Are All Pro-Voucher Arguments this.....well, bad?

First of all, two disclaimers:

1 - I do not claim to be an expert on this voucher thing. I only know what I read and what my Dad tells me.
2 - I do not have children, and if I did I would definitely consider sending them to a private school...but I would not use vouchers, I would make the sacrifice, apply for the scholarships, and in other ways pay for my own choice.

That being said, I read the Op-Ed linked to above, and I think common sense can refute most of the arguments laid out in it. So, here we go:

First of all, the title Like to make your own choices? Vote for vouchers, makes me wonder at what point we weren't able to make our own choices for our childrens' education? Can you not home school your child, send them to charter schools, or even send them to private schools now? Indeed you can...vouchers are not suddenly going to give you choices: you already had them. Don't have the money to send your child to a private school? Apply for scholarships, work with the private schools to get better rates on tuition...there are options. Vouchers aren't really going to help with that much of the cost in the end anyway. According to the pro-voucher website UtahVouchers.com you can get between $500 and $3,000 per year...which hardly makes a dent in some private school tuition bills.

Next, "It's bad for public schools," they say. Why? Supposedly, because it will bankrupt them. But I say if the financial part of this bill could make it past the Utah Legislature, then I figure I don't need a degree in accounting to realize the money part will work out.
Common sense here is as simple as knowing that the Utah Legislature does not always know best. Most of them don't have degrees in accounting either, and they operate based on politics, not common sense. Anyone can see that by taking a look at what is accomplished in each legislative session in Utah.

Utah has a lot of kids. In fact, about one fourth of our population is school-aged children. And we all know we don't spend a lot of money per pupil. Generally, that's bad. So if a private school thinks they can do better, with even less money, then go for it. Isn't this a free-market economy?
First of all....we don't spend a lot of money per pupil. So why not give more funding to PUBLIC schools? Seems the obvious answer. Secondly, the idea of the free-market economy is not that it should run based on government dollars but private dollars. Also, the school system should never be run like the economy. If it was, the least privileged and most oppressed citizens would be left behind.

Private schools and charter schools work on the idea of providing a sound general education with perks -- maybe religious, maybe a focus on science or language, generally smaller class sizes. If you want to choose that for your child, I am willing to pay some tax dollars so it can happen.
Personally, I am willing to pay some tax dollars so that every child can get a quality education that isn't influenced by religious ideologies or by schools over which the government has no oversight. If we were to better fund our public education system, we could have smaller class sizes and improve instruction in science and language. I don't want my tax dollars to contribute to the religion you teach your child. Pay for that yourself.

"Your child could be taught by a teacher without certification, or even a college degree," they warn. Guess what? A good estimate in Utah is that your child will spend an entire educational year being taught by substitute teachers before they graduate from high school. Most substitutes do not have a certification, and technically they do not even need a college degree.
In talking with a teacher friend of mine yesterday in casual conversation, she stated that she wished substitute teachers didn't need to have a degree. That indicates to me that, in fact, substitute teachers are required to have degrees in most school districts. Also, one year (if in fact that is a reliable estimate of the number of days your child's public school teachers will not show up for class) of unqualified teaching is far better than 12.

"Average Utahns can't afford the difference in tuition," the ads intone. So what if tuition was $4,000 and you, according to the income guidelines, got $2,000 toward a private school you liked for your child. Is $2,000 a year too much to pay for your peace of mind? That comes down to $222 extra a month -- less than a car payment for many people.
Honestly, $4,000 a year isn't too much to ask for peace of mind, is it? If you can't afford $335 a month, apply for scholarships or loans. People do it all the time.

We also need to realize this has, quietly, becomes a national battle. It is sort of pitting the teachers' associations (anti-voucher) against the pro-voucher people. Many other states are looking to Utah to see what will happen. Does the teacher's union have enough power to dictate your choices to you? I hope not. Besides, if the unhappy parents decided to take their children and leave the public schools, the teachers should be even happier.
The teacher's union has never dictated my choices, the choices of my parents, or your choices. We do not live in a country where we are helpless about everything from what we eat and wear to where we live and where our children go to school. This author loves to play the helpless card, but I'm sure she simultaneously believes in the American Dream...the idea that if you really want something, you pull yourself up by your bootstraps and go get it. No government handouts required.

That's perhaps the most perplexing part of this whole argument. Most of the people arguing for vouchers call themselves conservatives. Traditionally, conservatives have been against government handouts. So perhaps, on this issue, I come out on the conservative side. I believe that if you want to make the choice to send your child to a private school, that's your prerogative. That doesn't mean I should have to pay for it. It's a free market, you have choices, and I say go out and make them. More power to you. Meanwhile, without children of my own, I'm happy to have my tax dollars go to a school system that, while sometimes broken and less than stellar, still serves ALL children, regardless of who their parents are or what they believe. That's the true American dream.


Conserve Water and Taxpayer Money

I've been saying it for a long time, but it's nice to finally have an "official" opinion on water problems in Southern Utah. Read more by clicking the title above.


An Honorable Distinction?

Davis County has recently received the honorable distinction of being the county that is ranked first in the entire United States for homes with 4 bedrooms or more.

Of course, to those of us who have witnessed the explosive growth and encroachment of Davis County suburbs, this comes as no surprise. Huge McMansions are crammed together on what was once open farmland, coming closer and closer to the important wetlands of the Great Salt Lake.

