Side Effects of Utah’s Voucher Program

October 17, 2007 | 77 comments
By

I haven’t been watching this issue very closely, but if I understand correctly, the voucher program (assuming it survives the November ballot) provides vouchers for homeschoolers in low income families in the neighborhood of 2-3,000 per year per child. (And: vouchers for all of this year’s kindergarteners who are homeschooled regardless of family income. I presume that would apply to future year’s K’ers as well.) And they seem fairly liberal in their definition of low income: one chart I saw put it at an AGI of 49K for a family of 6. Given the low AGI of many Mormons, what with all those kids and that huge mortgage, I imagine that there are lots and lots of families in Utah with four school-aged kids and an AGI under 50K. What that means is that mothers looking for a way to generate income for the family can now homeschool their kids and (assuming they spend about 1K on homeschooling, which is generous for four kids) net 7-11K per year. They won’t have to pay taxes on it and may or may not pay tithing on it. Not a bad deal. No guilt feelings about “working,” more time with the family–sounds like something that many LDS women could get behind.

Will this happen on a wide scale? Would it be a good thing? I don’t know. I’m all for there being more homeschoolers because that means more opportunities for all homeschoolers, but I do see some pitfalls here.

First, those who homeschool for strictly pecuniary reasons (or, if homeschooling becomes very common in Utah, for reasons of social/religious/cultural pressure) are likely to do a crummy job and end up raining down restrictive legislation on the heads of the rest of us.

Secondly, if homeschooling becomes something that “good” Utah Mormon women do–either out of devotion to their children or a desire to supplement the family budget without working outside the home–I think we’re in for a heap of trouble. The potential for homeschooling to become a Mormon cultural mandate or a barometer of righteousness is something to be avoided at all costs (You can just see it, can’t you: “Well, you wouldn’t have to work away from your home or send your children to that mediocre school if you homeschooled them!”)

At the same time, while I’d never willingly move to Utah (NB: That wasn’t a jab at Utah Mormons–that was an expression of personal preference. When you get Half Price Books, an Ethiopian restaurant, and a theological library as good as the Austin Presby Theological Seminary‘s, then I’ll think about moving to Utah), I am salivating a little at the thought of what my homeschool would look like with a budget in the thousands instead of in the hundreds. Holy imported books, educational games, and weekly maid service, Batman!

Tags: ,

77 Responses to Side Effects of Utah’s Voucher Program

  1. Adam on October 17, 2007 at 10:46 pm

    I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure homeschoolers don’t qualify to receive the voucher. The vouchers are for private schooling.

  2. mmiles on October 17, 2007 at 10:50 pm

    Julie,
    In California you can homeschool through a charter school. The charter school does not have to have a school site, so really the homeschool charter is a group of parents who are overseen by a teacher for state testing, etc, (the downside). The upside is that you get $1,800 per child per year. You can use this money for special classes, books, music lessons, sports, etc.

  3. Mark B. on October 17, 2007 at 10:51 pm

    Just a minor note. Adjusted gross income is calculated without reference either to personal exemptions or itemized deductions–so the number of children and the size of the mortgage won’t affect AGI.

  4. mmiles on October 17, 2007 at 10:52 pm

    Side note-I love Ethiopian food too! Our landlord in grad school was Ethiopian. He knew all the best places in DC and we often went to their parties (we lived in his basement).

  5. Ray on October 17, 2007 at 10:53 pm

    As a teacher and an educator and someone who has both good and bad examples of home schooling in his extended family, I think this is a terrible idea. To pay parents substantially more than it costs to home school, particularly low-income parents, is not well-considered. Perhaps there is an argument that can be made that the average low-income American Mormon parents include a mother who is better educated and dedicated to education – and, therefore, more capable of providing a good (or at least decent) education for her children than the average low-income non-Mormon parenting situation, but that’s a legal argument I would not want to have to make. Without that argument (actually, even with it), the established wisdom would blanch (actually, retch is a better description) at the thought of incentivizing home schooling among the low-income population of the country.

  6. mmiles on October 17, 2007 at 10:57 pm

    Ray,
    A recent study showed that home schooling is actually a socio-economic equalizer, even if the parents are poor and not well educated.

  7. Sara R on October 17, 2007 at 10:59 pm

    From Utah Voucher Program FAQ

    “3. Can I use a voucher to pay for homeschooling costs?

    “The vouchers created by the Parental Choice Voucher Program can only be used to pay for tuition costs at a participating private school.”

  8. Carl Youngblood on October 17, 2007 at 11:02 pm

    I don’t think anything could really convince most LDS people I know to homeschool. I applaud the idea, but I can think of no culture that is more concerned about conforming and making sure they fit into the mainstream than ours, and as great as it may be, most people still think it’s too far out in left field to seriously consider. I don’t think financial incentives will change this.

