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

Print This Post   E-Mail This Post/Page

Rachel's Challenge - Accepted

Filed under:Inspiring, Journal, PTA, Religion, Opinion, Friends, USOE, Family — posted by Tyler on May 19, 2007 @ 8:28 pm

Rachel’s Hands

I’ve been involved with the PTA since my daughter began school in September of last year. I attended my second Leadership Training Convention on Thursday and Friday which happens annually in May. Last year I was inspired by Ronda Rose, Legislative Vice President on the Utah PTA Executive Board. She finished up her term this year and she will be greatly missed because of her ability to speak from her heart, stand up for her convictions, and truly inspire! All the effort I’ve given and all the effort I will continue to give will be, in part, inspired by this amazing woman.

This year I was inspired by the last workshop that I attended; one that I really didn’t have time to attend and one that I had to leave half way through, but the half that I was privileged to listen to proved extremely worthwhile. The workshop was entitled Rachel’s Challenge and was brought about by the tragic events of April 20, 1999 when two students killed 12 students and 1 teacher at Columbine High School. Rachel Scott was the first to die that dreadful day. But little did anyone know, except Rachel herself as she foreshadowed in her diary, that her death would touch millions of hearts.

After her death an essay that she had written for a class was found under her bed. The message of the essay inspired the family to share and challenge people everywhere to take upon themselves Rachel’s “Codes of Life“. There are five of them and they gel nicely with my personal beliefs. But put in perspective of her life and tragic death, they suddenly took on new light and meaning. How this girl of 17 was able to have such vision is a miracle.

I listened eagerly as Dana Scott, Rachel’s sister, shared her story with us. The presentation consisted of heartfelt narration by Dana along with video clips and slide show pictures. It was the best powerpoint presentation I had ever seen. I found myself watching Dana as she watched the video clips and I tried to imagine what she must have felt losing her sister and nearly losing her brother. I watched as her emotions changed from sadness and fear during the news clips that showed the tragedy of that day to pure joy when they showed footage of her as a child, full of joy (incidentally her middle name) and life. I felt myself empathizing, which has only begun to happen in my life as of two years ago.

Several years ago I had a friend who had cancer. I wasn’t being especially empathetic as I talked about the situation with my wife in the car one day. She chastised me for my lack of a Christ-like attitude. At first I didn’t accept that I needed to change. My feeling was that difficulties happen in everyone’s life and that you just accept it and get over it; a complete lack of empathy. But the fact that I recognized that it was not Christ-like to have such an attitude led me to search out that attribute and I began to pray for it.

Several months passed and nothing major had changed despite my prayers. I still had a general sense of disdain for other people’s burdens but continued to search out a change of heart. It was a hot day on the 18th of July, 2005 where Clint (a friend and co-worker) and I found shade under the curved steps of the Salt Lake City Library. Just as we were finishing our 7-11 hot dogs we heard what sounded to me like a skate board hitting the pavement, but much louder. It wasn’t long before we both realized that something terrible had happened. We ran over to where the noise came from and much to our shock we found the body of a woman lying face up on the brick-lain sidewalk. I’ll spare you the rest of the details, but suffice it to say, the woman had jumped from the top of the library to her untimely death, despite what paramedics tried to do for her.

I was still unaware how much this event would effect my life. Clint and I tried to deal with it the best we could through humor, but as the days went on it haunted me. I found myself reading her obituary and all of the online comments from the online version on the local newspaper’s website to try and find out who this woman was and why she would do such a thing. Her name was Michelle Marie Macy and she was only 39 years old. She was a pharmacist and married, but had no children. She loved cats. She had family who loved her. I began to recognize feelings of empathy within myself, but the true change of heart came when I found the courage inside to pray for Michelle - a complete stranger. I prayed for her family and those who must be feeling the pain of her untimely passing. I experienced true compassion and charity during that prayer and when I finished I found that I was crying. The change of heart that I had been praying for had finally come!

I hope Michelle’s family will find comfort that her death was not in vain, just as Rachel’s death was not in vain. My life was touched and I learned a lesson that was long overdue. I hope that one day I can give Michelle a hug and tell her that I love her. I don’t know what circumstances she must have been going through to come to that point, but I know that Jesus Christ loves her. I know that her family loves her.

So it was with charity and love that I listened to the message that Rachel’s sister had to share. Her message did not fall on unfertile soil. I will take the message to heart, re-evaluate my life, and strive to improve myself. That is the Purpose of Life - day by day, week by week, year by year.

Print This Post   E-Mail This Post/Page

Blog contents copyright © 2006 Tyler Slack