|Back to December Ed Reporter|
|NUMBER 263||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||DECEMBER 2007|
|Vouchers Defeated in Utah|
What would have been the nation's most comprehensive school voucher program was defeated at the hands of Utah voters in November. The program offered a private school tuition voucher of between $500 and $3,000, depending on family income, to every Utah student not already attending private school. (See Education Reporter, March and July, 2007)
Republican legislators, with the support of Gov. John Huntsman, were largely responsible for passing the bill instating the program earlier this year. The Utah Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, led the charge against the measure, beginning with a petition effort to bring the question to a referendum in November.
The eight months leading up to the referendum saw millions of dollars spent on radio and television spots both for and against school vouchers. Opponents of the program claimed it was full of loopholes and would harm public schools. Supporters urged the need for vouchers to improve educational options for all students. In the end, 62% of Utah voters voted against the plan.
Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.com and the biggest donor to the pro-voucher effort, expressed frustration at the outcome. "I'm ashamed of Utah that this could even be a close vote. This is parents looking at their kids getting a third-rate education and other kids getting basically a death sentence, and saying, 'That's OK by me,'" he said.
Doug Holmes, chairman of Parents for Choice in Education, pointed to a bright side in the campaign's results. "People have started to really engage in a dialogue about education reform," he said. "We are going to work to keep building that momentum." Republican leaders said they would "take a time out" on any school choice measures in 2008. (Deseret Morning News, 11-7-07)