


CraigJ said...

Don is right on the money.


Homer said...

Well, yeah, we can go on and on about how it isn't about the money but then that's the first thing voucherites throw out. They start talking about savings, and the pretensious oreos start flying around and the money juices start revving up the debate.

It is not about the money. Schools are not a business, and children are not units of production. It isn't about cost-effectiveness or cost-benefit anaysis because we're talking about people, not commodities.

it isn't about choice, either. Parents can and do make choices for their children all the time and no law prevents that.
The debate about whether the public has to pay for someone's personal choice is another matter.

This debate involves a huge shift in the boundaries between the public and private spheres in our society. As Mero did say, Public education is a civic value.

If we value the objectives, place, and role of public education as a social institution then we pay for it. If we don't then, we don't pay for it.

Floating oreos, I mean tax money, into the private sphere is problematic, opening holes in the political boundaries that "we the People" use to maintain individual rights in the face of government power and vice versa.

This move to privatize (because private is better, i.e. Enron, Blackwater, etc.) has been in the news lately as the Bush ideas come to roost. Maybe we can fight a war cheaper and more efficiently without messy checks and balances and other inefficiencies and respecting basic rights, laws, and social decency, but is that the kind of society we want to become.

Because our values will define us a society. Do we want a society where the unfortunate get a welfare school as mero puts it or where the rich get every incentive to leave the larger commmunity, or do create a great system for all, together.

Agree or disagree, but vouchers are more than just a little >4% experiement--they are the beginning of a change. Whether it's a good or bad change in the now--we need to think ahead about what kind of society we would become.

Don said...

So which is it? Are you lying about the numbers or can you really not see how the two numbers are completely different in nature.

One, the $1.8 billion in savings, is completely fabricated based on Senator Bramble's fantasy analysis.

The other, the $429 million in costs, is based on real world projections, using actual current numbers and valid estimates for the future.

Based on the cherry-picked figures and incorrect analysis found in your "fact" sheet concerning the cost of vouchers, I'm almost willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you just don't realize how wrong you are.

The true cost of vouchers under this law cannot be determined during the first 13 years. Once the program is fully implemented, any realistic scenario you can come up with will undoubtedly lead to vouchers costing more than they save.

Frank Staheli said...

Emily asked if something was broken. For some that may be the point, but for me it's not. However, I just found something ELSE that would probably be helped by implementing vouchers.

Paul Mero said...


One more time (last time)...the Jones memo and the Bramble memo and the FA report are all the same person/people/product.

What is it that you don't get about these relationships? Think of it like the Holy Trinity...three separate beings, one in purpose.

Stick with Oreos...easy to understand. :)


Paul Mero said...

And Frank makes a very good point.


Don said...

Thanks craigj.

Here's some interesting analysis from the Sutherland Institute regarding Federal funding and vouchers.

Even assuming an unrealistic “worst case scenario” of a five percent drop in current public school enrollment levels (the Office of the State Legislative Fiscal Analyst estimates, at most, a one percent reduction in current public school enrollment levels), Sutherland Institute analysts estimate a maximum drop in Utah public school districts’ budgets of only .93% (less than one percent) due to any loss in federal funding.

I think it's absolutely hilarious that they characterize a 5 percent drop in public school enrollment as a "worst case scenario." That's actually the best case scenario for vouchers. The only way vouchers will ever save money for taxpayers is if the switch rate (i.e. the reduction in public school enrollment) is much higher than it is estimated to be by the LFA. As they implied, the LFA is estimating at best a 1% switch rate (that's actually more than double their actual estimate of 2379 switchers which is about .44% of the projected 2008 enrollment of 540000.)

Here's some real math for Paul to contemplate. The current private enrollment is about 17000. If we take 1% of the projected 2008 enrollment (again, the LFA is estimating this to be the most that this voucher bill will convince to switch) then we add 5400 students to private schools. Even using the pro-voucher assumptions of $5500 savings for each switcher, taxpayers will still end up in the hole $15.1 million. Here's how the numbers work, assuming a fully implemented program:

22400 x $2000 average voucher = $44.8 million cost for vouchers

5400 x $5500 savings per switcher = $29.7 million savings from switchers

$44.8 million - $29.7 million = $15.1 million net cost to taxpayers for subsidizing private education.

