06 November 2007

The Voucher Issue

I know; the gripping title has you welded to your seat.

Actually, if you live in Utah and happen to be reading this at about the time of it's authorship, the mention of the word voucher was probably enough to stop you. The issue of vouchers has been a red-hot topic in political discussions for a number of years and it seems to have come to a head in just the last few weeks. There was even one official that sent a memo to her staff saying that she felt that those people who were pro-vouchers were led by Satan. Wow.

The vote was tonight. The polls have already closed, but I wanted to give my two cents here before biasing my opinion with the final results. So, I have purposely refrained from looking at them.

Before I tell you my position I want to make a couple of things clear:

First, I am a registered Republican, and I am what one would consider a "values voter" to some extent. From this standpoint, I am a pretty average Utah citizen. Utah has often been stamped as the reddest state in America, so I am one of many. In general, I think that I am a Republican because I believe in free markets, small and local governments, fiscal responsibility, and personal choice. However, I may be a Republican just because everyone else is a Republican around here. :)

Second, the public school system has been very good to me in preparing me for college, which then led me to success in the workforce. I think that a good education (which obviously comes from many more arenas than just the classroom) is invaluable. This also makes me the average Utahn since education is always one of the biggest issues on the table; we have more kids per household than any other state and our average age is much lower.

Starting from the second point first, I believe that I was very lucky to fit into the public school mold. My parents never had to consider a private school. While they did place me in the I.B. program at West High, my high school experience was pretty average. Because I fit the mold very well, I excelled very easily, almost effortlessly. I have one of my tutor students who was not so lucky. He struggled with math. Sadly, the school had so many students in each classroom that it was obvious that even the best teacher wasn't going to be able to help every student. His parents turned to a private school, and he quickly made great strides forward. Was the public school doing anything wrong? No! Of course, this young man just needed specialized attention, which couldn't be given with so many other students to educate.

Now, the first point. Here is why I like the free market and personal choice: The free market enables me to enter the arena as a small business owner. I would like to ask the question of the small business owners out there: How quickly do you adjust to your customers' needs? How capable are you of meeting your customers' needs? If you don't address your customers' needs? Better be fast. Better be capable. Or you're going out of business.

Here is why I like small government: Big entities have to provide generic solutions while small entities can be more flexible. Consider an ocean liner vs. a motorboat. The ocean liner can carry more people, but they better all be going to the same destination and heaven forbid they need to turn around or dodge a bullet! The motorboat carries fewer people, but it can maneuver around its problems easily.

Here is why I like fiscal responsibility: Ask any lottery winner how quickly they went bankrupt, and three out of five will tell you within a year! Why? Because they didn't earn their money! The more money someone is given without effort on their part, the less effort is put forward.

Great. Now with all of that, I state a truth which I hold to be self-evident: Giving my kids a knock-out education is invaluable. I will do whatever I can to make sure that my kids are given the appropriate opportunities to excel. I recognize that all of my children won't be as lucky as I was. Some of them may need tutors, private schooling, charter schooling, home schooling, etc. I think that our Utah teachers do a fantastic job, and so I don't feel bad in saying that public school is simply not the "one-stop-shop" for education. I think that we all would like to see our kids go to the school that is most suited for their needs, and I think that we can afford it.

My family just got home, so I am out of time. I voted in favor of the vouchers to both give families the opportunity to get their child into the school where they can excel and to encourage more competition (read: free market) in the school system. Generally, I am surprised that so many Republicans are against the voucher program when the very idea of public schools is socialist as opposed to free market. Many of them say that we are taking money away from public schools, and I say that they are absolutely right. It is incorrect to suppose that social education can be the solution for every student. Diverting some of that money that is no longer being used on that pupil in the public school system into the hands of a private school so they can better address that individual's needs is focusing on the individual student and not a system that was never designed to meet his needs.