My Opinion on Vouchers - Referendum 1

Filed under:PTA, Religion, Politics, Opinion — posted by Tyler on August 26, 2007 @ 11:12 pm

Utahns for Public SchoolsI’ve been meaning to write about my feelings on private school vouchers for quite some time now. This is a hot topic in Utah right now. I don’t want to bother with the history, although the history of the topic plays into the issue quite a bit so if you’d like to educate yourself on the topic, this blog [] is a good place to read up on it starting with this post and then read on from there.

My point is to clear up some of the misconceptions that people may have about vouchers. Some misconceptions come from what seem like very reasonable commercials that I originally thought were funded by an organization called “Parents for Choice in Education” or PCE for short. But while researching the commercials for this post I found out that they were produced by Crowell Advertising for a client who wants to remain anonymous.[source: Salt Lake Tribune]

The commercials (I’ve only heard radio spots so far but you’ll no doubt see TV spots as November comes closer) take a single talking point, competition for example, and speak to it in terms of why it will be a good thing to help the students of Utah. I only remember two of the commercials specifically so those are the ones I will speak to, but I hear there were four; now probably just three because one of the spots was pulled, which I was glad to hear.

The first one I heard talked about how vouchers will create competition and competition is a good thing for business, right? Anyone hearing these commercials would naturally agree on the point that competition is good for business so you pretty much get trapped into agreeing with the commercial. Pretty clever. In reality, competition when it comes to public schools in Utah wouldn’t really make them better. They’re already great! Perfect? Of course not…there is always room for improvement. But improvement for our public schools comes not from pumping public money into private schools. How exactly is that going to make our public schools better? One of the biggest complaints I have about our public schools is that our teachers don’t get paid enough for how important their job is. The way this commercial portrays competition just doesn’t apply when it comes to public schools vs. private schools. The ad is misleading.

As I talk to people about vouchers competition is one of the points they bring up the most. Their argument is valid until they start looking at the big picture and realize that it just doesn’t apply in this case. It’s like talking to people about how rain is so good for plants, something we can all agree on, and then trying to apply the argument to pavement. No, I’m not trying to liken public schools unto pavement, but you get the idea. Maybe I’ll come up with a better analogy later.

The other commercial that I remember was one that I was surprised by. It was the one that quoted 3 Nephi 6:12 [] from the Book of Mormon. I couldn’t believe anyone could get away with that, and apparently they couldn’t because this is the one that they stopped playing. It didn’t seem right for them to use holy scripture for political purposes; something that the LDS church does not condone or allow. Some may have been tricked into thinking that vouchers were the popular opinion among those that believe in or read the Book of Mormon. And why not tailor your propaganda to a large majority of the State of Utah? Another clever and logical, but very sneaky ploy.

The last misconception that I’ll speak to tonight is concerning Charter Schools. It may be news to many of you that Charter Schools are not Private Schools! Yes, that’s right. Charter Schools are in fact Public Schools! So if you thought that parents could apply for a voucher to get their children into the latest Charter School that just opened up down the street, it’s not going to fly. This is a misconception that many people have and if they realized that 96% of Utah children attend public schools they may look at the issue a little different.

I know this is a very controversial subject and I should have left this one up to guest blogger D. Sirmize who has the luxury of posting anonymously on this blog. I don’t have that luxury but I’m the one with the strong opinion on this topic. D. Sirmize is still surmising, but we’ve talked at length on the subject and I welcome his comments.

Certainly my strong involvement in the PTA influences my opinion, but not everyone in the PTA agrees on this issue either, but it is the official stance of PTA that vouchers are not good for ALL of the children of Utah. And how can it be when there isn’t even a private school in all of the counties of Utah?

To set the record straight, I am not against private schools. They’re just not held accountable to the standards of the Utah State Office of Education so in this issue I have to believe that they shouldn’t be getting public tax money since it’s not up to the public as to what is taught. Private schools, especially in the area of Special Education, serve a wonderful role to our children and make a remarkable difference, but that doesn’t mean they deserve our tax dollars in the form of vouchers.

I’m glad the people have the opportunity to decide this issue in November and I hope you’ll join me in voting NO on Referendum 1.

Other informative reading on the subject:

National Education Association
Jeremy’s Jerimiad
The Wall of Separation
Utahns for Public Schools
Singing Bravely

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