Pull Up the Drawbridge! We're Under Attack!

It should have stopped surprising me by now how much of a siege mentality many public school educators and administrators have when it comes to school choice, but it still does surprise me, because I find it so irrational. Currently, a voucher proposal in the Utah Legislature has some public educators making all sorts of exaggerated and erroneous claims.

Vouchers are weapons employed in a strategic attack on our public institutions[!]

In a letter to the Deseret News editorial board on January 24, 2007, Heather Bennett and others challenge the benefits to society of school choice in the form of education vouchers.

Some of the complaints in the letter are that vouchers will:

  • "do nothing to address underfunding of public school programs"
  • not reduce class size
  • "deepen social divides and leave taxpayers without a voice. ...Transportation and tuition costs will continue to discriminate, further dividing our community."
  • "compromise the separation of church and state and violate the Utah State Constitution"
  • Cause "students ...[to] suffer as a result of their plans"

The letter begins by saying

Salt Lake City School District supports both universal excellence and public school choice. We offer a variety of programs, philosophies, and instructional strategies. ... We are proud of our ability to use data to drive instruction, our menu of effective interventions, and the pathways we have built for advanced learners.

Apparently Heather Bennett and the others who signed her letter to the editor are some of the very few who disagree with the statement I just quoted. Those in favor of vouchers have most likely either formed no opinion of particular school districts' ability to provide educational excellence, or don't think that they are providing sub-standard education. They simply want more choice in the education of their children.

The facts are:

  • Voucher programs go a great deal toward providing more money for public education. Every voucher program I've ever heard of does not take the full cost of educating a child out of the public school system. Even if private school students begin using vouchers, the eventual result will be more money to the public school system. There is no better time to move toward a voucher system than in a year of budget surplus which can be allocated to cover the shortfall of students already in private schools beginning to use vouchers.
  • Because fewer students will be in the public schools, but more money will exist there per student, these moneys can be used to reduce class sizes AND increase teacher salaries.
  • Transportation is a concern for less wealthy families, and would likely not be covered with the amount that a voucher provides. To say that this will divide the community is a bogeyman, however. If school choice vouchers divide a community, then there should be no school choice at all.
  • The Utah Constitution says: "No public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise or instruction." Even though this claim is the most substantial of any claims made against voucher programs, it is a red herring. Several other states with similar religious regulations in their constitutions have very successful and constitutional voucher programs.
  • It is ironic that public educators think so little of themselves that they think those left in the public schools will suffer as a result of having to stay in public schools. I don't think that. I think those left over will actually benefit through smaller class sizes and better teachers.

A current voucher proposal before the Utah Legislature clarifies and answers a lot of concerns and questions. Voucher programs in other states have helped to cause the following improvements:

  • Parents are more satisfied with private schools because private schools exhibit more accountability to students. They also are required to follow numerous health and safety regulations.
  • Vouchers improve student satisfaction with their educational experience, which generally results in improved student educational performance.
  • Voucher programs provide substantial additional money-per-student to the public school system.
  • Public schools increase their ability to educate as they compete with private schools.

So, please put the drawbridge back down. We are not your enemies. We are your friends. We are all working together to build the same community.


  1. Methinks they do protest too much. This is more about power than about educating children.

  2. Responding to this.
    It is ironic that public educators think so little of themselves that they think those left in the public schools will suffer as a result of having to stay in public schools. I don't think that. I think those left over will actually benefit through smaller class sizes and better teachers.

    Does it ever cross your mind that teachers might care about the entire health of our education system and the children in it? I have no doubt that the children left will get a great education but what concerns me is what will happen when the children being put in these new private schools with zero standards don't get their moneys worth. Then what will happen, us the taxpayers are going to have to foot the bill to fix these children, either in remedial education, lower productivity or prisons or just in a less stable society.

    What will be the standards on these new schools? Who knows? Who cares?

    Every major industry has some basic standards but nothing has been done to set standards with this voucher legislation paid for with our tax dollars and many teachers are concerned about ALL children receiving a good education, not just the ones in their classroom.

  3. Marshall,

    I think you're correct that teachers care about ALL the children. But their statements border on worried diatribes.

    What happens if vouchered students don't get their money's worth is that they pull the kids out and put them in another school that is conducive to good education. Perhaps some parents feel this way about the public education system, but have few alternatives to get THEIR money's worth.

    The standards you speak of come from the parents, and whether they think a good education is being provided. If a parent has enough desire to use a voucher for their child, they will have enough desire to ensure that their children are receiving a healthy education.

    There are some children that are going to be difficult to educate whether they are in a public or private school. Most of the people for which taxpayers currently have to foot the bill to fix are from the public schools, so the fact that some may in the future come from private schools is not a reason to kill a voucher/choice initiative.

  4. Yes, the siege mentality is alive and well. I often see it when the voucher people talk about public education. With the money they spent against Democratic and other candidates, I wonder how many vouchers that would have provided.

    I have to wonder if JUST teachers are responsible for the things that are wrong?

    I seem to think that if parents are very concerned about their children's educations, that they would get involved instead of complaining. AND especially, they would realize that they have a choice in how their children are educated already and work to ensure that by becoming the main influence in their children's lives and ensuring that they apply that little thing called personal effort and responsibility.

  5. Starviego,

    I can see why they campaigned against Democrat candidates (I would say against those opposed to vouchers), because regardless of parents fostering or not fostering their children, educational choice is a good idea all the way around.

    You are absolutely correct about parents. A lot of parents don't get involved in their children's education, and complain about things that they could solve or help to solve. I do think that vouchers will tend to help to improve parents' desire to take more responsibility for their children in all areas of life.


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