|Paper||Ogden Valley News|
|Rights||In Copyright (InC)|
|Rights Holder||SR Communications DBA, Eden, Utah|
|Publisher||Digitized by J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah|
|Paper||Ogden Valley News|
Page 14 The Ogden Valley news Volume XIV Issue XIV April 15, 2007 VOUCHER COMMENTARY cont. from page 3 receiving a $3,000 voucher, scaling back to $500 based on family income. • Public schools losing students to the voucher program will continue to receive state funding for each student for five more years. Private schools have a proven track record of educating children well. Children First Utah, a nonprofit organization offering children from low income families scholarships to private schools, has experienced the impact a quality education can have on children and their families. Parents in this program report these scholarships have given their children the opportunity to pull from underachievement to above average achievement. Children who could not read or do math are now mastering these essential skills. Children who were discouraged and apathetic are now enthusiastic and excited about learning. These accomplishments have given low income families hope that one day their children, too, can graduate from high school and attend college. COMMENTARY cont. from page 3 open next door to a traditional or public charter school without informing the school or sharing enrollment information of any kind. It could open next door to a traditional or public charter school, starving it of students and forcing changes to boundaries or causing the school to close. A voucher school could hold classes for significantly fewer days per year (60 days/year, for example) and still receive full voucher funding. A voucher school could spend your money to defend itself against a lawsuit brought upon it by the state that provided the money in the first place. With your tax dollars, voucher schools will grow, not shrink, the size of government as families with students currently in private schools inevitably lobby to obtain voucher funds. Voucher schools who become dependent on voucher funds will exercise enormous political pressure to maintain a steady stream of funds, even in times of economic downturn. Voucher schools place a significantly greater burden on small school districts whose economies of scale cannot match those of larger districts. With your tax dollars, a voucher school could bribe parents by offering them a partial refund of their voucher as a “signing bonus.” Voucher schools will be able to issue an annual norm-referenced test that cannot be accurately compared to public school normreferenced tests, thus making claims of voucher performance gains difficult or impossible to substantiate. A voucher school could require a severely strict uniform and could demand that families purchase uniforms from specific suppliers, including the owners themselves, at any price. With your tax dollars, a voucher school Utah families who support school choice are driven by their understanding of the value of quality education for all children. They too would prefer a thriving public school system but can no longer afford to wait for the ever promised and long delayed improvements. The need to offer all children a quality education is today. Stalling the voucher program tells families who are desperate for an alternative that they don’t count. It confirms their feelings of anonymity. They are mostly poor and/or minority families who feel forgotten. I hope Utah residents will take the time to understand the real issues behind the voucher program. While we continue this worthwhile debate, let’s not lose sight of what this is really about—children and their ability to succeed in education; thus, life. Note: Leah Barker is the Executive Director of Children First Utah, a nonprofit organization offering children from low income families tuition assistance to private schools. She received her bachelor’s and master’s from the University of Utah where she currently teaches. could use spanking to discipline children. A voucher school with multiple campuses could require students to move from one campus to another, without regard to the burden on the families affected. It is not required to teach civic and character education deemed essential by the legislature as “fundamental elements of the constitutional responsibility of public education.” With your tax dollars, a political party could operate and maintain a voucher school. It could endorse specific political candidates. Require that parents are members of a specific political party or contribute to a particular political action committee prior to enrolling their children, allow political candidates to pass out literature paid for by the school on campus, pay for and/or post political lawn signs on school property, ask for donations for political candidates, host a political rally for a political candidate during regular school hours, donate to political action committees, pay for robocalls or television ads for a political candidate, hire lobbyists to advocate for specific legislation. With your tax dollars, a voucher school could close without notice, leaving local districts to reabsorb the students without reimbursement. A voucher school could be mismanaged, go bankrupt and close its doors with the state never getting the voucher funds back. It could relocate, perhaps multiple times per year, without any input whatsoever from parents or staff. It could operate for one year in a low-income area, obtain voucher funds, purchase curriculum materials, desks, and computers, then close its doors and relocate to an affluent area the next year with new students. Want to know a lot more? Want to read the comments many legislators have made? Go to <http://utahamicus.blogspot.com/2007/01/ craig-johnson-presents-100-problems.html> BATTLE cont. from page 3 ing vouchers, according to several legal opinions. While Rusk believes that if HB 148 is overturned by a ballot decision, HB 174 will also fall automatically; Shurtleff has publicly disagreed, though added that HB 174 may be more susceptible to a constitutional challenge. “No matter what happens, this will end up in court.” A report in the Salt Lake Tribune also states that Attorney General Mark Shurtleff’s office had evaluated both bills and concluded that that the second bill—HB 174—could likely stand on its own allowing Utah to implement a voucher program regardless of the referendum outcome. Utah law states that any law passed by a two-thirds vote of the members elected to each house of the Legislature can not be the subject of a referendum. HB 174 met this twothirds threshold requirement. Pomeroy has stated, “We knew there would be a referendum, a lawsuit, or both. The fact is, they don’t want parents to have educational choices. They want the money coming to them regardless of what’s best for students.” Utah Governor Huntsman has said that if the referendum indeed passes, he will call for a special election in June, which could cost tax payers between 3.2 and 3.5 million dollars, according to Utah Lt. Governor Gary Herbert. Another option is to put the question to the voters on February 5, 2008 during the Presidential Primary election, which would eliminate the hefty price tag. The 2007 voucher program win in the legislature was a long coming victory for school choice proponents. For seven years the bill has consistently been defeated. This year’s bill was different in that the law doesn’t penalize public schools when students leave the public system to attend a private school. Instead of losing the per-pupil funding allotment for every student who leaves, the school district continues to collect the funding for five years. The law was further cushioned by an additional $500 million spending bill that will go towards Utah public education. Utah’s new voucher program is the first in the nation to offer universal statewide vouchers to parents. Other state programs only make vouchers available in specific cases, such as for students with disabilities, for low income families, and/or for students who are attending failing schools. Currently, 12 states and the District of Columbia have adopted some type of educational choice program, and several more are considering doing likewise. Not only has there been a furor over vouchers at the state level, a brouhaha has been fermenting in Ogden Valley over the debate, as manifest by several commentaries submitted to The O GDEN V ALLEY N EWS, and calls and letters coming across the wires and desk of Valley Elementary principal Tommy Lee in Huntsville. Part of the turmoil seems to be over whether signatures were illegally collected at Valley Elementary during school hours for the petition calling for the referendum on school vouchers. Parents reported that petitions were made available for parents to sign at Valley Elementary during the school’s annual maturation program, and again during the annual student puppet show. In addition, school equipment was used by PTA members to create flyers in support of the petition that were then sent home with Valley students for the purpose of swaying their parents to support the petition. In an interview with Utah Assistant Attorney General Bill Evans, he stated, “Utah law requires during school work hours, a policy of neutrality on political issues. If it looks like a school is politicized or polarized, or is showing unbalanced favoritism on an issue, someone may have stepped over the line. Utah state law would suggest that this is inappropriate. Basic fairness or neutrality by teachers and administrators during school time is requisite. There is an expectation of appropriate decorum by employees within our public schools. If there was an infraction of the law, it could be civilly addressed through the legal system, or through a formal complaint address to the local school district and school board, and to the Utah State Office of Education.” Nordic Mountain Water, Inc.’s annual meeting will be held at Snowcrest Junior High on Wed., May 16th from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. Questions, please call the office at 745-2605.