Friday, October 12, 2007

Referendum 1 Q&A

My wonderful BIL just sent me an email asking me about vouchers. I will write a lot about vouchers and Referendum 1 until it goes to a vote.

I refuse to simply tell my friends and neighbors to "Vote For 1 because you like me and I'm cool and it's the best, just trust me!" I can't stand that kind of politics.

I want you to get all of the information you need, make your own decision and feel 1000% satisfied that you're making a good decision in voting for Referendum 1.

But, I understand that you may or may not have time to research it for yourself.

Since I'm sort of nerdy like this and actually ENJOY researching this stuff, I'm inviting anyone to ask me a question about Referendum 1 and vouchers. If I don't know the answer, I'll find it. I'll find sources to back it up and I'll post your question and my answer here.

Really, ask me anything about Referendum 1 or voucher/scholarship programs and I'll find the information you want.

You can ask in the comments or email me.

I'll begin with my (sorry, somewhat lengthy) answer to Jonathan's concern/question.

Q. However, what I can't wrap my mind around is why we need yet another law just so that we can get our public schools to do what we want them to do. It seems like we have a broken system when we have to make law after law to act as bandaids to a problem that needs surgery.

A. I agree. Bandaid laws for a broken system are no good. Referendum 1 is one of the first measures the Utah Legislature has taken that will actually begin to create a new, better system for Utah education. Rather than throwing money or regulations or unfunded No-Child-Left-Behind-like mandates at an outdated system, it opens up an opportunity for direct accountability and for choice.

As parents have the ability to choose which school their children will attend, schools become directly accountable to the parents and children they serve, not to a bureaucratic system that may or may not have time to watch every single child.

And here's the best part. The legislature set this voucher system up in a way that, as parents begin to choose to take their children elsewhere, the public school system will have increased funding, smaller classes and Utah taxpayers will actually SAVE MONEY! (USU has projected a savings of $1 billion over thirteen years, all while increasing per student funding in public schools AND helping parents whose children need a different choice for their education.)

I believe that as this system gets going, public schools will begin to improve to meet parents' and children's needs. (Research shows that voucher systems have this effect.) Private schools and charter schools will flourish and improve. (Referendum 1 requires private schools to test, prove financial stability, hire well-educated teachers, and publicly disclose all of this information to parents for review. Charter schools are already subject to the same standards as traditional public schools.) Schools will have more local control over budget and curriculum and will respond directly to parents. (In WI, since they began a scholarship program, principals answer directly to parents and now control 95 percent of their school budgets, which enables them to meet the needs of their students better than when state school boards and school districts controlled all of the money.)

This change is the beginning of an overhaul of Utah's education system. It's FAR from just a bandaid solution. Imagine a system where your taxpayer dollars fund public schools, charter schools and scholarships for students to attend private schools -- and all of these schools work hard to compete and meet the needs of students. AND they have the resources and local control to be able to do so. That's the intention of this law.

I think it's pretty impressive.


Momo Fali said...

I hope your charter schools turn out better than the ones here in Ohio. Some of our charter schools have shut down mid school year and left kids without a place to go. Hopefully, Utah can learn from our mistakes and have a successful program!

sara said...

Do you mind if I share your articles with my family? I was thinking about those cute signs you posted in your blog what - last year?! I've considered creating one for my yard. I really hope more people vote for this. At the least I think it will break up the monopoly that our public schools have. With more choice will they try to create more options for us to stay there?

Heather said...

Sara, of course! ANYONE is welcome to share anything I write here with anyone they want. But, I would LOVE it if the stuff I write on Referendum 1 circulates as widely as humanly possible.


Derrick said...

Here's a question for you. Theoretically, just to throw this out there, parents who are involved enough in their child's education to take advantage of the voucher system would more likely have children who are successful in public schools. Whereas students whose parents are less involved in their child's education would be less likely to utilize the vouchers and their children would be more "at risk". (I'm just going off the hunch that students with more involved parents tend to do better. No research as of yet.)

So, here's the question. Do you think that presence of vouchers could cause the public schools to lose higher achieving students and lead to the ghettoization or of public schools by increasingly removing the higher achieving students who have more involved parents from the public schools where they would have a powerful positive effect?

You must admit it's an interesting question at least.