Pick Your Poison

One thing that often bothers me in many public discussions is that people rarely offer all the pertinent information when they argue for their cause. The result is arguments like this against vouchers. I will be the first to admit that voucher supporters are just as guilty of only discussing facts that are favorable to their position, but both sides seem to assume that the citizens can’t make an informed decision and must therefore be coerced into one position or the other.

For too many Utah families vouchers don’t offer a real choice. More than half of Utah’s counties have NO private schools at all. The average private school tuition is almost $8,000 a year. The average statewide voucher is estimated to be only about $2,000. That means that for a family with four children, the additional $24,000 in tuition puts private school completely out of reach.

I just can’t get over the fact that voucher opponents will argue that vouchers are too expensive and at the same time they argue that public schools should get more money, and that the vouchers are too cheap to do any good. The argument above says that $24,000 is prohibitively expensive while ignoring the fact that $32,000 (the cost without voucher support) is substantially more expensive for the same family. The reality is that if that difference between $32K and $24K is not enough to make people switch from public to private school then vouchers won’t cost us anything.

Another beautiful contradiction that I have always laughed at is the argument that we don’t pay enough into our public schools coupled with the following (from the same page linked above):


20.8 % of Utah’s graduating public high school seniors have passed their AP tests. This is the third highest rate in the nation.

And another:


At 83.8 percent in 2004, Utah’s public high school graduation rate is the best in the country.

Third highest rate in the nation for A.P. tests passed and highest graduation rate but our schools are failing. I guess we need to define what it means to pass (or fail). The only thing I can tell for sure is that there is apparently no strong correlation between money spent per pupil and success in A.P. testing or graduation rates.

About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.
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7 Responses to Pick Your Poison

  1. Jeremy says:

    Two comments:

    1. You said, “The reality is that if that difference between $32K and $24K is not enough to make people switch from public to private school then vouchers won’t cost us anything.”

    You’re forgetting that while most average families won’t be able to make use of the marginal benefits provided by a voucher the program will still cost Utahns a lot of money. Each year that goes by families who never would have enrolled their kids in public schools in the first place will be using the vouchers. These students represent a huge new expense for taxpayers. Utah’s legislative fiscal analyst estimates that over the next 13 years the voucher plan will cost more than half a billion dollars…an amount far in excess of any that may be saved by the few public students who take vouchers and go to private schools.

    2. You said, “Third highest rate in the nation for A.P. tests passed and highest graduation rate but our schools are failing. I guess we need to define what it means to pass (or fail).”

    I don’t know of any anti-voucher advocates who are arguing that our schools are failing. On the contrary, our schools are doing quite well. That’s why Utah has fewer private school students per capita than nearly any other state in the country. There just isn’t demand for private schools here. Voucher crusaders should take their plan somewhere where public schools are actually failing if they want positive results. Fortunately Utah isn’t one of those places.

  2. David says:

    I hear the argument all the time that our schools are failing, but as I think about it, I can’t prove that the argument is tied to the anti-voucher crowd, so you caught my unfounded assumption there.

    On the other hand, I am far from impressed with the academic environment in my local public school where my kids do and will (potentially) go. If I have the option of vouchers I will almost certainly make use of them. If vouchers bring more kids into private schools where parents are paying extra tuition we will likely see many more private school options open up, and we might even see costs of private schools go down.

    The last part of the voucher argument that the anti-voucher crowd ignores is that if parents are paying extra money to put their kids in private schools that is more money in the total pool of cash being spent on education in the state. There is more money per student being spent in public schools and more money overall being spent on education. That should be applauded by those who say we need more money going to education but conveniently they omit that in favor of playing the class-warfare card (vouchers only help the rich).

  3. Jeremy says:

    Class warfare…heh…no kidding. I wish we didn’t have irresponsible legislators providing welfare for the wealthy in the form of vouchers in Utah. Its too bad you Republicans decided this was such a great idea. Any extra money being spent on education due to vouches is more than balanced out by new expenditures to pay for vouchers for those who never would have gone to public schools in the first place. This plan spends money on schools in the least efficient manner possible.

    If you want to send your kids to private schools thats great. Just quit mugging me in the form of higher taxes in order to pay for it. Seems like basic conservatism to me.

  4. David says:

    It’s funny that the conservatives are voting for higher taxes on vouchers while the democrats (who are considered more favorable to higher taxes) are voting against vouchers on the grounds that they result in higher taxes.

    It’s too bad that “[we] Republicans” put together such a poor law. As for conservatism, I have yet to be convinced that there is a single fiscally conservative legislator in Utah – Democrat or Republican.

  5. Jeremy says:

    I’m not a normal Democrat 🙂

    I’m pretty libertarian in my economic outlook.

  6. David says:

    I guess you’re not unlike me. I’m not a normal Utah (tax-and-spend) “conservative” Republican.

    Whatever we disagree on we probably have the some opinion on what should happen to a tax surplus 😉

    Thanks for the comments.

  7. Pingback: David Miller » Blog Archive » More Voucher Debate

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