Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Referendum Number 1

After receiving a pro-referendum #1 email from my good friend Raini, I was reminded that I wanted to thoroughly peruse the "Utah Voter Information Packet" I recently received in the mail. I often find my political views to be a little different than the Utah mainstream, and I once again feel torn by the pros and cons of an important issue.

I attended private school from preschool through 8th grade, I currently teach at a private school, and I plan for my kids to attend private school for as long as it is financially possible. I feel the public school system is lacking in certain areas, and I agree that it is not the ideal for solution for all kids. I think the ideal situation is one in which parents can choose the educational enviroment that is best for each of their students. It sure sounds like I support Ref. #1, right?

But I don't.

Referendum #1 is set up to provide scholarships even to families who make an excess of $100,000 annually. I do not understand why tax money should be used to fund the education of students from families who are clearly not managing their money in the most effective way. At that income level, the parents could afford private school if they chose to make that a priority. As my handy pamphlet states, "If we have extra taxpayer money, it would be better spent reducing class sizes and improving Utah's public schools." If not spent for that, I'd love to see the tax dollars used on other worthy projects like "health care, public safety, and roads."

Referendum #1 does not set high enough standards for the qualifying private schools. I am concerned that individuals will start private schools with the intent of luring voucher-carrying students with an interest only in acquiring their money. Private schools should be founded on principles of education and on the ideals of improved methods. Obviously, private schools make money in the process; however, Ref #1 could "encourage emergence of new subsidized private schools without adequate assurance of quality or accountability."

Referendum #1 takes accountability away from an already floundering public school system. Although Ref #1 still puts money into the public schools for students who are transferring to private schools, the real issues of public schooling are ignored. If class size is an issue, use the scholarship money to hire more teachers. Build more diverse charter schools. Attract and retain quality teachers with higher salaries.

Not all private schools plan to accept vouchers. Parents in support of vouchers may have a specific school in mind and may be disappointed to find out that many of the quality private schools have no intention of accepting vouchers, because this makes them subject to certain state regulations and could potentially decrease the private school's quality.

Now, none of this is to say I disagree with a voucher system. I simply disagree with THIS voucher system. Part of me feels terrible for planning to vote against Referendum #1, because I know it could benefit many families whose children are currently floundering in the public school system. However, I am unwilling to vote for a sort of okay solution. I feel there are too many problems with this referendum, and that if it is passed in its current state, these problems may never be addressed. Lets petition our government to come up with a better voucher system that will address the real issues by providing funds only to those families who really need them. Then lets put the rest of the public funds where they belong -- into the public school system.

Should parents have a choice? Yes. But should taxpayers have to fund every option? No. Let's use the money to improve our schools and increase charter schools. Maybe then there wouldn't be a need for private schools.


Unknown said...

Very thoughtful post!

Jay said...

Excellent post Andrea, this is an interesting topic one which Raini & I are on the other side we are for vouchers, because it would help our kids immensely to go to private school. Ksl posted an informative story on their website & will also have a story on it on the news. Worth the time to check it out.


Andrea said...

Jay - Thanks for the link. I appreciate any opportunity to become more informed on such an important issue. I told Kirk after I wrote this blog that I hate voting against Ref 1 because I know it could be so good for your kids. As it stands, though, I just can't get behind this particular voucher program. The good news is, regardless of my opinion, I bet it's going to pass.