Again, this is the best case scenario according to the LFA. How can anyone honestly say that vouchers will increase funding to public schools if they're going to cost more in the long run? It just doesn't add up.

Even using the most favorable assumptions regarding savings per switcher, vouchers end up being a loser for taxpayers and a loser for public schools.

Don said...

It seems that oreos are about all you can understand.

It doesn't matter that the numbers come from the same "holy trinity". The one number ($1.8 billion in savings) is based on a complete fantasy. It means nothing with regard to the true cost of vouchers. I can only assume that Senator Bramble had this kind of complete distortion of the facts in mind when he requested the analysis to produce such a fake number.

CraigJ said...


Wrong again. You've got nothing on the financials.

The Bramble memo is irrelevant to the bill. It is a classic Red Herring.

I covered this in great detail on Simple Utah Mormon Politics. It's clear as day.

Don has the vision.

Don said...

I just noticed my original link to the Sutherland Institute "fact" sheet isn't working, so here it is again. Here's some more of their "analysis:

During the thirteenth year of the voucher program, at which time all private school students will qualify for a voucher, the Legislative Fiscal Analyst estimates that, at most, the program will cost $28 million . . . (emphasis added)

This just isn't true. According to the figures in the "Impartial Analysis" section of the Voter Information Pamphlet for Referendum 1, the voucher program will cost at least $43 million during the 13th year. I just got off the phone with Jonathan Ball, Director of the Utah State Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst, and he confirmed that the numbers in the "Impartial Analysis" section were all provided by his department.

I'm curious, where exactly did Sutherland come up with their $28 million figure as the "most" that vouchers would cost during year 13? Paul?

Cameron said...

Emily asked,

"Show me where Utah's schools are broken. Give me real live examples."

My son is in kindergarten. We went to all of the pre school year meetings and orientations. My wife is a "room mother" once a week. We have been very involved in school.

My son was sooo excited for school to start. We met his teacher before the year began so she could gauge the level of her students. She asked Austin to count to ten. He counted to 100, and when the teacher had him stop and praised him for his knowledge, he leaned over to his mom and said "yeah, but she doesn't know I could've counted to 1000." He loves to learn.

The problem is that he's bored. He already knows everything they are teaching in kindergarten. His excitement for school has turned into boredom.

That is where school has failed my son. We have done everything we could think of to help him love learning, and then we sent him off to school and he hates it.

Emily said...


I am happy to hear that you have a wonderfully bright child and that you and your wife have been involved in his education to this point.

I hope that you will seek out the gifted & talented program in your school, or all-day kindergarten... and if these things aren't available, I hope you will become an active voice to fight to get them to your district.

But just because your son is advanced doesn't mean the system is broken. It just means that your son is a litle brighter than average at this point in the game.

My son was in a similar situation. Fortunately, our district was doing a pilot program for all-day kindergarten. We enrolled him immediately. It was exactly what he needed. 3 hours a day was *not* enough for him, but 6 hours a day was just the ticket. Now, sam is 10, excels in all subjects and absolutely loves learning and school. And we are fortunate that he has had excellent teachers along the way and that our elementary school is one of the best in the state.

Finally, if a private school is what your son needs then you should do that -- with or without a voucher.

But if the voucher thing doesn't work out and private school is out of financial reach, then become an advocate to make our public schools the very best they can be. Let's not abandon them and give up on the system. Lets get in there and fight for good reform that serves our students well.

All along I have been saying that we should be advocating for the best in public schools and if something is not working we should be lobbying our school boards, our legislature, whatever it takes to make it happen. Why did we go straight to vouchers? What is that fixing? And with all due respect to Cameron, how does a voucher guarantee that your son will be more academically stimulated in a private school?

You are assuming that a private school will be better... and studies have shown that there really is no difference in student performance between public schools and private schools.

Cameron said...

"But just because your son is advanced doesn't mean the system is broken."

If the system doesn't have a way to teach my son, keep him involved, or at the very least be adequate enough so he doesn't completely lose his love of school, then the system is broken.

Emily said...

Hi Cameron

You have just made my point.

Throughout this entire voucher debate I have heard about all these parents who seem to feel they have no dog in the fight.

