Monday, July 16, 2007

SPED vouchers don't necessarily work either

Isn't the definition of fiscal conservatism and small government not spending money on new government programs without at least being able to know if the money is being put to good use? Utah has one of the highest rate of overall taxes and fees of any state, yet our public education is not making as much progress as we would like. Maybe it is because we are wasting some education money on ideologically appealing funding rather than reality-based funding.
As Utahns prepare to vote on whether private school tuition vouchers should be made available to all students, the state's special-needs voucher program has quietly expanded. The two-year-old program has grown threefold since its inception, but demand has yet to outpace available funds.
A legislative audit of the program, which could spend as much as $2.4 million on more than 400 students this year, should begin this fall. But because Utah doesn't track the achievement of voucher recipients, the report likely will focus largely on participation.
Utah['s SPED voucher schools] do not have to provide any special services to students. They simply must explain their services to parents.
Voucher supporters say parents are most qualified to choose the best schools for their children.
But a lack of data can undermine their ability to make informed choices. A 2005 survey revealed many parents of Florida's [program, which is similar to Utah's] felt they didn't have enough accurate, comparable information to choose a school.
Plus, "parents sometimes insist on choosing poor-quality schools," noted the Education Sector report, citing several examples of schools that remained popular despite poor academic performance. "This suggests that accountability to parents alone is insufficient to protect the public interest or ensure taxpayer money is used well."

Your tax dollars at work. I guess they would rather go to a Jazz game on a lobbyist dime than draft a bill to collect the necessary data and do the necessary oversight.

1 comment:

Jesse Harris said...

You can get a surprising amount of data from the US Department of Education's NCES. Still, increased transparency concerning academic performance would help a lot in achieving better clarity on the whole voucher issue. I wonder if private schools would be willing to disclose their ITBS scores for comparison to public schools.