It’s not often that I get to see Utah featured in a nationally syndicated column about a positive policy debate. Usually when Utah makes the national news it’s for things like a mine disaster, raging wildfires, or polygamy. Today John Stossel wrote about the voucher issue in Utah. Naturally he is in favor of vouchers – like I am, but the Utah legislature was kind enough to give us such a bad proposal that it’s a no-win situation for those who favor parental choice. It’s easy for people outside of Utah to say “take the leap and give parents more options” but those of us inside Utah who have studied the issue know that it’s not that clear-cut.
If we get vouchers (which does not look very likely right now) we will have a poor implementation that will be used to ridicule the idea elsewhere while we pay the price for our mistakes. If we vote against Referendum 1 – as I plan to – our votes will be painted as opposition to parental choice.
Let me clear up the message of the vote I will cast next week on this. I am in favor of parental choice and I think that vouchers can be a useful vehicle to encourage parental choice but HB148 and HB174 do not make for a good implementation of vouchers. I hope that their defeat next week will not discourage those who want more parental choice. I hope instead that it will force them to come up with a much better solution. Besides learning something about crafting good law, they can also learn something about engaging in shady politics. Parents for Choice in Education should clean up their act or be shunned. They need to do a much better job at defending the issue if they are involved and they need to avoid the political trickery that is more a smear on them than a strategy for changing public opinion.