Monday, November 26, 2007

"I'm Not Dead Yet!" : Utah Voucher Update

Okay, the Monty Python reference was cheap, but I decided to go for it it appears, the Utah vouchers are NOT dead yet.

Paul Rolly of the Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that the Utah legislature is considering starting a Corporate Tax Credit (CTC) scholarship program following the defeat of voucher legislation that would have created a universal voucher program in the state.

We have seen this happen before in Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Minnesota. At one point, these states all had voucher legislation on the table, but when the legislation was defeated, the states came back with CTC scholarship programs. And they won.

So what are the chances that this program will pass? When asking yourself that important question, here are some facts to consider:

1.) This campaign will be different. First of all, let's remember that the original voucher legislation passed in the House and Senate and was signed into law by the governor. Then, and only then, was it defeated in a voter referendum. The proposed CTC scholarship program will likely never go to a voter referendum, so instead of convincing everyday citizens, the school choice movement will have to focus their efforts on people in power.

2.) The November 6th vote will have a major effect. School choice suffered a major defeat in the voter referendum - a defeat which could alter the outcome of this (possible) legislation in two ways. On the one hand, the voucher defeat could motivate Utahn legislators who support school choice to re-commit themselves to the cause and ensure that the CTC program is passed and protected.. On the other hand, a 60/40 vote against the voucher program is difficult for legislators to ignore. Well, it's difficult for legislators who want to please their constituents to ignore. Granted, the CTC program is not a voucher program, but polls show that the general public is not very well informed on school choice programs; therefore, the nuances of vouchers vs. CTC just might be too much for them.

3.) The NEA still has lobbyists. Tying in to the fact that the general public is uninformed about school choice programs, we must expect that the NEA will vilify the CTC program as an underhanded way to get vouchers into Utah. Not that I'm trying to give them any ideas; I'm sure they're already thinking that. So the school choice side must be prepared with a strong strategy to educate our legislators about the benefits of the CTC program and how it differs from vouchers.

I'm sure I missed a few points there, so please chime in.

Tomorrow I'll take a deeper look at the history of CTC scholarship program legislation in Arizona, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania to explain how Utah can move forward. I'll also ask the more philosophical question: Should CTC scholarships be accepted as a "consolation prize" after the defeat of a voucher program?

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