Why not have a dog in the fight? Why not work for improvements? Why abandon it all together? Nobody has answered this... Now having said that, don't tell me you're powerless because of the teacher's union. School policy in Utah is made by the Utah legislature and the local school boards... if you don't like what your school board is doing, then run for school board. If you think our legislature isn't doing a good job, then at the very least get to know your representative and senator and make your voice heard.

So, get thyself down to the school board, go to the legislature, run for something... fight for changes within the system. Doing this is a better alternative for all because if we invest the necessary time and energy to do it it will make more opportunities for all Utah's school children, not just a few who can afford it.

Believe me, if enough parents were to do this, we would see changes and we would have the most powerful system in the world. I don't know why so many feel powerless and just walk away.

Rob said...

Cameron, Thanks for stopping by.

I have a friend named John who has a child who like your son is highly intelligent. After consulting with his teacher they came to the conclusion that John's son was bored. The school recommended that John's son should advance a grade. Although John had some social concerns doing so, he decided to give it a try. Fortunately this advice worked for his son.

Everyone has a story, and no two experiences are alike. Some are good, some are not, but one shouldn't assume that similar problems don't exist in private schools.

How do I know? My wife worked a prominent private school for many years, and I can assure you that problems exist in education at all levels.

Derek said...

I have read through this blog string and found that, for the most part, it is a very interesting and useful exchange of ideas and dialogue. There have been good points made by everyone, kudos to you all.

That being said, I would like to respond to Don's arguments, most of which are the exceptions to the above praise. As a little background, I work with Paul Mero at the Sutherland Institute and did much of the research behind the fact sheets that Don denigrates; I will therefore attempt to answer his questions in a civil manner (i.e. I'm not questioning your intelligence personally Don, just the intelligence of the arguments you make).

Don, you write:

"One [number], the $1.8 billion in savings, is completely fabricated based on Senator Bramble's fantasy analysis. The other [number], the $429 million in costs, is based on real world projections, using actual current numbers and valid estimates for the future."

This statement is false and expresses the lack of understanding of mathematical/statistical estimation that permeates your blog posts. Neither number is based on the "real world." Rather they are both based on assumptions that, by definition, abstract from the real world and therefore do not truly reflect reality. For instance, the average voucher amount is roughly $2000, but the real voucher amounts given out will vary from $500 to $3000. Another example, the LFA assumed the cost of educating public school students on the margin will move towards the average state-wide per-pupil expenditure, but in reality the actual costs of educating children in public schools varies widely around this averaged figure. Therefore both numbers are purely hypothetical and the argument that one or the other is based on the "real world" is ludicrous. This is all just basic math/statistics. In the end all we really know about both these numbers is that they are going to be wrong, except by random chance. Furthermore, you acknowledge this reality later in your post ("the true cost of vouchers under this law cannot be determined during the first 13 years"), yet you maintain that the $429 million is a "good" number? That's logically inconsistent and seems to stem not from sound reasoning but more from the likelihood that "you have taken an ideological stand" that gives you a preference for overstating the importance of the $429 million figure.

You write:

"The $1.8 billion is a fantasy projection which has no basis in reality. It is based on the amount it would cost to educate all of those same students in public schools."

The ridiculous argument of the first sentence is discussed in the last paragraph. Again, however, your argument of the second sentence misses the point and shows the lack of understanding of mathematical estimation. Let me enlighten you as to why the $1.8 billion figure is comparable to the $429 million number and why it is relevant (take note craigj). The LFA estimate of $1.8 billion is the cost of educating the same number of students in public school as are projected to receive vouchers over the next 13 years. NONE of the LFA assumptions is specific to the group of students used to estimate the $429 million figure, so the LFA can just use that number of students to figure out the comparable cost figure for the public education system. Why is this relevant? Because now we have a real comparison of the cost effectiveness of the voucher system over the next 13 years. The cost of educating the same number of students in the public ed system as will qualify for vouchers over the next 13 years (and there will be several times this number in public ed over the next 13 years) is $1.8 billion. This means that the voucher system will be much more cost effective over the next 13 years, with a relative savings of $1.371 billion. You asked Paul whether or not he "had any idea" of what these numbers mean...maybe you ought to ask the same thing to yourself.

