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Vouchers: a subsidy for private schools and low income students?

Voucher opponents maintain that vouchers are subsidies for private schools, but a logical analysis says they are not.

Are all taxpayer-funded purchases of goods and services from the private sector a subsidy for private sector providers?
Government at all levels contracts with private sector companies to provide goods and services. Some examples include:

- Medicaid: a subsidy for doctors and hospitals or a subsidy for low-income patients?
- Heating assistance: a subsidy for gas and electric companies or for low-income households?
- Food stamps: a subsidy for grocery stores or a subsidy for low-income families?
- Pell Grants: a subsidy for private universities like BYU (whose football team recently won a big game) or a subsidy for low and moderate income college students?

Clearly, the private sector providers are not being subsidized because they are being paid to provide goods and services. The recipients of these services are the ones being subsidized.

Even within the school system, tax dollars are used to procure services and equipment from the private sector. School districts don't build their own buildings but contract with the private sector to design and construct buildings. These contracts are not subsidies for construction companies since they are providing a service, just as private schools would be providing a service to low and moderate income students with vouchers.

A subsidy for low income students?
Vouchers are a subsidy for low income students, but the current public education system is a subsidy for most children. In FY2005, taxpayers spent $6,309 per student (including capital and debt service but excluding non K-12 programs), and this is more than double the average amount of the proposed voucher.

Most households do not earn enough money to pay enough taxes to cover the costs of educating their children in public schools (while at the same time covering the costs of other government programs such as roads, higher education, public safety, Medicaid, etc.) In terms of absolute dollars -- but not necessarily in terms of percent of personal income -- higher income households subsidize everyone else. Subsidizing the education of low and moderate income children is one of the fundamental premises of public education.

What about parents without children? Where's their voucher?
Taxpayers without children benefit from vouchers because they will be paying less to have low and moderate income children educated since the average voucher amount is less than half of what taxpayers are paying to educate children in public schools.

Opponents of vouchers who rhetorically argue that vouchers are unfair to childless taxpayers are essentially arguing that childless taxpayers shouldn't be funding public education in the first place.

Why did pro-voucher PACs invest so much money into the campaigns of people willing to do their bidding? Was it help poor Utah children get a better education? Or was it to create lucrative business opportunities for themselves managing tax funded private schools which are not accountable to the taxpayers?

The bottom line here has nothing to do with whether vouchers are subsidies or not. The question is whether or not Uthans want to move toward total privatization of their public schools. Vouchers are the first step in that direction.

Offering the chance to help poor or disadvantaged children is extremely seductive to generous and compassionate Utahns. It's also a common scam tactic.

First of all, to consider educating children a "subsidy" instead of an "investment" is a prevalent way of thinking that sells short the "value" of children to our future. All of those "childless" people who complain about their tax dollars being used to educate "other people's children" forget that it is those same children who will "subsidize" their retirement and health care later in life. Years ago, children were considered "assets" instead of "liabilities." I prefer to look at children as an asset–especially well-educated children. There are many developed countries in the world today trying to figure out how to get their declining populations to begin growing again because of the economic realities of an aging population with no workers to provide for their retirement.

The pro-voucher pacs have many different motives, but I don't believe that "quality education for ALL children" is one of them. While some may erroneously believe that would happen with vouchers, I'm one who still believes that public education is the best way to secure our future and the future of all children.

Do an internet search for "Education Management Organizations" and you will find another motive for pro-voucher pacs. They have been compared to the HMO's of the future. We all know what those have done to help us with health care. Here's an interesting website: http://epsl.asu.edu/ceru/Documents/EPSL-0402-101-CERU.pdf

Many voucher proponents believe that the competition will improve schools. I believe that vouchers (which will lead to a privatization of education) will lead to a school system that will provide opportunity based on an individuals ability to pay. Those with more money will be able to pay more for better schools and those with no money will take whatever they can pay for with just the voucher. Thus a class differential. Scary thought.

Milwaukee seems to be the "model" for vouchers that is touted and held up by many of our legislators. But comparing Milwaukee to Utah is like comparing onions to oranges. First of all, Milwaukee is a large "inner city" school district that had reported graduation rates as low as 36-44%. Even now the reports are that those students on vouchers have only a 67% graduation rate. With schools that are failing students like that, vouchers were a desperate attempt to fix the problem. Utah schools are NOT failing. According to a recent Deseret News article, Utah has some of the highest graduation rates in the nation. That's in spite of large class sizes and low per pupil expenditures. We get the biggest bang for our buck of any state in the nation.

