I'm consistently unsure as to what this blog is supposed to "be." I came across an article that was first published in the Daily Herald that really has me thinking, so I thought I would put it here, for your information.
I am a huge advocate of public education, I have a degree in English Secondary Education, I have taught in different public schools, and I am the product of public schools. This is a hot topic. Enjoy!
Vouchers not good for Utah schools, society
by Richard Davis, Linda Shelton and Jim Hunter
Utah must seem funny to much of the rest of the United States.
We're not talking about polygamy or state liquor laws. Rather, it is the fact that the state will be paying people not to send their children to Utah's public schools.
Next year, the state will pay an estimated $9 million to parents not to send their children to a public school. And the cost will go up to an estimated $48 million a year by 2020.
Not only does that seem strange, but this is the state with the lowest per-pupil spending in the nation. Utah not only spends the least on public education per capita but spends more than $400 less per pupil than the next lowest state. Yet somehow the state has money to give to people not sending their children to public schools. Clearly, this policy makes no sense fiscally.
It also does not speak highly of Utah's commitment to its own public education system. This despite the fact that Utah students consistently rank highly on AP tests, Utah has a much higher-than-average high school graduation rate, and the state excels at the percentage of residents who are college graduates. Moreover, about 95 percent of Utah's school-age children attend public schools. Clearly, public education should be a Utah value.
Yet, various groups supporting vouchers routinely malign Utah's public schools. Some voucher proponents even hope the public education fails and the state turns to private education.
With all the criticism of public schools, it is easy to forget why we have public education in the first place. The United States invented public education; Horace Mann established the first public school in Massachusetts in 1839. Public schools spread quickly across the nation and dominate today. Universal access to education is a hallmark of America, one that Americans can be proud of. Our public education system is key to that universal access.
Unlike many other nations, Americans reject a caste system where rich people go to private schools and everybody else goes without an education or is left to a severely under-supported public education system. Such systems are the product of an intense selfishness where those who have the resources to help society as a whole instead choose to create their own private school system.
By contrast, America is a public-oriented society valuing the education of everybody's children. Public education brings together students from across the potential societal divides - rich and poor, black and white, Catholic or Protestant or LDS. It creates a common culture for our society. As children learn together in public schools, they later become adults who share common values, participate together in civic life and possess a sense of community. Public education is designed to bring us together, to enhance our sense of a united people.
But with vouchers, we are moving away from those traditional American values. And, sadly, Utah is leading the way backwards. Backwards to the two-tier system Horace Mann and many educators over the years sought to change. Backwards to the type of system that is prevalent in so many other nations. (It would be surprising for many in those countries who want to reform their systems and adopt the U.S. model to think that there are those in the United States who want to emulate their model.)
Proponents of vouchers will respond by saying the idea of choice is American, too. Indeed it is. But vouchers are not about choice. The choice to send children to a private school is not the issue. Choice already exists.
The issue is taxpayer money being taken form the many to support a few who don't want to send their children to public schools and want taxpayer money to do it. It is about a government subsidy, a handout if you will, to pay people not to attend public schools.
Opting out has always been, well, an option for anyone. No child is forced to attend public school. And those who want to form their own subculture certainly are allowed to do so in a free society. But, until now, the state didn't subsidize people who opted out. Vouchers, however, do just that.
A petition is circulating to place private school subsidies on the ballot. We urge residents to sign it. Let the voters decide whether our taxpayer money should be spent of public education or on private school vouchers.
Richard Davis teaches political science at BYU. Linda Shelton teaches English at UVSC. Jim Hunter is Associate Director of the Institute of Emergency Services