Now I want to be clear that in my previous comments I'm not saying that there is no virtue in discussing the validity of numbers, and there may be well-thought out arguments to be made about whether or not a number is or is not valid (unfortunately Don, your argument does not make such points because it is riddled with a lack of basic understanding of the principles of mathematical estimation). For instance, let's look at Don's hypothetical full-implementation cost example. Your estimate Don assumes that all students who qualify for a voucher will accept and use one. This is the same assumption that the LFA made when he/she estimated the 13 year cost of vouchers (at the time the bill was passed, back at the beginning of the year). However, since that estimate was made (i.e. over the summer), several schools have announced they will not accept vouchers (Challenger schools is a prominent example, they currently enroll over 2700 students. Waterford is another example, they do not accept government money and enroll over 900 students). Students in these schools will not receive vouchers, implying that your estimate Don, and the LFA estimate as well, overestimates the cost of vouchers over the next 13 years because a significant number of students who qualify for vouchers (all of which would have gone to private school anyway, signified by the fact that they attend schools that don't accept voucher students) will not get them. This has nothing to do with incompetence by the LFA, but rather by the simple fact that the LFA's estimates are now outdated due to new information we have. How can we "honestly say" that vouchers will increase funding to public schools? Because thankfully we have more updated facts than the outdated ones that are the basis of your argument.

You do make one astute point Don. You write:

"During the thirteenth year of the voucher program, at which time all private school students will qualify for a voucher, the Legislative Fiscal Analyst estimates that, at most, the program will cost $28 million . . . (emphasis added)

This just isn't true. According to the figures in the "Impartial Analysis" section of the Voter Information Pamphlet for Referendum 1, the voucher program will cost at least $43 million during the 13th year."

you caught a few typos in our fact sheet that were made because of an honest mistake. I sincerely appreciate this and would like to thank you for your astuteness (of all the people who have voiced objections to what we have published you are the first that has actually caught a real mistake). When I was looking over the impartial analysis to get the 13th year cost number I actually pulled out the 13th year savings estimate on accident (hence the "at most" statement in our fact sheet...$28 million is the upper range estimate for savings). I think you can appreciate such a mistake Don, you made a similar one when you used $43 million in your blog post. The actual LFA estimate is $48 million (in real terms), although I'm sure this typo was an honest mistake just like ours was. After we correct it, our fact sheet will read:

"During the thirteenth year of the voucher program, at which time all private school students will qualify for a voucher, the Legislative Fiscal Analyst estimates that, in real dollars, the program will cost $48 million--still only 1.4 percent (1.4%) of public education funding at current levels, and still coming from the General Fund, not public school funds."

As a side note, you'll notice that even after correcting this typo, the point of the fact sheet remains unchanged: even when the voucher program gets fully implemented (and thus when the cost is highest), the cost is only a small fraction of what public school education costs even today, let alone 13 years from now when there are 140,000+ students projected to be in the public ed system. Thanks again for your astuteness Don.

Cameron said...

Emily, no offense, but I guess I'm confused as to what point you're trying to make. You asked for proof that Utah public schools fail, and I gave you it. If they can't keep a 5 year old interested in school, how are they going to keep a 15 year old?

But then your argument changed. You used my story and said it proved your new point that parents need to be more involved so that the failing schools will get better.

I don't know how much more involved my wife and I could be. We've gone to all the meetings, met the teacher, done the homework, and read the books she sends home. She's got a sheet with those books asking if they're too hard or too easy, and after circling too easy every time, the teacher told us there was nothing she could do. If anything, it appears to me that we have been too involved in my son's education to this point; we shouldn't have gone to all that effort to teach him because his school isn't designed for 5 year olds that can count past 10.

Now, you do mention other avenues to affect change in my school. But I ask, my son is about 2 months into his first year of school, how exactly is calling my legislator going to help him? I need something done now. My son is in school right now, and I care about his education right now. I just don't know what avenue I have to make the situation better for him.

Rob's suggestion of skipping a grade is interesting. It's certainly something to think about, so I thank you.

I don't know how all of this fits into the voucher debate. But what I do know is that there are many frustrated parents out there, and many frustrating schools and teachers as well.

Don said...