  9. mmiles on October 17, 2007 at 11:06 pm

    How does it work with private schools in Utah? In CA parents can simply file a paper with the state each year that makes them a private school. If we had the same voucher program, then parents could ostensibly be a participating private school, and thus recieve funds.

  10. Julie M. Smith on October 17, 2007 at 11:08 pm

    Adam, et al, according to this site, you can use the vouchers for homeschooling:

    http://www.utahvouchers.com/questions.html

    As I said, I haven’t been keeping up on this issue and maybe my info is wrong.

    Mark B., thanks for the correction on AGI.

    Ray, what you write makes logical sense, but with one caveat: as mmiles says, it is (counterintuitively) true that children from low-income families will do better homeschooling than they would in school. I.e., homeschooling does a better job of correcting for family income/education disparities than public schools do. However, the current low income and/or low education parents choosing to homeschool are not doing it for financial reasons, so it is possible that the voucher program may in fact have the result that you fear if it brings into the hsing population people doing it strictly for financial reasons. Or maybe not.

  11. Ray on October 17, 2007 at 11:08 pm

    mmiles, I would like to see the demographics of those who were the basis for the study. Currently, home schoolers are at least comprised of those who care enough to do it at their own cost. Take away that qualifier, and do you really think the evaluations would be the same?

    Are there any other requirements attached to this proposal? Are there any restrictions on what would constitute an appropriate home schooling curriculum? Are there any requirements as to attendance or minimum study time or periodic testing? Seriously, could a welfare-receiving, single mother with 6 children from 5 different fathers receive these payments? Would the payments be in addition to the welfare payments? Are there any measures to ensure the money will be spent on legitimate educational costs? Until those types of questions are answered, I simply can’t support it. I have seen WAY too many students who get absolutely no educational attention from their parents and are in school only because the government requires it. If there aren’t substantial reporting and accountability measures – like those being imposed on the public school systems, this is a train wreck waiting to happen.

  12. Julie M. Smith on October 17, 2007 at 11:12 pm

    Here’s the quote from the site I linked:

    “What about home schoolers?

    Currently, only home schoolers who also meet federal
    low-income guidelines qualify for a voucher. The
    exception would be if they have an eligible
    kindergartner for 2007-08. They would then qualify for
    that child, whatever their income.”

    Uh, Carl, you are familiar with our history of polygamy and thing about gold plates and knee-length shorts, aren’t you? Which is my way of saying that I don’t think Mormons value conformity with the larger culture nearly as much as you do.

    mmiles wins the prize for finding the loophole! According to HSLDA, in Utah, a group of parents can establish themselves as a private school with no attendence or record keeping or other requirements:

    http://www.hslda.org/laws/default.asp?State=UT

    In other words, every homeschooler in Utah can very, very easily become a private school and then easily take advantage of vouchers for private schoolers. (Unless the voucher legislation was specifically written to prohibit this.)

  13. Ray on October 17, 2007 at 11:34 pm

    “According to HSLDA, in Utah, a group of parents can establish themselves as a private school with no attendence or record keeping or other requirements.”

    So there is no accountability for how the funds are spent and the result they generate? Yeah, that seems eminently fair: bash the public schools for their inability to educate adequately mostly their low-income students, create extensive accountability measures to ensure they educate these kids properly, pay the parents of these kids to educate them on their own, allow those parents to do so without any of the conditions (correctly) imposed on the public schools. If I understand this correctly, I could take the money, spend it on whatever, not require my kids to attend any actual classes, etc. and not be held accountable for it? I could send my kids into jobs during school hours and claim to be educating them in their off time? I could spend the money on drugs, as long as I wasn’t caught? I know I’m creating a worst-case scenario, but are we really ready to allow that scenario?

    Also, are we willing to expand the State Education Department to the size that would be required to enforce accountability measures if they are imposed? Think about it: How many employees would it take to ensure that even 50,000 homes are complying with the requirements? Are we ready to let them into our homes to evaluate how we are doing with our children? If a parent is judged to be abusing the system, are we willing to punish that parent strongly enough to make it a real punishment? Low-income families are not likely to be able to pay fines, so is sending kids back into public schools going to be seen as a punishment? Do we jail these parents – or take away their children? Who defines abuse, as opposed to simple negligence, as opposed to simple ineptitude? If we do impose any reasonable accountability measures, the implications of enforcement are enormous and frightening.

  14. Jim D on October 17, 2007 at 11:35 pm

    Julie, while I support vouchers in general, the pro-voucher movement in Utah has stooped to some pretty low levels to get this passed. This appeal to home schoolers is another unfortunately another one of their misrepresentations.

