November 13, 2007

Utah voters reject statewide voucher program

Source: NYSUT News Wire

Voters in Utah overwhelmingly rejected a sweeping statewide voucher program that would have used public money to pay for the private-school education of children, regardless of their family's wealth.

The plan - which depending on a family's income would have provided between $500 and $3,000 for each child in private school - was rejected by 62 percent of Utah voters.
NYSUT Executive Vice President Alan Lubin said Americans would rather improve their public schools than spending scarce tax dollars on voucher programs.

"There is no conclusive evidence that vouchers improve the achievement of those students who use them to attend private school," Lubin said. "Nor is there any validity to claims that the competitive impact of vouchers will force public schools to improve. In fact, public schools have shown great success in districts where vouchers have never even been suggested."

The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers waged an aggressive battle against the initiative, educating the public on the adverse impact a statewide voucher system would have on Utah's public schools.

The Nov. 6 voucher referendum was the country's first since 2000, when voters in Michigan and California shot down proposals to publicly subsidize private schools in their respective states. Voucher proponents had viewed Utah as friendly territory, given the state's conservative electorate, Republican governor and GOP-controlled legislature. But in defeating the plan, Utah voters repeated an outcome that has now become commonplace. Since 1972, there have been 11 state voucher referendums - all rejected.