A couple of weekends ago my family and I traveled to southern Utah for an extended-family Easter celebration. It was extremely enjoyable. A fringe benefit of the weekend was for me to learn not only how many members of my extended family are public educators, but how they feel about the new education voucher law in Utah.
My mother retired a few years ago after several years as a public school teacher. She and I have discussed school choice in detail before, so I was not surprised that she is open-minded when it comes to school choice.
My sister has been reading previous weblog entries that I have done on education vouchers. She understands my point of view, and has shared them with several of her friends.
Others, however, I was not sure about.
I have come to understand a little bit more about their points of view as well. Some of them are concerned that interests from out of state have been involved in pushing Utah Education vouchers. This concerns me as well. This helps me understand why some educators and others are concerned that the new law might not be in the best interest of Utahns.
First of all, I think we can take care of our own concerns. But second of all, I think the new voucher law is at the same time very simple and very helpful. What I'm about to say may be "pie in the sky", but I think that legislators have no business accepting funding from anyone who is not their constituent. (We'll see if I can live up to that motto when (if) I run for state legislature.) Accepting funding from out-of-state entities only makes state political issues more confusing and the legislators who accept the monies less trustworthy.
Because of this wrinkle in the voucher debate, I now support a referendum on vouchers. If the referendum does not make the ballot, I support the law as it exists. If it does make the ballot, I hope it passes!
My aunts are both public school administrators, one of which is getting signatures on the referendum petition. I told her that I thought her involvement in the process was great, although I explained to her the reasons why I support education vouchers and how they will be not only not detrimental to public education, but actually a benefit.
My uncle, who recently retired as a high-school teacher/basketball coach, has already seen those benefits. He still maintains regular conversation with former teaching and coaching colleagues, and they are excited that with fewer students and more left-over education dollars, they can get the smaller class sizes and bigger salaries that we all think they are worth. My uncle says that it's only a matter of time before a great number of educators see this (and I think several other) benefit(s) accruing to public education from the voucher program.
My cousin is an elementary school principal, and is very involved politically. Because in addition he has a very strong opinion about a lot of things, I was a bit nervous to talk with him about vouchers. I could tell quickly, however, that he had done a lot of thinking about it. He could see the benefits. He could see that there was nothing for public education to be offended about regarding education vouchers.
As long as both sides work together and don't point fingers, he said, this will be a huge benefit to Utah's children.