Sure, Utah families are some of the largest in the nation, but according to the article "In much of the country, the growth in big houses is fueled by suburban homebuyers seeking luxury, rather than big families needing space." I wonder if this is true in Utah? I have only one personal example:

My sister and her husband are currently on home #3 in Davis County with four or more bedrooms. They have made a habit of building large homes, staying a few years, selling, and building an even larger home somewhere else. This for their family of 4. Certainly they do not have a need for 4 plus bedrooms. I wonder how many other families are following the same path?

The McMansion trend is destructive not only environmentally but in terms of building communities. They are thrown up haphazardly with little thought for infrastructure, they encourage isolation by their design, and they suck up energy and water in a West that is struggling for both.


Post 100----Thoughts on Extremism

In recent weeks, I have noticed two protests from opposite ends of the political spectrum that make me feel exceptionally moderate, and I've been meaning to address:

1) From the extreme liberal end:

Loch Wade, a resident of the small town of Boulder, Utah, insisted recently that The Nature Conservancy return a donation from the controversial EnergySolutions Foundation.

Conspiracy-theories aside, there is no logical reason that The Nature Conservancy, or any other non-profit, should be censoring donors according to what they believe, do, or practice. Consider the slippery slope down which this censoring would lead...soon, non-profits would not be able to accept donations from any corporations, or even individuals with political persuasions that are opposed to the "purists"...no Republicans allowed!

We cannot let our own "pure" beliefs about something stop important work from being done. I have seen this countless times from extremists, but one example comes to mind: I used to be a subscriber to Mother Earth News, the bible of hippy enviros everywhere. One issue had a particularly maddening letter to the editor, in which the writer blasted the magazine for using a celebrity to discuss environmental issues, claiming that this celebrity was not doing it "for the right reasons." What is this elitist "you can't help because you aren't doing it for the right reasons" view going to do to actually solve the problems we are faced with? We cannot judge the person or company that wants to help, or we will never do the important work that needs to be done.

2) From the extreme Conservative end:

The Bountiful PTA wrote a letter condemning the national PTA magazine for running an ad purchased by PFLAG that advertises a scholarship they offer. They claimed that running such an ad means the national PTA is supportive of alternative lifestyles and went further to say something about these alternative lifestyles not being based in science.

First of all, PFLAG is "Parents, Friends, and Family of Gays and Lesbians"...read: not gays and lesbians, but people who know and love them. These are straight people! Secondly, they are advertising a scholarship, not an alternative lifestyle. The truth is that there are kids out there, even in Bountiful, that are "gasp" GAY! and could use not only a scholarship, but compassion. The Bountiful PTA seems to be sadly lacking in the latter.

Furthermore, why this sudden obsession with science? It seems these people are fair-weather friends of science...only when they think it's useful will they use it, but their use of it in this case is ludicrous, false, and....well, not based in ACTUAL science. Last I recall, science was being thrown out the window in favor of "intelligent" design.

And finally, the same argument applies here as with the EnergySolutions/Nature Conservancy example...why should the national PTA turn away groups that are willing to purchase advertising space in a magazine that is an important part of an important organization trying to accomplish important things? Particularly if said ad is focused on helping our children, of all backgrounds and persuasions, continue their educations and grow as citizens?

On another note, HURRAY for Post #100!



Do you think anyone will get fired over this?


I heart Carolyn Tanner Irish

Our family has a Christmas tradition of visiting "other" churches on Christmas Eve to observe their traditions and worship styles. It has been a very enriching experience over the years, and quite eye-opening when I was a young Mormon girl being taught that my church was the only true church.
I am not religious anymore, but the tradition still stands. This past Christmas, I wanted to be sure and visit a church that leaned more toward acceptance, inclusion, and even blessing of gays and lesbians. I attend the Unitarian Church occasionally during the year, and they certainly are inclusive, but sometimes I truly crave the words and hymns of the devout: the people who are not afraid to say Jesus in their hymns. So we (myself, my Father, and my youngest sister) went to the Episcopal Church this year. It was quite beautiful: the hymns were fast-paced and exhilirating (not like the slow LDS hymns of my youth). The sermon, given by the Right Reverend Carolyn Tanner Irish, was thoughtful, inspiring, and uplifting.
But I am still not religious. This weekend, I visited my sister in San Diego. She has labeled herself agnostic for several years now. I didn't know how to feel about this, because I don't know how I feel myself. But this weekend she told me that she believes there must be a God, though not the God of our youth or the one we were told to believe in. There are too many things in her life, she says, that are good and happen for no other reason. I was glad to hear it: of anyone I know, she is the one that most needs a center to ground all her amazing energy and drive.
But what of me and my center? I have been watching the laboring of the Episcopal Church in regard to Gays and Lesbians, hoping that I might find a place where I can go to investigate my Christianity while being fully accepted and loved for who I am. I was disappointed with the national church's leaning away from full inclusion of GLBT people.
But Rev. Irish has been a bastian of tolerance in a state where little is to be found. She and other open-minded supporters have proved to be little islands to which my sanity can cling when I think I have chosen to live in a state where who I am is not only not okay, but downright wrong. It is especially relieving to see this fair-mindedness after the dark days of the Utah Legislature.
Thank you, Reverend....and God Bless You.