Friday, February 02, 2007

Utah is an example. . .


Utah is an example of what can happen when you hold your party together.

The Arizona State GOP passes a resolution supporting school vouchers.

Utah goes ahead and passes it into law.

Sure would be nice if we could come together to do something like that. Our children certainly deserve better than what they have been getting.

9 comments:

sirocco said...

I thimk we can all agree school vouchers temd to be a Republican/conservative issue.

As conservative as AZ has been in the past, Dems have been slowly gaining in numbers. It's a very different state than 10 or 20 years ago.

Utah, on the other hand is state in which Republicans hold the greatest edge in terms of what percentage declare themselves Republicans vs. what percentage declare themselves Democrats. It's an unfair comparison -- "conservative" legislation which can easily get passed in Utah will have an difficult or impossible time here.

Framer said...

If presented in a clear, unbiased manner, school vouchers is a very popular issue even outside of conservative circles. After all, D.C. has it, and they are hardly a bastion of Republican values.

The problem is with Teachers Unions. And I would argue that their influence has diminished considerably in the past 20 years.

If I were a state strategist, this is one of the fights I would pick for the next election cycle.

Rex Scott said...

Framer, you are utilizing a demonizing canard when you blame teachers for the opposition to vouchers that is, quite frankly, widespread through our populace with the exception of conservatives, who view as it as one more in a series of litmus tests candidates must pass to prove their Republican credentials.

There has been no serious research that demonstrates increases in student achievement in places where vouchers have been piloted. They do nothing but siphon public tax dollars away from public schools to get targeted groups of kids into private schools. The public schools that are affected by this raid are never in affluent or suburban areas; they are instead the poor schools that can least afford a loss of resources.

When voucher proponents stand up for funding the smaller class sizes private schools offer in all schools, I will take them seriously. When they acknowledge the fact that private schools are not required to trouble themselves with the needs of students in special education, English language learners or kids with behavioral problems, I will take them seriously. When they acknowledge that school "choices" are already plentiful in the public system through charter schools and open enrollment, I will take them seriously.

You can blame teachers and "educrats" and any other group you want to tar for the fact that vouchers are not an idea that has caught on with the public. The simple fact is that they haven't worked in the way their backers claim they would. Moreover, the public sees through the bogus claim of "competition" as a way to improve public schools.

AZAce said...

Democrate state Wisconsin passed a voucher bill many years ago under Gov. Tommy Thompson. Other states have recognized vouchers as a means of erasing the two-class system of education where the poor get stuck in failing schools and the rich opt for better alternatives. Other states have a variety of voucher and tax credit programs. Minnesota, for example, always liberal, but also liberal in their views of education accessibility, actually partially fund home schoolers.

Conservatives often oppose vouchers out of fear the the government would use them as a means of meddling in private schools. Liberals, usually unions, see them as potentially weakening their power base in the schools as it shifts money to the private, non-unionized, sector.

In Utah, conservative's fears have probably been somewhat lessened as private and home schooling has grown and lawmakers have seen the benefits enough to relax controls. The teachers unions there have traditionally been more cooperative than combative, and parental involvement is high causing greater focus on the kids.

AZAce said...

Rex,

Actually, there are many examples of states that have benefitted from voucher-like programs. The charter school system you mention is one of them. Private schools take the burden off of public schools and everyone benefits as we have observed at the college level.

BTW, there are many private schools, including some of our very own charter schools, that take special ed/needs children, with tremendous success which, again, takes some of the burden off of public schools that have many more restrictions and political challenges to deal with.

Rex Scott said...

In Arizona, charter schools ARE public schools, Ace.

Private schools can CHOOSE to take non-traditional students, but they are not required to do so. Public schools are. This is just one difference between the two that makes market-like scenarios unrealistic and unworkable. You can not have TRUE competition without an even playing field.

I am fine with people opting out of the public system and sending their children to private schools. Many people do so and pay the costs for that choice. However, asking the rest of us to pick up the tab is unfair.

Last, most voucher proposals do not cover the entire cost of private school tuition. Private schools are also not required to accept vouchers. I would wager that many private school parents would also leave a school that started to accept numerous voucher students.

Anonymous said...