And for those who want "choice", we already have that in Utah through open enrollment, charters, home school, and private schools. The wealthy always have the most choice. Even with vouchers, the poorest students will still only have only one choice–the school that they can walk to or be bussed to–their local public school.

Anon #1,

Why did the UEA invest so much money into campaigns of people willing to do their bidding, which includes support of massive tax increases that would cripple Utah's economy, opposition to merit pay, differential pay, charters schools, and vouchers?

Anon #2,

Vouchers work in higher education (Pell Grants, GI Bill). They will work in K-12 as well.

You keep playing the "elitism card" but the voucher is means-tested which means The Rich won't get vouchers.

The 2007 version of the voucher bill, does not have any regulations on the Private Schools, except to have a norm reference test. The teachers do not have to be certified and highly qualified, the Private Schools do not have to accept all students, follow NCLB, or meet AYP. Why does the State feel it neccessary to fund a second education system? We have education choice in Utah, District Schools, Charter Schools, Private Schools, and Home School, some you have to pay for and some your taxes pay for. Many Private Schools already offer scholorships for their "poorer" students, why are the poor of the state not flocking to them now?

Pell Grants, Medi-caid/care, Food Stamps, and Heating Assistance all have regulations and hoops to jump through, many more then the 2007 voucher bill is requiring of voucher students and Private Schools who accept them.

University professors do not need to be certified, and universities do not have to worry about AYP/NCLP. Nevertheless, Pell Grants can be used at universities.

Have you wondered why K-12 is so heavily regulated, but higher education is not? It's because higher education -- at least compared to K-12 -- is largely self-regulating. K-12 is a monopoly and needs to be externally regulated. With more choice and competition, K-12 will eventually become more self-regulating and the need for external regulation will be less.

To teach calculus to high school teachers, the teacher must be certified. To teach calculus to the same student one year later at a university, the professor does not need to certified.

Using the university system as an example in this state is laughable. With very few exceptions, Westminster, BYU, U of Phoenix, maybe a few others, the university system is a State system and the only real competition comes in what degrees are offered.

You missed the point, to receive a Pell Grant you have to do more then just be "poor", there are regulations that have to be followed.

Free and free from religion K-12 Education in Utah is guarenteed by the State Constitution, college or university education is not.

Laughable? It's only a state system if you dismiss the largest university in the state (BYU) and several small ones.

But even if you dismiss these private universities, there is still competition between the public universities. The U. competes against USU as well as other public and private universities throughout the country. SLCC and UVSC compete. And so on.

Pell Grants are less restrictive than the proposed vouchers. Pell Grants are routinely spent on non-educational expenses.

Your constitutional entitlement argument actually works in favor of vouchers for K-12 more than for vouchers for universities. Since universities are not an entitlement, the justification for university vouchers is less than the justification for K-12 vouchers.

The difference between K-12 and University education is that K-12 is required to be provided by the State and the students have to attend a form of school(district, charter, private or home), at least until 10th grade or they take a GED. University education is optional and the student is paying for a great deal of it. Not all K-12 students will go on to a college or university, some will end up in a vocational or apprentice program and some will fill the neccessary uneducated jobs.

I have yet to see a study that says that the poor of Midvale, Kearns, Magna, Provo, Ogden, Roy, or even St. George will be able to take advantage of the vouchers. These vouchers do not cover the costs of the Private School education. Even if it did cover all the tuition there are many other costs that are not covered, uniforms, books, lunch, and the big one transportation. Then there are the volunteer hours that are mandatory.

The bill does not address the fact that there will be some "fly by night" schools that will open just to take the money and then not educate the students and disappear one night. This has happened in other states that have tried vouchers with very little regulation. Even with quarterly payments, if there are enough students conned into enrolling that could be a great deal of money for any one person. If they get $750 a quarter per "poor" student and a school that opens just to cater to the "poor" could have 600 "poor" students and make $450,000 a quarter.

Clearly K-12 and universities are not identical (otherwise we wouldn't have separate names for them), but the differences are not relevant to the question: will choice and competition work. If we were to segment the private sector by industry, we would find a lot of differences between industries, but choice and competition work.

In addition to vouchers, low income students will have access to private grants from Children First Utah. Many of the private schools also offer financial assistance.

Yep, I guess it's a good thing fraud doesn't exist in public school districts like Davis and Weber.

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