Thursday, November 8, 2007

Post Voucher-Vote Concerns and Optimism

So the ugly campaign is over. The lies and distortions will hopefully be but a fading memory. What I'm concerned about is retaliation by the legislature against public education and against teachers in particular. Reading Steve Urquhart's blog, I feel atleast some optimism that this issue will not result in a decimation of teacher salaries and benefits and to a decision to take money from schools and redirect them to other priorities.

We as citizens made a statement that I think was pretty loud and clear, that we value our public schools, and don't want our hard-earned tax dollars going to private schools. But I also hope that a concern for public education resonates with the public in general, to be willing to make a commitment to be a partner in the process, not just a bystander.

For those of us in the private sector, we can ask ourselves, does our local schools have needs that we can help meet? Can we partner with schools for mutual benefit? And to the public education establishment, we should also ask hard questions to ensure that we are getting our money's worth out of the heavy tax burden our child/heavy population demands.

The vote on Tuesday shows that to Utahns, public education matters. Let's back that opinion with commitment. Let's back that commitment with respect for the many teachers who deserve it. Let's look as objectively as possible at legislation that seeks to reform public education for the better. But let us also hold legislators accountable if their legislation appears punitive. Our children are too important to be pawns in a political struggle and I for one am committed to let legislators know, that I am watching. But I'm also encouraging as well. We all have a stake in having the best public education possible. We should all commit to help make that happen.


rmwarnick said...

I think this referendum campaign was about democracy as much as education. Too much democracy for our unaccountable one-party legislature. I expect them to do something to squelch future referendums.

Barbara said...

Rep. John Dougall makes some proposals on his blog at Its a jumping off place for further discussion. What do you think of his recommendations?

steve u. said...

People's motivations are as different as people. But, I believe that most people who opposed vouchers did so because they thought that was best for the education of our children (not the base motivations some voucher backers suggested). You might want to consider whether such a belief is appropriate pointed in the other direction. If that is the case -- both sides simply and sincerely disagreeing on what is best for the education of our children -- "retribution" concerns don't rise significantly above a suggestion that voucher backers are crummy people.

Obi wan liberali said...

Richard, if the legislature tries to squelch future referendums, I suspect even our one-party legislature will take hits for that. After the voucher vote, I think that would be a politically disastrous move.

Barbara, I went to Rep. Dougall's site and read his suggestions. The subject of merit pay is a difficult one in any business. For school teachers, it could really get difficult. If you teach at risk kids and progress is minimal, how do you compare that to the progress that an AP Math teacher who has kids who are highly motivated and preparing themselves for college. Teachers rightly fear that politics will creep into merit pay considerations. I'd have to evaluate specific proposals in order to feel comfortable with that direction.

Testing of teachers is something I've generally been favorable to. Teachers should know their subject matter well, and I do know there are teachers who get into the profession to coach sports who also end up teaching math, science or some other field. Better subject certification and continuing education requirements can certainly be looked at.

Steve, you know as well as anyone that during the heat of battle, it is natural to assume the worst of those who oppose your position. I'm guilty of that as well.

I hope you are right that retribution concerns are unfounded and that your fellow legislator's motives are pure regarding public education. There was much acrimony between some legislators and the State Board of Education and I hope that both parties can accomodate a truce and a commitment to work together to improve public education. In fearing retribution, I don't see that fear coming from a belief that legislators are crummy people, only people who may have pride, like everyone else, and may perceive that teachers and educators thumbed their noses at them. This was a contentious issue with alot of strong feelings. I just hope that feelings don't translate into punitive legislation. Atleast, that is my hope.

steve u. said...

Well said.

My concern -- which I think is equally as valid as concerns over retribution -- is that ANY attempt to do anything the Union dislikes (which translates to be just about anything regarding increased accountability) will simply be branded as retribution.

just-commenting said...

I believe that many backers of vouchers are sincere and think such a program would indeed help some students, and Mr U sounds reasonable and rational in these statements on this site. However there are a number of our legislators (think "Buttarsosaurus" and a few others) who are fanatical, irrational, idealogues with a warped sense of decency and who are apparently incapable of looking at both sides of any issue. Some are at the beck and call of the Eagle Forum and have always looked into the gallery for the cue from Gayle Ruzicka before voting on anything.

Many of us fear not only retribution, cleverly disguised in positive terms, but also subterfuge to bring the whole thing back in a different form. There is no doubt that there are many of them who will refuse to accept the will of the people, and they will justify their devious moves in their own mind by continuing to tell themselves that the voucher opponents failed the IQ test and didn't understand what they voted for.

I fear that despite the overwhelming numbers of the populace that voted against vouchers, we have not seen the last of the legislature's attempt to turn their collective back on public education and funnel tax money into supporting those who will indoctrinate our young people to think as they do.

Perhaps not in 2008, but vouchers will be back. As we see from the sour grapes of Mr Byrnes, idealogues do not give up that easily. I see plenty of problems in our public schools, but they are our best hope, and despite the flaws, they generally do a very good job with what they have to work with (meaning not only funding, but also the students who come). Because of many societal problems, which I will not get into at this time, the teachers are often trying to make a silk purse of a sow's ear, and often do quite well in their attempt.

The ways to fix it are something for another time, but the people have spoken, and their collective wisdom is clear: The voucher program is not the answer.

just-commenting said...

Just an update. We have already seen both of the feared and anticipated problems surface(namely retribution and subterfuge with refusal to follow the will of the people).

The idea of blantantly politicizing the state school board and increasing its size in order to pack it with toadies of the right-wing lunatic fringe is nothing more than sour grapes retribution.

The intent to create tax credits for attending private schools is clear subversion and arrogant refusal to accept the results of the election with an attempt to accomplish exactly the same lining of their pockets and control of the schools as the plan that the citizens of the state rejected.

The legislature may have a nice website (created by capable state employees and not the legislators, although it did slip by some of them who are probably alarmed at the open access to information that they would rather conceal) they continue to follow a downward path as they continue to show a selfish and arrogant disregard for the people that they are sworn to serve. A few of them are fine people, but most appear to have the attitude of daring us to maintain any respect for them.