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Utah Foundation Forum

At the Utah Foundation education forum Thursday, several groups presented positions on education finance and reform. Participants included the following:

Increased Spending Advocates
Steve Kroes, Utah Foundation (host)
Christine Kearl, Governor Huntsman's Education Deputy
Patti Harrington, Superintendent of Public Instruction
Bruce Williams, Utah School Boards Association
Kim Campbell, Utah Education Association
Richard Kendell, Commissioner of Higher Education

Reform Advocates
Mike Jerman, Utah Taxpayers Association
Doug Holmes, Parents for Choice in Education

Other Emphasis
Scott Smith, Chairman of State Charter School Board

Obviously the forum wasn't exactly balanced with regards to spenders and reformers, but with the exception of the predictable cheap shots that Commissioner Kendell took at reformers (Kendell was playing to the audience that consisted mostly of public education employees), the forum went reasonably well. In their coverage of the forum, The Deseret Morning News gave equal time to both reformers and spenders while The Salt Lake Tribune did not report on comments made by reformers.

Most of the participants were given ten minutes to summarize their positions. While ten minutes is not enough time to thoroughly address complicated issues, the forum did allow each organization to present important points. The Utah Taxpayers Association presented the following

  • Adjusted for inflation, U.S. per student spending has increased 65% since 1980 and 122% since 1970.
  • During that time, 12th grade NAEP scores have been flat (NAEP scores for twelfth graders are the best output measure since it is measuring student achievement as students complete their education).
  • Compared to other developed countries, U.S. student performance is mediocre on TIMSS and PISA even though the OECD reports that the U.S. spends more per student than just a couple of countries (and yes, these tests are apples-to-apples comparisons despite claims by some in the education establishment that only the "elite" are being tested in other countries).
  • Unfavorable demographic changes -- such as increases in children in single parent homes and percent of children in homes where English is not spoken -- account for only a small part of the spending increase.

The association then presented arguments in favor of vouchers. In the future, we'll be making several posts on this blog regarding vouchers and charter schools. Some of the issues we'll address include:

  • will vouchers harm public education?
  • are vouchers a subsidy for private schools?
  • are vouchers constitutional?
  • can choice and competition be successfully applied in K-12 education as it has been in higher education?

Are you saying that "Utah's Independent Newspaper" didn't cover both sides of the story?

The Tribune has the reputation of being the "objective" paper because the News is owned by the Mormons, but since the ownership change at the Tribune several years ago there's been a noticeable deterioration in reporting. Practically every issue is slanted way left.

Read Hugh Hewitt's book Blog to see how the Internet is supplanting the Mainstream Media (MSM).

Just twenty years ago, most people got their news from two newspapers, three network stations, and one or two radio stations. Now there are several cable news channels, AM (and FM) talk radio, scores of blogs and websites.

At the local level, it will take some time before the Internet scrapes away at the MSM's dominance, but I see it happening already. Utah Policy Daily is making a dent.

Look at the top ten stories viewed at the Tribune's website. Most of the stories are sports or crime. Rarely do political stories make the top ten. Here are today's top ten.

1. sports
2. crime
3. other
4. religion
5. sports
6. religion
7. Rolly
8. BYU
9. letter to editor
10. For the record

If you look at the Tribune's blog, hardly anyone comments on them (about 1.5 on average). Internet users look at MSM blogs like kids look at middle-aged men trying to be cool ("Hey kids, wanna listen to some Matchbox 25?". "It's Matchbox 20, dumbass".)

I listened to this on KCPW. This was the most boring forum I have ever listened to.

I keep hearing that Utah is a solidly Republican state, but why can't Utah get vouchers or tax credits when Florida, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Arizona, Pennsylvania etc. already have them.

Utah Republicans aren't really fiscally conservative. They're just granstanding moralists. They're conservative on gays and abortion.

The Tribune printed a letter in Sunday's paper that scolded the paper for not covering both sides of the debate. Props to them for printing that.

AND props to the guy who wrote it!

>Click here
to read the letter to the editor that calls the Trib out.

You're confusing "reform" with "supports tuition tax credits." They don't necessarily mean the same thing. Participants from each list are dedicated to making education better for all children; you simply disagree as to the most effective method.


Reform without vouchers or tax credits is virtually meaningless, especially if the cap on charters remains.

How many public school reforms have we had over the past several decades? Too many! And what positive results have they shown? Too few!

Without outside pressure in the form of vouchers and charter schools, we'll never get real reform unless your definition of real reform is merely more money.

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