Same subject...different angle...my wife and I homeschool and I can say for a portion of the homeschoolers who are "GOP" in Flagstaff, that they do not want vouchers.

AZAce said...

Rex,

Most charter schools are privately-run schools funded by public money. Some are traditional public school district schools chartered by the state. In the case of the former, it's not much different than students bringing their vouchers to a private school to fund that school (at least, in my humble opinion).

I don't see any reason to compare private and public schools. The goal is to give children the best education at the best cost however that might be accomplished. Regardless of the "competition" argument, their are many good reasons to use less traditional methods.

Anon might argue that he pays to homeschool but also pays for his child to attend public school even though his child is at home. He might feel that asking him (or her) to pick up the tab for other students is unfair. Or maybe he doesn't care since he opposes vouchers anyway. Nevertheless, if you look at the average cost to educate a child in the public schools, paying even $3000 a year in the form of a voucher is a net gain to the state. It we were simply discussing a rebate to those with no children in the public schools, that would be entirely different.

Whether or not vouchers cover the entire cost, it gives more parents more options than they currently have. Parents tend to be more concerned about quality of education than whether ot not other students have vouchers at their shools.

Ann said...

There are so many points to me made in this discussion it is hard to find a starting point. The premise that private is good and public is bad, at best, is rhetoric used to promote the underlying desire to have the ability to segregate based on personal preferences. There is no evidence of superior performance, in fact the DC voucher students are not performing better as a whole than their public school counterparts. While no contest can be made of the superior performance of certain private schools to certain public schools, the same could be said in reverse.

The ability for “poor kids stuck in failing public schools” to enter one of many charter schools in more urban areas of the state is very possible. As it is in Arizona today, charter schools are public but do operate very much like private institutions, so for the sake of simplicity all schools but the traditional public school are included in these questions. Will that school bus my child, will they offer sports, will they offer music, art, PE, and be ready to listen to every demand I have? Will that school accept my child the way I want to send them and not the way they think he should arrive? Will the cafeteria serve the food my child likes and at the time I think he should eat, is recess long enough; does he have sufficient playground equipment to meet my idea of what it should be? Will he have a nurse on site to give him his inhaler or a Tylenol if he complains? Oh by the way, he needs speech therapy and also has some behavior problems. If I don’t like something, can I go to the local office, speak to a local official, or attend a local school board meeting? Or is this school run by a conglomerate that operates in several states and my child is a figure on a spreadsheet that can be replaced with another. What if I live in rural Arizona? Who will save my child from the horrors of public school? Will that school, upon receipt of a voucher, accept the necessity for accountability to the taxpayers by meeting all the requirements of other schools accepting public dollars?

Public schools could ask, how are we supposed to meet the federal government requirements when it only funds 17% of what it demands? How are we supposed to prove our schools are doing better than our detractors think when the measure of our progress can be determined as “failing” by a handful, as few as 3 or 4 students but the entire school is labeled? Then what are we supposed to do when the federal government requires us to spend many, many hours and dollars to develop a plan to remediate “our failing” status when in fact the problem with the 3 or 4 kids was taken care of shortly after the test. But… it doesn’t matter we will have to jump through hoops and spend energy better spent serving real needs. What about the teacher’s union and laws protecting teacher’s rights? It takes years to remove an ineffective teacher, the law ties our hands and the kids get stuck with the problem.

With that said, I agree that there are institutional biases preventing our schools from achieving their highest potential. These biases are held by all sorts of players, including administrators, teachers, school board members, legislators, parents, and other community members. The truths about how are schools are, or are not, serving our students has been mired in personal agendas and half-truths on many sides. There are many good and bad stories, enough to go around. But, one chapter does not an entire book make.

Thomas Jefferson felt public schools were the best way to insure the citizens would be equipped for self governance. He believed in making available “the best possible” educational opportunity the community could provide and that it be publicly maintained and controlled. The dilemma before us should not be about vouchers and whether or not an additional $3000 per year is too much to ask of parents. We should be forcefully asserting our right to quality public schools in our communities. We should say no to systems, whatever they be, that would limit the ability for excellence for all, to the best of the child’s ability.

A start is SB1431, this bill would significantly shorten the time line for teacher due process. It will be heard in Senate K-12 Ed committee on Wednesday.