Monday, June 30, 2008

back-door vouchers?

Utahns from every county voted down vouchers, and the overall vote was overwhelming against vouchers. Yet the legislature seems to have found another way to resurect this zombie policy idea.
As the Carson Smith Special Needs Scholarship program continues to grow, seven more private schools have become eligible to accept students using the scholarship for the 2008-09 school year.
The Carson Smith Special Needs Scholarship, which was signed into law by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. in 2005, provides a state-funded voucher to K-12 students with disabilities.

In the 2007-08 school year, 514 students received Carson Smith Scholarships. This number continues to increase every year as more parents of children with disabilities learn that education options exist to meet their children's unique needs, PCE officials say.
Kristi Saunders, PCE's Carson Smith outreach coordinator, helps parents and schools navigate the application process. "As a mother of a special needs child, it's rewarding to see parents ecstatic because their children's needs are being met, thanks to the Carson Smith scholarship," Saunders said.

Parents can apply for the a scholarship throughout the school year, but to receive the full amount for the 2008-09 school year, applications must be submitted by Tuesday.

For information, contact PCE at 532-1448 or go to
So the group that bankrolled the pro-voucher movement, giving money campaign contributions to legislators and funding for TV ads and mailers in favor of vouchers last year basically wrote this article about the Carson Smith vouchers scholarships. The whole thing reminds me of Creationism and the debate over evolution, or privatizing Social Security. The anti-evolution groups would keep changing the name of what they were proposing, but the idea was the same. Ditto for those who wanted to phase out Social Security with a privately-funded version.

Sure, these "scholarships" might be limited to those who can recieve them. But the idea--that public education can be phased out in favor of cutting parents a check for them to purchase education in a private marketplace--remains the same. Even that the same characters are pushing the "scholarship" as a sucess story as were pushing for state-wide universal vouchers, we should expect that PCE and their allies in the legislature will point to these scholarship students as proof that vouchers "work." They will then revive the issue with Utah voters.

All of which is fine, but I think the public needs to be aware that something they disapprove of is being done in an essentially "pilot" fashion and will be brought up again and again.

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