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Throwing kids together?

Kim Burningham is turning to the age-old canard of “diversity,” a common theme among voucher opponents. As he notes in yesterday’s Salt Lake Tribune, “We are best served by schools that throw children together. . . . One of our greatest faults as a society is that we have become fragmented. Separation is not to be encouraged.” While that theme is laudable, it’s hard to see how the school system he has overseen for 8 years fulfills that mandate.

According to the Civil Rights Project, a joint project of Harvard University and UCLA, Utah’s public schools are among the most racially segregated in the country. As the table below, extracted from page 22 of their 2006 report, “Racial Transformation and the Changing Nature of Segregation,” indicates, Utah public schools are more racially isolated than all of our neighboring states except Idaho. (And no one points to any state in the intermountain west as a bastion of racial integration.)

Percent of Students in Multiracial Schools by Race, 2003-04

%White in

%Black in

%Latino in

%Asian in

%American Indian in


Multiracial School

Multiracial School

Multiracial School

Multiracial School

Multiracial School































By this measure, Utah public schools are hardly “throwing students together,” to use Mr. Burningham’s phrase. Given the way public schools are designed to stratify along economic lines, that’s hardly a surprise. The wealthy and affluent people buy houses near each other, because they can, while the rest of the community lives in the nicest neighborhood they can afford. Then public schools mimic this economic segregation by using geographic boundaries to dictate who attends which schools.

Before the complaints are lodged, we’ll clarify. We support the wonderful work Utah public schools do. They do and always will educate the vast majority of Utah students, because most Utah families are very pleased with the hard work they perform. However, it is disingenuous at best for Mr. Burningham, or any representative of Utah public schools, to criticize vouchers on the grounds of segregation, diversity or some other racial codeword. Hard geographic boundaries like those used in public schools are hardly the model for achieving it.

We could tax tobacco and earmark the funds for government diversity programs.

Wow...you did a great job beating the snot out of the straw man argument you created here.

Burningham clearly didn't argue in that article that Vouchers will negatively affect racial diversity.

One of the big problems with the currently proposed voucher plan is that even the most generous vouchers don't even come close to covering full tuition at 90% of Utah's private schools. This means only those who are already reasonably wealthy will be able to take advantage of your proposed subsidies.

Burningham quote from the article: "If it would pay the entire amount to go to a private school, then maybe vouchers would help the poor," he says. "They'd like their voucher program to sound like it will help the poor afford private education, but it really won't."

Nice try UTA...Burningham was correctly criticizing short sightedness on the part of those who developed this program. He wasn't accusing voucher supporters of encouraging racial segregation.

Your defensiveness (and that of Rep Dougall in the article) on the topic of race isn't necessary in this case.

Beyond the fact that voucher schools have been shown to be more diverse than public schools serving the same neighborhoods, I'm most concerned by Mr. Burningham's unabashed allegiance to government coercion (aka "We are best served by schools that throw children together").

As a believer in federalism, limited government, and individual liberty, the idea that we need government to not just tell us where to send our kids to school, but to actually force us to send our kids to a certain school, makes my stomach turn and probably makes many of our Founding Fathers roll in their graves......violently.

To me, this is what's most telling and disturbing from the article about Mr. Burningham, and it adds credence to vouchers proponents' claim that for many members of the Education status quo, the issue isn't money; it's control.

When Utah has vouchers, the state will be limited in it's ability to "throw children together" and sadly, I think that scares Mr. Burningham (talk about no faith in freedom or parents for that matter).

My other big concern is Mr. Burningham's naivete concerning the public system that he's in charge of (with its 500,000+ students). What other major discrepancies exist between reality and what Mr. Burningham would like to believe is going on in the halls of our public schools? Now that's a scary thought.

Well said! Segregation by race was a practice that PUBLIC schools engaged in for a century. Schoolchildren can only be segregated by race when government has a monopoly on the schools and can order children which school to go to.

Why does the head of the Utah School Board think that Utahns are inherently racist and want to segregate their kids by race? Has he been reading the stupid propaganda by anti-Mormons who claim that the 1978 change in LDS Church policy has left some kind of residual racism in a church that has never had racially segregated congregations, that includes many of the Hispanics, Asians and Polynesians who have immigrated to Utah, most of whose members are outside the US and speak 70 different languages, including over a million in Mexico alone, and which sends its Utah sons and daughters and grandparents to recruit more Mormons in Africa and Haiti, Mongolia and Indonesia?

He is making a slanderous accusation against Utah parents, almost all of whom spent 12 years in the public schools he supervises, being taught racial and religious tolerance! Are the public schools so ineffective in teaching equality that they have produced a new generation of racial bigots? Why should we preserve such an incompetent system of education?



Strawman argument? We are simply pointing out that, despite Burningham's claims, public schools are segregated (especially elementary schools).

Moreover, voucher opponents have been playing the race card in recent months.

Coupled with financial assistance from private schools themselves and private organizations, vouchers will be sufficient to cover tuition. If not, then the Legislature will simply increase the voucher amount. Easy fix.

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