Archive for category Vouchers

Voucher Advocates Admit the Truth: It’s About ‘Abolishing the Public School System’


Via AlterNet:

ALEC is changing their talking points about private school vouchers. Instead of promoting the lie that vouchers are supposed to help disadvantaged children, they now concede the truth that the plan is a bonus for well-off families — but poor families won’t able to afford private school tuition even with the extra money.

ALEC seems poised to ditch the civil rights “marketing plan,” (as the rightwing Heartland Institute aptly put it in a 1991 paper) and get back to basics: school vouchers are for privatizing public education.

Libertarian guru Milton Friedman put it more bluntly back in 2006: school vouchers are part of a right-wing plan for “abolishing the public school system.”


Elisabeth Hasselbeck Destroys Utah Civics Education Initiative

Elisabeth Hasselbeck

Faux News Channel host Elisabeth Hasselbeck accidentally pulverized the Utah Civics Education Initiative in one interview. Raw Story:

On Monday, Utah Civics Education Initiative co-chair Lorena Riffo-Jensen told Hasselbeck that requiring a civics test was a good first step for encouraging students to be involved in the community.

Hasselbeck suggested taking the idea “one step further” by requiring a test to vote.

It might make elections “more meaningful,” she said. OK, what could possibly go wrong?

Civics education is important, especially if students learn the extent to which our political system has become corrupt and dysfunctional. But any educational change that is pushing makes me very suspicious – millionaire Patrick Byrne, the founder of Overstock, you may recall, was a driving force in the failed attempt 7 years ago to institute a private school voucher system in Utah that would have undermined public education.

More info:
Proposal: Pass citizenship test to graduate from Utah high school
Take the Impossible “Literacy” Test Louisiana Gave Black Voters in the 1960s


Medicare Cost-Shift Theory Debunked


Via Jon Walker on FDL (emphasis added):

A new study in Health Affairs appears to disprove the commonly cited myth that public insurance programs “cost-shift” onto private insurance.

…In reality, the study found lower Medicare payment rates actually reduce what private insurance companies pay.

…This study reinforces that the real issue at play is market power, not cost shifting. Compared to other countries with single-payer or all-payer systems, providers in the United States have more power to demand higher prices.

Something to think about before attempting to voucher-ize Medicare.

More info:
How Much do Hospitals Cost Shift? A Review of the Evidence (PDF)
A Review of the Evidence on Hospital Cost-Shifting (PDF)

Read the rest of this entry »


Vouchers Don’t Work: Another Scientific Study

from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Choice may not improve schools, study says

Report on MPS comes from longtime supporter of plan

Posted: Oct. 23, 2007

A study being released today suggests that school choice isn’t a powerful tool for driving educational improvement in Milwaukee Public Schools.

But more surprising than the conclusion is the organization issuing the study: the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, a conservative think tank that has supported school choice for almost two decades, when Milwaukee became the nation’s premier center for trying the idea. The institute is funded in large part by the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, an advocate of school choice.

“The report you are reading did not yield the results we had hoped to find,” George Lightbourn, a senior fellow at the institute, wrote in the paper’s first sentence.

“We had expected to find a wellspring of hope that increased parental involvement in the Milwaukee Public Schools would be the key ingredient in improving student performance,” Lightbourn wrote. But “there are realistic limits on the degree to which parental involvement can drive market-based reform in Milwaukee.”

Even some of the most ardent supporters of school choice in Milwaukee have seen that the purest version of the idea – in which there is little government oversight of schools, and parental decisions in a free market dictate which schools thrive – does not square with the reality of what happened in Milwaukee when something close to such a system existed.

That reality can be summed up in two phrases: “bad schools” and “little change.”

Bad schools: A Journal Sentinel investigative report in 2005 of the then-115 schools in the voucher program found that about 10% showed startling signs of weak operations. In short, many parents were choosing bad schools and sticking with them. Escalated government oversight of schools’ business practices and a new requirement that all voucher schools be accredited by an outside organization have played roles in putting most of those schools out of business.

Little change: Milwaukee has been a national laboratory for school reform such as the voucher program, yet there is little evidence that it has yielded substantially improved academic results – at least so far. Test scores in MPS, especially for 10th-graders, have been generally flat for years. The record of the voucher schools is unclear, though results from a major study of the program are supposed to begin coming soon. Read the rest of this entry »


Trapped in their ideology

Using tax dollars to pay for private schools will be back.  Proponents of voucher schemes don’t have any choice but to bring them back – first because they are ideologues who are convinced their ideas are inherently good and when 62% of the people vote against them, the problem is bad communication or flawed implementation or lies spread by some conservative bugabear (think Unions) rather than the possibility that people simply rejected the concept itself.  Second because they are trapped in their ideology and that ideology leads to a single conclusion: Privatization.

Conservatives have spent decades convincing themselves that only private entities are efficient, effective and valuable while any government entity is inherently, corrupt, inefficient and ineffective.  Challenged to improve public schools, they will be ideologically blind to any options other than privatization in some form or another.  Vouchers are a back door form of privatization.  Expect the next variation to be even less open about the actual goals.

