1. Jordan Clements argues for the flawed voucher law as a "moral imperative," basing his belef upon the "school vouchers brain-child of Milton Friedman." This same Milton Friedman advocated legalized drugs, segregated schools and elimination of the public school system. Friedman said: "I'm in favor of legalizing drugs. According to my values system, if people want to kill themselves, they have every right to do so.
"Under such a system, there can develop exclusively white schools, exclusively colored schools and mixed schools. Parents can choose which to send their children to.
"I have found no reason whatsoever for having a public school system."
As a native Utahn, I believe these radical views are dramatically out of step with our community values. I subscribe to the moral imperative which supports the best possible schools for all children — to every Alexi of whom Mr. Clements speaks. The public schools are the vehicle to accomplish that goal. To help all Utah children and families, we should invest in our public schools, not divert resources to voucher schools.
2. Mr. Clements insists vouchers will increase per pupil spending and reduce class size in public schools. Both are wrong!
The fact is: Public schools would see a significant drop in funding after five years of the voucher program. Utah's Office of Fiscal Analyst projects vouchers would cost the state $429 million over the next 13 years, eventually reaching a cost of $71 million a year. That money should fuel the education of the 96 percent of Utah students who attend public schools.
Class size is determined by the ratio of teachers to students in the school building as the school year begins. Teachers are hired based on class numbers. If students leave, dollars decrease; and the number of teachers declines.
Mr. Clements claims "taxpayers currently spend over $7,500 per child in public education." The $7,500 figure is one devised by voucher advocates painting the most dramatic picture possible in order to suggest high savings. In fact, state and federal sources place the 2006 per pupil expenditure in Utah at $5,397 (not $7,500). Mr. Clements' number inflates the average public cost by counting one-time funding; federal dollars public schools will lose if a child goes to a private voucher school; fixed costs; and debt service that cannot be eliminated even if a child leaves. The average cost is also distorted by including special needs and high risk children's costs that far exceed the costs of an average child. My wife calls this "fairy tale financing." Purported voucher savings are mythical in light of the costs.
Even with a voucher, most Utah families would not be able to afford expensive private school tuition, as well as provide transportation, lunch and other fees to attend private school.
3. Finally, Mr. Clements suggests competition solves all problems, but he fails to acknowledge our Utah public schools already provide a myriad of competitive approaches including: charter schools, magnet schools, technology centers, alternative high schools, special education, Advanced Placement and open enrollment.
The voucher program creates a model of competition in which one team is forced to play with one hand and with a referee calling fouls only against the one-handed team. This kind of competition is counterproductive and may well discourage many students.
Furthermore, as cited in my original article, recent studies show voucher laws do not bring improvement. Stanford University professor Martin Carnoy said, "Schools are not like the marketplace. Competition doesn't automatically make things better. The evidence does not support advocates' claims that voucher schools raise academic achievement."
Do not turn to a flawed law or divert resources to pay for an extra, expensive system of voucher schools. Referendum 1 fails our children and our families. As Utahns concerned about the future of our children we must invest in our public schools!