Saturday, October 13, 2007

Why I oppose vouchers

As much as it kills me to be on the same side of an issue as the UEA, I am going to have to vote against vouchers. I have two primary reasons.

First, I am a fiscal conservative. While I do support parents' choice in education, I don't think that the government should spend your tax money to help parents choose private school. Similarly, I don't support using your tax money to help parents have a choice, for example, in what kind of car they drive. Just to be clear though, I do think that your tax money should be spent to provide education to all children for free. Public ed has problems. However, I think many of them can be blamed on the UEA (sorry UEA). Tenure in 3 years? That's crazy. Stretch that out to 6 or 7.

Every person I know who supports vouchers and hates their local elementary school (n=2) simply has a bad principal. If it weren't so hard to fire a bad principal, then public ed would be a better place. It's easier to fire a college football coach than it is to fire a principal. What's wrong with that?

Second, voucher proponents have made a big deal out of the following arguement "vouchers aren't bad for public ed because a student who leaves on a voucher leaves behind the money spent to educate that student." Apparently, the legislature found some money in the general fund that can be used to pay for vouchers without taking money out of public ed. If we have the political will to take money out of the general fund and spend it on vouchers, then why don't we take that same money and use it on public ed? The Utah Senators and Reps. that I've met are pretty smart. They have to understand this arguement against vouchers. So why don't they support using that money for public ed but do want to use it for vouchers? That's an easy one: UEA again. Legislators are reluctant to throw more money at public ed because they aren't happy with how it's going to be spent.

Dawn: hope that helps you get through class next time!


Bradley said...

Glad to see you posting again! I have a different understanding of the money issue with vouchers that you address in your post.

I'm rounding numbers here, but I think this is a fairly accurate reflection of what the program will look like when we get done phasing it in over 13 years.

We spend $7000 per child to attend a public school. If you choose to take a voucher, you get $3000 (maximum) while the other $4000 stays with the public school you left. We're not, as I understand it, coughing up new money. We're just redirecting a portion of the existing allocation to be spent at a parent's discretion.

I'm not incredibly passionate about education vouchers, but I do think they are a good idea. I put up a post recently in favor.

Anonymous said...

I agree. The latest commercial that I saw with the Eyres was showing that the public school actually got more money from vouchers from the "leftover" money, just give the entire $7000 to the public school. It's really pitiful how little money the public school system has. Laura hasn't had a classroom for 2 years. They just barely hired a teacher (it's October and the teacher doesn't start for another week). Crazy!

Frank Staheli said...

We can take the same amount of money out of the general fund to pay for public ed instead of paying for vouchers. But that kills the golden goose before it even starts producing.

From an economic perspective, it is important to realize that every public school child who chooses to use a voucher leaves (approximately) $5,500 in the public school system ($7,500 avg cost per student in public schools - $2,000 avg amount taken per voucher.

The current problem with the law is that that $5,500 (per kid, per year) stays in the general fund. It IS a savings to the state. Now, we need to get them to commit to put (at least a large portion of) that money back into public schools. I trust that they will, based on the fact that they gave the teachers a boost in the last legislative session.

Then, at least from a financial perspective, it would be a huge win for public education.

Mike Jones said...

I'll look into it. I may have read the numbers incorrectly. If the voucher program is zero cost to the tax payer, then that changes the game.

dawnawanna said...

Much more interesting than the pharmacology review that I'm supposed to be listening to. :)

Jeremy said...

Frank isn't giving you the whole story.

The voucher program ends up costing more than it saves because under this plan vouchers will be given to students who never would have gone to public schools in the first place. This represents a brand new expensive entitlement taxpayers will be saddled with. The Eyres are correct that money will be saved when students switch from public school to private schools but that money won't be anywhere near enough to cover the costs of this new entitlement for non-switching voucher adopters.

By the time the plan is fully implemented the estimated costs of these vouchers is around $70 million per year while the most generous estimates of possible savings to districts in this plan is around $28 million per year. (This information comes via the "Informal Analysis" published by the legislature)

This plan doesn't save money and it doesn't increase education spending nearly enough to be worthwhile.