The Utah State Board of Education Takes a Courageous Stand

The battle over school vouchers in Utah is just gearing up, and the State Board of Education is beginning to feel the heat. Yesterday more than 1,000 people rallied at the Utah state capitol in protest over the Board’s decision to postpone implementing vouchers at least until some legal clarification comes through, and perhaps until the referendum vote provides some direction.

Angry with the decision, groups favoring the public subsidization of private education are rumbling about court action. Even Senate majority leader Curt Bramble, a leading advocate of subsidization, has suggested that the legislature might sue the School Board.

The School Board, led by Chair (and Davis County resident) Kim Burningham has shown great courage and ethical integrity in refusing to implement the vouchers until certain issues and questions are resolved.

I understand that there are a number of thorny issues regarding the vouchers, what with two bills being passed, one with a challenge-proof majority. But this shouldn’t be about legal technicalities. This should be about the will of the people. If the majority of Utah agrees that subsidization is in the best interest of the public, then the referendum will fail and the program can go forward as planned. Pro-subsidization forces will have ample opportunity and resources, considering their well-documented corporate and out-of-state special-interest funding (see also here), to convince Utahns of the benefits of private school subsidization.

If the majority of Utah doesn’t approve of the idea of increased corporate welfare and the referendum passes, then the program should be revoked, regardless of multiple bills and legislative minutia. Curt Bramble’s threats of a lawsuit are rather petulant. Rather than throw tantrums, they should wait it out. Postponing their pet project a few months won’t hurt anything. And if the vouchers are rejected by Utah, they He and his cohorts need to remember that as legislators, they are public servants. They are there to promote the interests of the people of Utah. They do the people of Utah no service by aggressively pursuing an agenda against the possible will of the public.

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6 Responses to “The Utah State Board of Education Takes a Courageous Stand”

  1. Emily Says:

    Amen.

  2. KC Says:

    Would you feel the same way about it if it were a program you believed in? It is obvious by your language that you don’t like the school voucher program.

    I don’t know that I agree with the voucher program myself. I do believe there should be more accountability in the public school system. If they are not doing the job there should be opportunities for change. Unfortunately that does not happen. Ask parents in the Alpine School District. I am fortunate to live in an area where I am happy with the public school system. I don’t know what I would do if that were not the case.

  3. Emily Says:

    I think no matter what the Utah School Board does, they are going to be sued. This is why I think it is up to the legislature to grow a backbone and do something about HB174… because it *is* ambiguous right now, without its sister legislation. So far, Greg Curtis says there is no reason to call a special session to get it straightened out. I disagree – it is irresponsible to waste tax payer money on a lawsuit, when the simplest solution is to shelve HB174 until after the vote in November.

  4. jennifer Says:

    Comment for KC – I think that public schools are held accountable – far more than other fields when you stop to think about it. The schools must work with whatever students attend – and their accompanying socio/economic/family background. The students do not exist in neutrality like materials going into a factory production line. Education is an organic process; we value universal literacy and basic skills for each child in our nation and so the struggle to balance individual education and one -size -fits education will be here forever. I think UT should focus on smaller class sizes to ameliorate this issue, not fund vouchers.
    Pro-voucher groups often cite parent choice as a reason to establish vouchers. It implies that parents have never had a choice – but really parents have always had a choice. (I mean, should the state step in to subsidize things that families would like to do just because the families have limited money??) It also implies that private schools are somehow always more responsible and accountable than public schools, which is not guaranteed by any measure. They ARE accountable to their respective boards of trustees and their profit margins. I predict that if vouchers do take root in UT, the state legislators will be held to the private school corporation’s bidding. (wait – that’s already happening)
    I also find the proposed vouchers very biased to helping suburban families, most of which are middle-class anyway. If a family in Vernal, Price, or Cedar City wants to take advantage of the vouchers, they will need to move. There aren’t enough private schools to fairly help families – – – -and that begs the question of who is going to really benefit from the vouchers in the end. Could it be the corporate private education programs who see a ripe market?

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