Your condescension and verbosity do not make you correct. You are clearly obfuscating the difference between the $429 million number and the $1.8 billion number. For you and Paul to try to equate the two as both being "ridiculous" estimates is dishonest and irresponsible.

There simply is no valid reason to compare the costs of educating all voucher eligible students between public schools and private schools. The only valid comparison is between the costs to educate those who would otherwise go to public schools without the voucher (switchers) and the costs of providing vouchers to all who are eligible.

In all likelihood, the number of purely subsidized private school students will far outweigh the number of switchers. Even with all of your "new information" the voucher program would be extremely lucky to end up as a wash fiscally. For voucher proponents to use fantasy projections to come up with $1.8 billion in savings is disingenuous at best.

As for the mistake on the $28 million, you're welcome. And thank you for pointing out my typo. :) Of course, mine was just a typo; yours was an actual mistake that dramatically changes the strength of your argument. Might I suggest that you add the phrase "at least ($48 million)" to your newly edited fact sheet? Afterall, you were willing to say "at most" when it furthered your cause. I don't know about you, but I wonder, if taxpayers knew that the program was going to require a 1.4% increase in State income taxes, would more be convinced to vote "for" or "against" vouchers? Maybe you should just edit that part out altogether . . . ;)

One more thing, the point of my using the phrase "real world assumptions" is that these are numbers that actually look like what we see currently (such as approx. 17000 private school students currently enrolled). Of course the numbers won't be exact; that's why they're real world assumptions. All it means is that there is some connection to how reality will play out. According to your logic we can't provide accurate estimates because the numbers aren't exactly "real". If that's the case, then why do we estimate costs for anything the Legislature does?

When it boils right down to it Derek, voucher opponents have been much more honest with the fiscal realities of this voucher bill. Even when we give you your cost per pupil ($7500) and savings per switcher ($5500) assumptions, it's still a stretch to say that vouchers will ever save taxpayers money.

Don said...

I would definitely look into moving your son up a grade, especially if he is "old" for his current grade (i.e. if he is older than most of his classmates.) I skipped from 2nd to 3rd grade over the Christmas break and it worked out well (as far as I can tell. ;) )

Cameron said...

Hey Don, thanks. We'll be looking into that.

Now, I'm no grade skipper myself, so I need some clarification on the numbers Don and Derek are arguing over. When I read Derek's comment, I understand it to mean that the number of students used to generate the $429M cost is the same number of students used to get the $1.8B savings. Is that correct?

Don said...

Yes, that is correct Cameron. I'm not disputing that.

The difference is in what the numbers mean. The $1.8 billion in savings assumes that all voucher users are generating "savings" to taxpayers. This is simply not how it works. Any students who would have gone to private schools anyway, regardless of receiving a voucher, cannot honestly be counted as "saving" taxpayers anything because they never would have cost taxpayers anything in the first place.

That's why I call it a "fantasy projection" and it's also why I question Senator Bramble's motives in even requesting such an analsysis in the first place.

Does that make sense?

Cameron said...

Thanks for the clarification Don. Here's a statement from Derek's comment that I need more info on:

"The LFA estimate of $1.8 billion is the cost of educating the same number of students in public school as are projected to receive vouchers over the next 13 years. NONE of the LFA assumptions is specific to the group of students used to estimate the $429 million figure, so the LFA can just use that number of students to figure out the comparable cost figure for the public education system. Why is this relevant? Because now we have a real comparison of the cost effectiveness of the voucher system over the next 13 years."

Do the 429 and 1.8 reflect the cost/savings during the first 13 years of vouchers or the years following those first 13?

If I am following the argument correctly, Don is saying that, given a certain population set, the 429M is a cost no matter what, but the 1.8B includes students who aren't necessarily "switchers", and therefore this number isn't entirely accurate.


Don said...

The $429 million and $1.8 billion are for the first 13 years.

You are spot on in your characterization of the two numbers. Assuming the data set is relevant, the $429 million is a valid cost projection. The $1.8 billion is not a valid projection of "savings" precisely for the reason you mention.

Don said...

Just an FYI, I was checking the impartial analysis again, and I was right the first time. The projected net cost for vouchers during the 13th year is at least $43 million, not $48 million as you "corrected" me. $71 million less $28 million = $43 million.

