Friday, October 26, 2007

Confused

Is anyone as confused as I am about referendum one? I have tried to do my research - I have read many different opinions online. Among people that I admire and respect - some are for it, some are against it. I just end up more confused. Can anyone enlighten me on why they feel the way they do?

Sorry - not exactly a post about the family fun but I was sitting at the computer very perplexed and thought - maybe a few of my friends and family that read my blog could help me out.

Thanks! For those of you out of the state - no worries. It's a Utah thing...

9 comments:

Diana said...

Although I don't know all the details in this particular case I am absolutely FOR vouchers.

lisa v. clark said...

I have researched the particulars in this case, and the historical application of cases similiar to this one, and I am definately AGAINST vouchers.

For the particulars, you can visit my blog, and scroll down to the vouchers' entries. Or you can call me and I'd love to talk with you about it.

Anna said...

I'm strongly in favor of vouchers. I believe that if public schools start competing with private and charter schools the only thing for them to do is improve. They will have no other choice. That is only one of the reasons I REALLY hope this passes. I feel like the UEA and NEA's stance on this is so defensive that it is frightening. Anyway, it is such an inflammatory issue, but I really feel that it helps everyone. I'm sure this didn't help, but good luck as you sort through all the information!

Kip said...

I certainly don't claim to be an expert on this issue, but there are a number of reasons I'm opposed to this voucher referendum.

1) The referendum is advertised as a vote for school choice, but that is only partly true. Rich parents already have a choice because they can afford to send their kids to private schools without the vouchers, and to be honest, I'm hesitant about a plan that subsidizes the choices of people in this group. On the other hand, vouchers will NOT allow poor parents a choice because the vouchers don't offer enough money to cover the cost of tuition at a private school. So most poor students will have to remain in public schools. Vouchers are more likely to help people who are in the middle, who can maybe afford part of the cost but the vouchers can help make up the difference.

2) It might not be a bad idea to help some middle class parents afford private schools, but the second issue for me is that I hate to see students from upper and middle class families desert public schools, depriving them of the support they so desperately need. It isn't just government funding that schools need (and by the way, I'm VERY skeptical about that Oreo cookie commercial that claims vouchers will leave MORE money for public schools). They need parents who can make contributions of time and money and other resources. So if the parents of upper and middle class students move their kids to private schools, what will become of public schools? Advocates of vouchers talk about a free market system, but the problem with that, to me, is that a free market system is a kind of survival of the fittest. In economic terms, that means that successful businesses rise to the top while a business that isn't doing a good job in meeting the needs of its customers will go out of business. While that may be fine in a business setting, are we really willing to let a public school "go out of business" in that same way? What about kids that are caught in the middle as schools compete for students, teachers, and resources? And keep in mind that the poorer you are, the more likely you are to be victimized by such a system. I'm not opposed to all free market strategies, but this one seems pretty risky to me.

3) To me public schools are one of the few places in our society where people from different parts of a city and from different socioeconomic classes get a chance to associate with each other and learn to get along. I fear that with a system of vouchers, there will be greater division between the haves and have nots, those who can afford to send their kids to public schools and those who can't. And on a related point, I don't support tax dollars going to schools that cater to people who want their kids to be indoctrinated from a particular religious or political perspective. If parents want to have their children be educated in a school that emphasizes Mormon teachings or a more conservative world view, that's their choice, but I don't believe tax dollars should go toward that.

4) My understanding is that private schools aren't well-regulated, that teachers don't need to be certified, etc. That's an additional concern for me.

5) Perhaps it's a minor issue, but I've been very turned off by some of the pro-voucher ads and campaigns. They suggest that those opposed to vouchers are in league with liberals, Ted Kennedy, and outside groups. My response to that is what is wrong with being liberal? Why not focus on the merits of the argument instead of name calling? And as far as outside funding goes, BOTH sides are getting outside funding, so it's disingenuous to claim that only voucher opponents have help from outside Utah.

Having said all that, and it's a lot more than I intended to say, I acknowledge that our public education system has a lot of problems. There are problems with funding, problems with government regulation, problems with too many administrators in our system, problems with incompetent teachers, problems with parents who expect too much and help too little, etc. But I don't think these problems will be solved by letting public schools flounder in a free market system where those who are probably best able to help change the system are given incentives to leave it.

kris said...

Referendum 1 will ultimately divert 340 million dollars out of public education and into private education. Do you feel that your tax dollars should go to supplement people who want to place their children in parochial private schools or schools that are "for profit"?

These same schools are not help accountable to the same degree as our public schools - for example a teacher need not have a college degree or even specific education training.

Public schools will still have the same overhead requirements to run a school regardless of how many children leave for private - but we will now be using taxpayer money for overhead at BOTH schools.

Are public schools so bad that we need to do something this costly and radical? UEA and NEA are fiercely fighting this because it is SOO extreme. Utah would be the first state to pass this law and there would be huge implications nationwide. There is aLOT of money going to push this through because many private entities would like to get in and make some money on education dollars.

