The State Legislature acted in very good faith last year to increase teacher salaries. We need to do it again. But we can't do it forever. Therefore, the next best hope for increasing teacher salaries and funds for school supplies is for everyone to support vouchers.
In conjunction with a report that the National Education Association now thinks it has a dog in the Utah education voucher fight, the Salt Lake Tribune reported this:
Lisa Johnson, a parent of three children and spokeswoman for anti-voucher group Utahns for Public Schools, said spending public money on private schools is the wrong thing to do when Utah has the nation's largest class sizes and spends less money per student than any other state.Actually, it is precisely the reason to support vouchers. The $430 million Jones mentions are costs that accrue over 13 years. On that same yearly basis, the state legislature found just about the same amount last year to increase teacher salaries. So I'm not sure what Lisa Johnson is trying to contribute to the debate with incendiary rhetoric such as is quoted above.
"We've been told for many years that we'd like to do more for public schools, but it's too expensive," she said. "We think it's a little ironic that suddenly they found the $430 million to pay for private school subsidies."
Here's what Lisa is not telling you. The $430 million figure represents only one side of the balance sheet.
Lavar Webb stated the prognosis succinctly in the Deseret News (emphasis added):
Because I'm a public school advocate, I'm also an enormous voucher supporter. I am absolutely convinced that by every measure Utah's public schools, students, parents, teachers and taxpayers will be much better off if vouchers are approved by voters in November.Here's a key to why Utah spends so much per student in public schools--because we have the fewest percentage of children attending private schools of any state in the nation. Webb says:
Here's why: Utah schools desperately need more funding. We need more money for teacher salaries, for class size reduction, for computers and supplies. We need to spend more money per pupil.
But another big reason we're short of public school money is we have relatively few children attending private schools. Utah has about 3 percent of school-age children in private schools compared to 10 to 12 percent in most states. The difference amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars.
If we can encourage another 7 to 10 percent of students to attend private schools, while leaving most of the money we would have spent on them in the public school system, that's an enormous financial windfall for public schools.
This is a concept that only those who don't want to can't understand.
State Sen. Howard Stephenson likes to say that a voucher really is just a way to get families to raise their hands and volunteer to educate their children for $2,000 (the estimated average voucher amount) instead of $7,500 (the amount we spend per pupil from all revenue sources), leaving $5,500 [per child] remaining to educate other children in the public education system. Not a bad deal.
Now to deal with the crux of Lisa Johnson's $430,000,000 argument. Webb says:
And the money adds up. The legislative fiscal analyst estimates that the voucher program could pay out $429 million over 13 years if all qualified voucher students use the program. But it would mean we would not have to spend $1.8 billion for those students in the public school system, a direct net savings of $1.37 billion. That is money that can go to improve salaries, reduce class sizes and improve public education.
There's that $430 million she so dutifully reported. But how did she miss the $1.8 billion less spending and $1.37 billion overall savings? I don't think she did. Public, you are being hornswoggled by Lisa Jones.
Similar to what I've said here before, Webb explains the benefits that will accrue to Utah over the next several years if we start implementing vouchers now.
Even if we had 10 or 12 percent of students attending private schools, public school enrollment would not be cut back. This would all happen over several years, so we're simply talking about slowing the growth in public school enrollment, reducing the number of new students we have to pay for. Our public schools will still be crowded. The vast majority of Utahns will always attend public schools. But with 10-12 percent of students in private schools, significantly more money will be left in the public school system.There you have it. Both sides of the story and both sides of the equation. I'm not sure what Lisa Jones and her group Utahns for Public Education expect to achieve by not admitting this.
I think it would be a great thing if we could all debate the voucher issue after stating both sides of the story. Lisa Jones and Utahns for Public Education don't seem to want to.
They are afraid of something. They're afraid it's going to work.