And even though this time it's an error that favors your argument (1.4% now becomes 1.21%), some of us actually care about the accurate representation of these numbers. You're welcome again for my "astuteness".

Emily said...

Hey Cameron -

You're right... I did change my argument... sort of.

And I do hope you know that I think you and your wife are fabulous for doing all that you can for your sweet little guy.

I get on this rant because I keep hearing people say that 'parents are frustrated' with a "broken" system. I hear them say the only option is to bail on public schools altogether and to me it seems like such an extreme answer.

It does frustrate me that for some there are no options. And yet, I follow the legislature like a hawk and all of the good options that could mean real change for our public schools (all day kindergarten, etc.) are just not taken seriously by our legislature. Those of us who want real reform watch this year after year after year. I'm a hands on kind of person and I want to see hands on people get in there and make a difference.

I like Rob's idea about advancing -- maybe that's what your son needs. Maybe he needs all day kindergarten. Maybe he needs all kinds of things and you need to find ways to make it happen.

I am just not convinced that private schools are always better or are the "panacea" they are made out to be. I am frustrated at the argument that "competition is better" because like Homer said, children are not "commodoties" ...

So, no offense taken, and I certainly didn't mean to offend you. You *are* doing everything that you can for your son and I am sure you will continue to look for solutions.

Obviously, I don't think vouchers are a solution, and I don't like what it's gonna cost taxpayers, and I don't like that it comes out of the general fund. I don't like that the "teacher's union" (whatever that is) has become a bogeyman, and that good and well-meaning teachers have become the enemy. I hate that parents feel powerless. We should not feel powerless. We should get involved and affect change for good.

We offer free education to everyone, because we believe that is the first of all human rights. That is why we should be working to make it the best in the world.

Derek said...

Don--thanks for responding to my post. I always appreciate the chance to actually discuss these things with people versus just adding my two bits without any dialogue.

You're right Don, condescension and verbosity do not make me correct, it's my argument's basis in fact and proper reasoning that does that ;) I think you missed the point of my explanation of the numbers in my last post. You write:

"There simply is no valid reason to compare the costs of educating all voucher eligible students between public schools and private schools."
The point of my explanation was that we are not comparing the costs of educating all voucher eligible students between public schools and private schools, we're comparing the costs of educating that same number of students in public schools and in the voucher program. The numbers become comparable as a hypothetical comparison of the cost effectiveness of the two systems over the next 13 years because both numbers are methodologically calculated such that they are comparable. If deciding cost-effectiveness across education systems is not a valid reason for comparison I don't know what is.
Since you won't let go of your concerns over the numbers however, then let's do what you might call a more "real world" cost-effectiveness comparison and see if you'll believe, on your own terms, that the voucher system is much more cost effective. Let's compare how much it will cost just to educate switchers with vouchers versus in the public school system. Now we're comparing the "real world" group of students who will either be in public schools without vouchers, or in private schools with vouchers. If you multiply the number of switchers each year by the average voucher amount (using the LFA estimates) you get roughly $74.5 million over 13 years. Now if you multiply that same number of switchers by the net current per-pupil expenditure level (using 3% as an estimate of how much per-pupil expenditures will increase every year over the next 13 years) every year and add it up you get roughly $193.3 million. We get the same result as the "fantasy comparison" you reject: a voucher system is much more cost effective than the public school system, period.
You write:
"Even with all of your "new information" the voucher program would be extremely lucky to end up as a wash fiscally. For voucher proponents to use fantasy projections to come up with $1.8 billion in savings is disingenuous at best."
Okay, so let me get this strait. Your entire objection to the $1.8 billion figure is because it contains faulty non-"real world" assumptions, and then when the same turns out to be true about the $429 million figure, you just brush it off with what what is purely your opinion as to what is "likely" to happen? Furthermore, after I show you how your use of the $429 million figure is just as much a use of a "fantasy projection" as you feel our use of the $1.8 billion figure is, you think that we are the ones being disingenous? Right, well as long as you can accept the fact that what you object to in your argument is what you are doing yourself of than we can just agree to disagree.
Just to confirm to you that the $429 million figure is indeed not based on the "real world," nor based even on the voucher bill itself, let me point a few more things out to you. The $429 million figure assumes all qualifying students will accept vouchers. I've already shown you this is a faulty assumption because schools have declared they will not accept voucher students, but there's more to it than that. According to voucher legislation, residential treatment facilities cannot accept voucher students. According to the State Office of Education 2006 private school enrollment list (16000+ students as of October 2006) and after calling all of these schools as part of a Sutherland survey we found that a full 12.3% of private school students attended a residential treatment facility. Furthermore, another 3.6% of private school students (outside residential treatment facilities) attend a school that would not qualify for voucher students because their enrollment isn't large enough. Combine this with the 12.3% of students who could not qualify for vouchers because they go to either Waterford or Challenger Schools (and the USOE list coincidentally does not list all Challenger Schools that exist) and you get 28.2% of students who would not qualify for vouchers based on the stipulations contained in the bill and private schools' decisions. The "real world connection" of the $429 million figure is evaporating really quickly, and I won't even comment on what this has to say about the "fiscal realities of this voucher bill" and the $429 million figure.
In parting, you write:
"And even though this time it's an error that favors your argument (1.4% now becomes 1.21%), some of us actually care about the accurate representation of these numbers."
Good, I'm glad that you do care...we need a little more of that in these debates. I care as well, and so does everyone else here at Sutherland, which is why we are changing our fact sheet. I sincerely hope however that by posting this you're not implying that because I make mistakes sometimes that I don't care about accurately representing numbers. Since you know hardly anything about me, this would sincerely lessen the respect I've gained for you from your responses to my blog post. I was just left wondering why you chose to conclude your post this way, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt because I don't really know why you included it. Peace.