If parents want, they can already take their child to any school in the district or even use a charter school. People claim it gives "school choice" but we already have school choice.

Did you know Utah is DEAD LAST in the nation for per pupil expenditure? Somewhere around $5,000 per student per year is given to educate one. The rest of the states' continuum is from an average of about $7,500 per year to $15,000 dollars per year. Why are we spending $341 million dollars to implement this when Utah schools are in DESPERATE need of more education dollars. We are getting a very good education for a measly investment.

Also, what about separation of church and state? Many private schools are parochial, catholic, religious. Should your tax dollars go to supplementing others religious pursuits?

PLEASE, please, please, keep asking questions and researching this until you see all sides. Did it occur to you that Rob Bishop, Gov. Huntsman, and many other legislators have received scads of money from those pushing this to go through? Their motivation is MONEY, not education. I VEHEMENTLY oppose vouchers!

lisa v. clark said...

A couple of thoughts:

Since when do we think paying people NOT to attend public schools is such a great use of our tax money?

The latest test results show that public school students perform slightly better than private/charter schools. If this voucher program is to support competition, how does this make sense?

I know where I want my money to go.

Julie said...

I am FOR vouchers.

Emily S. said...

Warning: this is long and mostly just me rambling about my still undecided opinion about this issue. However, it seems to be taking shape. Believe me - this is no thought out essay or anything.
Wow - see what I mean by divided? It sounds like we all have the best interest of the public schools in mind but are so divided on this issue of vouchers. I really appreciate all of the comments. They have all helped me in trying to figure this out. I really have tried to enter this debate unbiased and read both sides before I make my decision. My frustration continues. Both sides are quoting studies that support their views. But I don't understand how the same studies can support differing opinions. Some people use Milwaukee as an example where vouchers have failed where other people use Milwaukee as a voucher success story. It feels like politics to me - as I guess it is. Most recently, I have spent some time reading a website created in the name of Milton Freidman http://www.friedmanfoundation.org/friedman/Welcome.do. Milton Friedman - a nobel prize winning economist is the mind behind the voucher system (going back to an article he wrote in 1955) and there is a foundation created in his name in support of school choice - using the voucher system. I really, really don't like the idea of completely privatizing the education system and I don't really think it's completely about the importance of parental choice for me. I think what it boils down to for me - since I can't seem to get my mind around this with both sides quoting all of the studies and statistics to support their own views - is that something needs to happen - something needs to change. The system as it is doesn't seem to be working and definitely will not support the number of kids that will bombard the schools over the next ten years. The voucher system might work (although I am not sure the effects will be seen for several years). And what other solutions are on the table? There probably have been some but I haven't read about any - except tax increases to support more schools. I don't like the idea of "paying" for kids to go to private school. But am I assuming that private schools are so much better? Because in a way, I am already "paying" for many children to attend public schools, right? And I guess there is an economic principle (thanks Milton) that cannot be denied. Competition produces quality - sorry Dave - maybe that is too simply put and I am sure I am not using the corrent terms. Is it free market? Yes Kip states that a free market is a "survival of the fittest" model that drives businesses to compete. Are we going to allow our public schools to flounder against tough competition? I think it is a sad statement about our school system to think that they couldn't rise to the occasion and improve in some ways - ie "compete" to keep their students. But of course this takes money and manpower - both of which are lacking in the school system. I really feel for the teachers in all of this. That is another topic for another day. Well, that's all for now. I honestly think that both sides have some really good points and arguments. It's a tough issue - one that is very important and emotional for a lot of people. I would appreciate any feedback to my comment - as long as it is friendly :-)

Julie said...

I need to read the actual referendum. Is this Public versus Private? I homeschooled for 9 years and I was part of the Public school program (in CA). I was given money for school supplies, and I belonged to a homeschool community, provided by the public school. We had a resource center, class rooms, teachers, field trips, etc. It was great! Our public school system found a way to get our tax money by providing a program for us, to meet out needs.

Why are we so concerned about the "best interest of the public schools?" What about the best education for our kids?

There are so many ways to learn and various theories of what a good education really is. Public schooling is one choice. Does it have to be one choice? Could it not evolve into various choices?

Would this voucher system provide opportunities for specialized charter schools? Homeschooling programs? Vocational schools? Subsidized travel programs? Special ed. schools? Think of the educational possibilities!

Those who went to public schools and feel so proud of that. That's great, but there are those who need something different because public schools are not working for them.

Again, I maybe don't understand what the voucher system provides, but if it provides more choices...and creates "competition produced quality," then why not?

Questions I ask myself:
What is wrong with a privatized education system? How does this make a difference in health care?
How would the voucher system help teachers to get the recognition and the pay they deserve? Why wouldn't we want more choices? If it were not a choice between public & private, but just a choice (a variety in educational opportunities)-an education that is more need specific. Could the voucher system even apply in this way?

I don't claim to know the answers to these questions, but I think they are worth asking.