Election Time, Get Out And Vote! And A Final Note On Vouchers

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I'm posting this early because I will be teaching all this next week, and will be unable to post anything of significance until then. So, I just want to remind everyone that Tuesday is Election Day, and therefore it's a good time to do your civic duty and vote. I don't really care what your positions are on the many referendums and propositions out there, just as long as you make your voice heard.

One problem in many races is that so many people feel like their opinions are either so overly outnumbered or heavily represented by the "polls" that they are feel that their voice is not necessary. That's how so called "slam dunk" elections become close. It's all about turnout. So if you want your position to be represented, get out there and make your voice heard. Remember, if something happens that you don't like in an election and you don't vote, you don't have a reason to complain. ^_^

Final Note On Vouchers
I just want to make this final outline of points about the current voucher program that is being represented in Referendum 1:

1. The funding will only support those families that have enough money to make up the rest of the school tuition. This means that it will benefit the upper-middle class and the rich more than it would lower-income families. Jordan Gunderson has made a post on his blog saying that this was caused by those that want to kill the voucher system. That's true, and will be discussed in the next point.

2. The funding comes from the General Tax funds, meaning that the minute a recession hits our State (and it will, if you know anything about Economics), then it will be the first thing to go. Of course, we could take the funding from the "Rainy Day" tax surplus, and then just hope that we will have enough money to pay our law enforcement, emergency services, parks, and so on. It just seems a little concerning to me that we are voting to spend money to fund private entities when we have so many public projects that need attention.

3. There isn't a real documented benefit of private schools over public schools. Instead, it's found that students in the same socioeconomic classes tend to do just as well in either private or public schooling. So, why do people want to have vouchers for private schools if the private schools are not really any better? Is it the stigma that comes with private schools? Is it the illusion of choice? The argument that making a "free market" on education will force the public schools to do better? Is it because of the socioeconomic status that comes from going to a private school that makes it better? That's a position that the parents need to come up for themselves. But the reality is that private schools are no better for students than public schools, as long as the students have the peer support for education.

3. Another reality is that "free markets" in education do not work. Public schools have State requirements that are set by Legislators, requiring debate and accountability to the public. Private schools are just that, private. They are not subject to the requirements of the Legislature. This I have a problem with, because it means sequestering public funds for a non-accountable entity, at least to the Legislature. What would make me think twice about a voucher? Set standard requirements on the curriculum and State Standardized Testing. This will place private and public schools on an even footing.

4. One big way to scare people into voting for Referendum 1 that has been used is the support that the anti-voucher movement has ties to the National Educators Association (NEA), which has been tied in some way to MoveOn.org, Senator Teddy Kennedy, and general Democrats. It's scary because it's a national organization that has been getting into the local debate. So let's set the facts straight.
- The NEA is more conservative than the UEA, and has been getting more praise in Utah by being more flexible in educational policy making on the Hill. It's been a welcome group for the Republican Party, because they seem to be less militant.
- What are the ties to MoveOn.org? The fact that it's a primarily Democrat-supported organization? Is that a problem? They are fighting for improved education, and will continue to do so should the voucher system pass or fail.
- The pro-voucher organization say this funding is bad, but where do they get their funding for commercials? Is it all locally funded? I doubt it, since they manage to have the same resources as the anti-voucher organization.

Frankly, I don't care who supports or opposes a political position, but rather care about the substance of the political agenda. Look at the facts, and decide for yourself which way is the better way for you. Then vote on that conviction! ^_^

5. The funding, if we really feel it needs to be spent, needs to be spent in a better way. Why pay for vouchers when you can pay to create and publish educational materials to be used by parents to augment public education? Or, for that matter, home schooling families? Why not invest on online course materials to start blended courses that are both online and in class? You can have fewer students in class at one time, and still manage to teach the same number of students. Teachers can focus more on delivering the personal learning experience in both areas, instead of having to worry about leaving some students behind to keep up with the material required.

Why not spend the money in ways that have been proven to improve test scores and educational success? Why benefit only a small number of families, when you can provide the same benefit to all families equally? That's what I don't get. It seems that equality doesn't seem to be the issue in this debate, but rather a way to get a few more students into exclusive organizations while fueling the argument that it's the school's fault for failure in education instead of the parents not engaging.

Anyway, that's the end of my soap box on this position. Please read all the available materials on school vouchers, private vs. public schools, and educational theory in general, and then make your own decision. However your vote, please make it an educated one. ^_^