As a result, conservatives will be unable to generate any options for school reform aside from variations on privatization.  Vouchers or scholarships or seed money or whatever twisted form the next proposal actually takes will be nothing more than an attempt to privatized public education.  It’s a “We’ve tried nothing and we’re all out of ideas” situation.

UEA and other pro-public school groups have an absolute and immediate responsibility to produce reform proposals in the next few months.  The problems need to be accurately defined and articulated effectively and broadly.  Low test scores aren’t the problem, they are the symptom.  Solutions need to be proposed that address the defined and articulated problems. 

I see a few issues that can be addressed, hopefully without greatly expanding fixed costs.  Public schools are entirely too big and the student experience is entirely too anonymous but facilities can be used differently to address those issues.  Bright students aren’t sufficiently challenged while struggling students don’t receive enough support.  Desired educational outcomes are insufficiently clear and not broadly known. 

The skills aquired in the Referendum One campaign need to be employed immediately and expanded upon - communication, messaging, media relations, coalition building.  Privatization proponents aren’t taking this defeat as a defeat.  They’re already planning their next move.  In a nutshelf, they don’t respect the voters enough to trust their decision.

Public education supporters need to be ready, now, to move to stop the next voucher attempt.  The public has already spoken, now is the time to lead the public to greater support for public education so vouchers can’t ever be passed in Utah.  It’s also time to start recruiting some strong anti-voucher candidates.  Public school teachers should be recruited to run against voucher supporting legislators and they should put together a coordinated campaign about positive school reform.

We need some new language.  We should also start talking about neighborhood schools rather than the more abstract public school.

Some reform proposals need to come forward soon or the next time conservatives try to take public money to pay for private schools, we will be in control of the debate.


Vouchers Go Down in Flames

62% to 38%

Flaming Oreo

The early exit poll projection from KSL-TV was 74% against, based on Salt Lake City polling places only. Statewide vote tally is here.

Here’s a big thank you and a salute to everyone who worked so hard to bring democracy to Utah. In the immortal words of Joss Whedon

“We have done the impossible, and that makes us mighty.”

One Utah voucher archive.

UPDATE: At 11:30 pm, with 90 percent of precincts reporting statewide: Referendum 1 defeated 62% to 38%.

UPDATE: The Salt Lake Tribune’s report quotes millionaire Patrick Byrne saying Referendum 1 was a “statewide IQ test” that Utahns failed. The Trib’s editorial this morning says: “Now we’ll see whether the Republican-controlled legislative branch will see the vote as the anti-voucher statement it is, or ignore the result and try to foist another version of this far-right invention on Utah’s more sensible electorate.”


Vouchers: Does PCE Know Right from Left?

Whose opinion do you trust?

Here’s the latest in a long series of fumbles by PCE in their quest to make Utah the laboratory for a national right-wing experiment in school privatization, at our own expense. This card came in the mail today: “Whose opinion do you trust?” On the LEFT, it lists a who’s who of conservative icons (they forgot Jeb Bush), and on the RIGHT a supposedly scary rogues gallery of progressives.

The facts are against them, the Oreo cookies have crumbled, so PCE’s only remaining argument boils down to tribalism: where is your loyalty? I have to side with the “right” this time.

Of course, many of the people and organizations listed probably don’t even know Utah is voting to defeat a private school voucher referendum this Tuesday.

UPDATE: The Salt Lake Tribune has weighed in with a hard-hitting editorial against tax subsidies for private schools.

Referendum 1 was forced onto Tuesday’s ballot by a groundswell of opposition to vouchers by a populace unwilling to compromise their neighborhood schools by allowing tax revenue to be siphoned off to pay private school tuition.

…The voucher law would not only create a system of private schools that are not accountable to taxpayers, but deal a devastating blow to public schools.


Vouchers: The Disenfranchised

The only ones more disenfranchised on vouchers than I, are the kids who don’t stand a chance in hell of getting to go to a private school.

But lets talk about me for a moment.

I am a property owner and major taxpayer. I have no kids. So why should I pay for public education? There is only one answer. Good public education improves my quality of life…or should. Think about that.

If our investment in public schools is not paying off sufficiently for some, why should MY taxes go to help YOUR kids get a better education than the kids in public schools? And what about my investment?

I say, we fix the public schools or close’em all down.

If the voucher Nazis would expend this much money and effort trying to improve the public schools, we might get somewhere. But they don’t or won’t.



Hey, there’s money to be made!

Richard commented on the PCE/Free Capitalist email offering cold hard cash for voucher voters.

I think there’s money to be made. 

Here’s what we do:  We knock on doors and tell people:

“Hi, my name is  . . . , I’m being paid by PCE and Free Capitalist knock on doors to get names of voters interested in the voucher issue.  If you let me, I’d like to put your name down and get paid $10.  You will receive information from these folks and they’ll include you in get out the vote activities.  You are under no obligation to vote for the vouchers, but I’d like to get paid.  May I put your name down?”

(Yeah, I know they “retracted” the email, but I don’t for a second believe these folks are above paying for votes.)

