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'Tricks' flayed by voucher foes

Confusing e-mail links recipients to an anti-union Web site, videos

Anti-voucher proponents say voucher supporters have resorted to playing tricks to confuse the opposition.

Orem resident Ada Wilson said this week she received an e-mail because she was actively involved in "politics and policy here in Utah," from an organization calling itself Utahns for Public School — not to be confused with the anti-voucher coalition Utahns for Public Schools.

But some people did.

And after a closer look, the fact that the e-mail sender clearly wasn't anti-voucher at all had some recipients scratching their heads.

The e-mail said, "If you support our cause to defeat this pro-voucher movement we would ask you to reply to this e-mail so we can build an action list of anti-voucher supporters."

It asked recipients to provide a personal e-mail address, name and contact number and then visit

another Web site,

That site is an anti-union blog clearly not aimed at defeating vouchers.

"I think somebody just thinks it's real cute to adopt something that looks just like Utahns for Public Schools — it is a trick to get (the public) to watch anti-union videos," Wilson said.

Wilson, who is also a PTA member and a member of Utah County Citizens for Public Schools, which works in conjunction with Utahns for Public Schools, contacted both groups to give them a heads up.

Lisa Johnson, spokeswoman for Utahns for Public Schools, said in addition to Wilson, the coalition received a number of calls and e-mails from others who got the "deceptive" e-mail and requested clarification.

"It was clearly intended to look like it came from us," Johnson said. "The one thing we can say for certain that it didn't come from our campaign and it's a concern for coalition members because someone purports to be speaking for us."

Johnson said her group is trying to find out who is behind the Web site and the mass e-mailing while looking into options of what sort of complaints can be filed against that person.

A Deseret Morning News inquiry submitted to the author of the blog was not responded to Wednesday.

Leaders of the pro-voucher group Parents for Choice in Education say they are not connected in any way to the e-mails.

"From our perspective it seems there are pro-voucher advocates who are convinced they can't win this debate on the merits of the voucher proposal itself, so they are increasingly resorting to misleading deceptive tactics and that's unfortunate," Johnson said. "We have faith in Utah voters that they can look past this thing and the deceptive tactics and really vote in an educated way and that's what we are counting on."

The voucher law, which was approved by the Legislature this past spring, would provide Utah families with a private-school tuition voucher ranging from $500 to $3,000 per student based on the parents' income.

It also would appropriate $9.2 million for mitigation money to hold schools harmless for five years after a student leaves and goes to a private school.

In March Utahns for Public Schools successfully gathered enough signatures for a referendum that would allow Utahns to decide whether they want a voucher program. As a result, the law is now on hold pending a Nov. 6 vote that will determine if the measure will stay on the books.