Don said...

I'm sorry but I do not really have time to respond properly to you this evening. I did however want to make two quick points.

First, you are still not representing the costs versus benefits issue correctly. Now, instead of comparing the costs of all voucher students versus the savings of all voucher students, you have simply switched to the other extreme of comparing the savings from all switchers to the costs of just switchers. This is simply not the way the program works. You must include costs of non-switchers in the total cost of the program. You can include savings too if you must, but of course, the savings from non-switchers are zero. ;)

I am certainly willing to talk about the failings of the LFA's assumptions (100% acceptance of vouchers for example). Doing some quick calculations, even if we remove 5000 students from the current population as those eligible to receive vouchers, and add back in 5000 switchers (a higher than estimated assumption) a fully implemented program will still be a net cost of approximately $7.3 million (I'm still giving you the
$5500 savings number BTW). That being said, until you are willing to deal with the cost/savings relationship in an honest manner it is really not beneficial to go back and forth like this.

Second, I concluded my post in the manner I did because after re-reading your first response to me, I was in a bit of a snarky mood because of your thinly veiled condescension. I apologize. Please don't take it personally and I'll try not to as well.


Derek said...

Don-I've appreciated our back and forth on this blog and I don't have much to add, but after reading your post I thought I should add my final thoughts. I appreciate your second clarifying point; I won't take your comments personally and I'm glad you aren't either.

As a side note, I personally don't think that my posts have been condescending, I simply feel confident that I know what I'm talking about...just like you do. Of course we may have different writing styles, and that may be where it seems like I'm being condescending. But anyway...

This may be obvious, but I don't think that I'm doing an incorrect or dishonest cost/savings comparison any more than you think you are. It would be nice to have all the best estimates and sound numbers to do the comparison you suggest. If that were the case I would agree with you about what comparison is "correct." My contention however is that, as is, the numbers are based on poor assumptions that seriously weaken the validity of the numbers, therefore the best we can do is compare the numbers that are truly comparable and see what we can learn from them. In other words, while you feel your comparison is the only honest comparison to be made, I feel the same way because I'm comparing only the numbers that are comparable. I can appreciate an honest disagreement on this point however. What I would really like to see is the LFA revise his assumptions and create a better estimate based on current information. Till then, take care.

duke.glosgow said...

I feel that it was a wrong discussion about education. Now a day’s education is highly based on money so, we have to fight against it. The increasing costs and fewer savings may lead a common man to face many problems. Anyhow nice speech, I agree with you Utah’s public schools are really terrible and in my view the only solution is changes in the government can solve this problem.

Duke Glasgow
Utah Treatment Centers