1 Comment

Vouchers: $10 Per Voter

Alexander Hamilton

Today we learned that voucher proponents are desperate enough to pay people ten dollars each to vote for vouchers. This came from a group called the Free Capitalist Project founded by pro-voucher moneyman Rick Koerber, the second-largest donor to PCE.

Excerpt from an e-mail message sent yesterday on behalf of PCE:

If you are motivated and have a desire to help this campaign succeed, as well as earn a little money in the process, you can sign up with Parents for Choice in Education to become an “advocate”. As an advocate, you agree to seek out your friends and family and solicit their commitment for this important cause. In addition, if you provide your field manager with a minimum of 25 names of persons who have committed to voting for Referendum 1, and those persons actually vote, you can earn $10 per person. That’s $250 [30 pieces of silver] for the 25 names, plus an additional $10 for every name after that.

Isn’t this illegal? What would Alexander Hamilton do?

According to The Utah Amicus, the Free Capitalist Project sent out another e-mail message to cancel the cash-for-votes campaign:

We apologize for the previous email that was sent out this afternoon regarding the voucher election and recruiting advocates. It was simply incorrect and misrepresents the Free Capitalist Projects’ grass roots efforts. Neither Parents for Choice in Education nor the Free Capitalist Project will ever provide incentives that appear to pay people to vote. The earlier email was sent by determined and sincere individuals who are working diligently, but the Free Capitalist Project and Parents for Choice in Education did not approve, authorize or see the email in advance. We are sorry for the miscommunication.

Thanks to alert and well-informed bloggers, the pro-voucher people apparently can’t get away with anything. Not secret town hall meetings (psst– there’s going to be one of these in Draper City Hall at 9am Saturday, pass it on!) Not bringing in out-of-state bloggers-for-hire. Definitely not paying for votes.

Vote NO on Referendum 1

UPDATE: The Utah Amicus does the legal legwork and discovers that vote buying is indeed illegal in the State of Utah.


Why can’t Cory do math?

Yesterday’s Trib published a pro-voucher letter  from Cory Worsencroft of Sandy that included the following bullet points:

* A west-side public school has 1,000 students. 

* Funding per student is $7,500 for a total of $750,000.

Now, let’s try the same calculations using actual real world math as opposed to voucher world math.

7500 times 1000 is . . .

7,500,000 not 750,000.

And voucher supporters wonder why we’re not convinced.


Vouchers: Debunking PCE Talking Points

Say NO to vouchers

I’m of the opinion that the voucher referendum is primarily if not exclusively about taking back our democracy from the special interest-ridden Utah legislature. But what if the special interests were right this time, and private school vouchers are actually a good idea? I don’t think so. Let’s debunk the main talking points from the PCE website:

  • There are more than 120 private schools across all of Utah. 94% of Utahns live in a county that has a private school.

    All but 34 of these schools are clustered along the Wasatch Front (SLT article, scroll down for map). According to the pro-voucher Sutherland Institute, only 88 Utah private schools will be voucher-eligible. Several of those have already said that they won’t accept vouchers.

    Equality of opportunity means the ability for every child to attend a good school in the neighborhood. The PCE voucher plan does nothing to help rural students or others who would need transportation to reach a private school of their choice, even if it’s in the same county.

  • The average tuition at a K-8 private school is under $4,000; some even have tuition under $3,000.

    The Salt Lake Tribune reports that only Catholic schools would be affordable under the private school voucher program. The Sutherland Institute says the average cost of private school tuition in Utah is $4,250. That means even families that are eligible for the maximum voucher amount will have to shell out an average of $1,750 a year per child for tuition alone (never mind additional fees, or costs for transportation and uniforms). That’s unaffordable, considering that the max $3,000 voucher only goes to families with an annual income of $30,000 or less and four or more children.

  • Taxpayers save $5,500 on every child that transfers from a public school to a private school using a voucher.

    Actually, private school vouchers increase costs, by requiring taxpayers to fund two school systems, one public and one private. The extra cost is estimated somewhere between $43 million to $60 million per year.

  • Private school vouchers will mean more than $1 billion in additional funding for public schools.

    Most private school vouchers would fund students who would attend private schools even without vouchers, or home-schooled students who transfer to private schools. PCE’s pie-in-the-sky estimate of $1 billion makes two assumptions: that each student who switches from public education to private will save the state $5500 a year, and that 181,000 will switch. That’s more than a third of all public school students in the state, and more than ten times the students currently enrolled in private schools.

  • Private school vouchers have been successfully used in states across the country.

    Private school voucher systems encourage economic, racial, ethnic, and religious stratification in our society. The absence of public accountability for voucher funds has contributed to rampant fraud, waste and abuse in current voucher programs.

    In Milwaukee, a private school voucher program targeted to low-income students resulted in no long term improvement in education test scores.

    Since 1966, vouchers or voucher-related measures have been placed before voters 22 times in 13 states and the District of Columbia. Voters rejected all of them, according to the NEA, with one exception—a South Dakota law to fund textbooks for private schools.

Just VOTE AGAINST Referendum 1.


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