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