Wednesday, October 31, 2007

John Stossel, Others Join Utah's Debate On Referendum 1

John Stossel has a column today at the World Jewish Review online calling attention to the debate over Referendum 1 and the opportunity Utahns have to vote for school choice.

Entitled "Utahns can vote for school choice Tuesday", the article comes down on the side of the proponents. From the article:

Next Tuesday, Utah voters go to the polls to decide if their state will become the first in the nation to offer school vouchers statewide. Referendum 1 would make all public-school kids eligible for vouchers worth from $500 to $3,000 a year, depending on family income. Parents could then use the vouchers to send their children to private schools.

What a great idea. Finally, parents will have choices that wealthy parents have always had. The resulting competition would create better private schools and even improve the government schools.

But wait. Arrayed against the vouchers are the usual opponents. They call themselves Utahns for Public Schools [http://tinyurl.com/25sbtu]. They include, predictably, the Utah Education Association (the teachers union), Utah School Boards Association, Utah School Employees Union, Utah School Superintendents Association, the elementary and secondary school principals associations, and the PTA. No to vouchers! they protest. Trust us. We know what's best for your kids.


They say they're all for improving education but not by introducing choice....


-----------------------------------------------------------------

Vouchers will make schools accountable to parents rather than a bureaucracy. Principals and administrators will have to convince parents that they are doing a good job. That's real accountability. And the Utah law requires private schools to submit to independent financial audits and give students a nationally recognized test each year. The results would be publicly disclosed, giving parents information they can use to judge schools.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

For over a century, American children have been in the hands of education bureaucrats. For over 40 years, the government's system has been dominated by a protectionist teachers' union that puts itself ahead of the children entrusted to its members. The results are what we should expect from a monopoly financed with money extracted from taxpayers: poor quality, lack of innovation and bored children.

The parents of Utah should be the envy of the rest of the country because on Tuesday, they have a chance to take back control of their children's education.

It's well worth reading the whole thing.

UPDATE: Ed Morrissey at Captain’s Quarters joins the debate, with a post he titles "Parents Taking Power Back".

From his post:

What Stossel misses is why voucher programs have become a burgeoning movement, along with home schooling and the demand for charter schools. It springs from the loss of power from parents and the local communities to the federal government over the last four decades. The shift of control over curricula, standards, and mandates from local school boards to a vast federal bureaucracy -- abetted by the NEA -- has provoked this reaction. Parents want as much influence over the education of their children as possible, and federal control gives them no influence or say over how their children are taught. Power has shifted into the hands of the lobbyists, like the NEA, who represent teachers and administrators first, and children secondarily if at all, as I noted two years ago.

Vouchers simply provide parents with the power always envisioned by the public school system. It simply replaces the school board with a capitalist lever on quality of delivery. It requires more from the parents in terms of involvement, but at least in this system, their involvement actually gets rewarded. Right now, schools have so many mandates and top-down requirements that parents have little say any more -- and when they do attempt to make changes, get treated with dismissive attitudes from the "experts" who assume they know the children better than the parents.

The NEA and the Department of Education drove parents to voucher programs. Utah will likely be the first to pass the program, but in ten years, expect to see it spreading like wildfire. One way or another, parents will take back control over the education of their children, and dinosaurs like the NEA will either adapt or die.

Well, I know where I stand on the issue of Referendum 1. How about you?