    You can find the text of the bill at http://le.utah.gov/~2007/bills/hbillenr/hb0148.htm. If you look at Section 53A-1a-805(b)(3), you’ll read:

    “The following are not eligible to enroll scholarship students:
    184 (a) a school with an enrollment of fewer than 40 students;
    185 (b) a school that operates in a residence; or
    186 (c) a residential treatment facility licensed by the state.”

  15. Ray on October 17, 2007 at 11:41 pm

    Jim, I am too lazy to analyze the entire bill, so two quick questions:

    Could a group of home schooling parents join together with over 40 students, rent a shadow office as the basis of operations for their “school” and still teach their children in their homes?

    Are there specific standards or structural requirements that a “school” would have to meet to enroll these students?

  16. Melinda on October 17, 2007 at 11:42 pm

    I just looked at HB 174, which is the second homeschooling legislation that substantially superseded the first try (which was HB 148). According to the legislation, a private school is one that has at least 40 students, and does not meet in a residence. 53A-1a-805(3). The eligible private school also has to have its books examined by an auditor and administer standardized tests at least once a year. A private school has to submit an application to the Board to be recognized as a school whose students would be eligible for vouchers. The private school can be disqualified if it fails to have all its paperwork in order or fails to submit the proper affidavits.

    I didn’t see anything about an exception for low income homeschoolers. I didn’t read it with a fine-toothed comb, so maybe there’s a loophole somewhere. But that’s an awful lot of oversight for a group of homeschoolers, not to mention the expense of finding someplace besides a residence to hold classes.

  17. Julie M. Smith on October 17, 2007 at 11:43 pm

    Jim D., I’m not a lawyer or a politician, but I wonder what wiggling could be done with “a school that operates in a residence.” If there are no attendance hours requirement (and I don’t see that there is), then a group of parents can rent a small office, call that the school location (perhaps the students could visit the office once per year to drop off a portfolio), and do everything else at home.

    Not that I’m recommending that. As I made clear in the original post, and as Ray has elaborated on, this is a real can of worms that may end up hurting legit hsers in the long run even if it gives them some money in the short term. Although I, too, support vouchers in general, the devil always seems to be in the details.

  18. Melinda on October 17, 2007 at 11:45 pm

    Looks like Jim D and Ray posted ahead of me. Sorry for the duplication. But in addition to the financial auditor I mentioned, the private school has to have teachers who have at least a B.A. or other specialized training. So yes, the private schools do have some oversight in finances and teacher qualifications. They’re subject to inspection, too. The Board can also investigate complaints about private schools.

  19. Julie M. Smith on October 17, 2007 at 11:46 pm

    More seriously, what this program appears to allow (and which may or may not be a good thing) is the establishment of what are often called university model schools (meaning: like a university, students attend class maybe 15 hours per week and do the rest on their own) which may or may not then kick back part of the voucher to the parents, who would still have the child at home 2-3 days per week.

    Many people talk about homeschooling as the trend of the future; I think it is university model schools. But that’s a topic for another post.

  20. Ray on October 17, 2007 at 11:47 pm

    It’s funny what happens when like-minded people are typing simultaneously. I’m going to back off for a bit and stop doubling up on the same questions that others are asking. *grin*

  21. Melinda on October 17, 2007 at 11:51 pm

    Julie, #19. The amount of the scholarship can’t exceed the cost of the school’s tuition, whether or not the parent’s income and family size qualify the student for an amount that exceeds actual tuition cost. So a kickback shouldn’t be available.

  22. Ray on October 18, 2007 at 12:07 am

    A school can set it’s tuition at whatever level it thinks the market will bear. (Sorry, I know I said I’d bow out for a bit, but this is one that I feel I need to address.) If a group gets together and incorporates a new school, the tuition would be exactly the maximum the scholarship provides. Who in their right mind would set it lower?

  23. Ray on October 18, 2007 at 12:08 am

    its, not it’s. I’m too tired, obviously.

  24. Amira on October 18, 2007 at 12:10 am

    The website you link to, Julie, is the only place I’ve seen that indicates that homeschoolers could assuredly use the vouchers. Everything else I’ve seen says that homeschoolers are not eligible, and I’ve been following this issue pretty closely. I would be extremely surprised if this actually applies to existing Utah homeschoolers. The homeschoolers in Utah that I know (including me) are not expecting vouchers to affect us financially in any way.

    What’s more, I do think it would be a bad idea even though I’d love a little extra money. But I don’t think it would become a problem, just as there isn’t a rush to foster in states that give a reasonable amount of money to foster famililes. There’s too much work involved in homeschooling to say it’s easy money.

  25. Sarah on October 18, 2007 at 12:12 am

    If a state offered me money to homeschool, I hope I’d be strong enough to say “no.” If people in my state wanted me to help them campaign for a payment from the state, I know I’d be able to say “no.” The only thing that follows government money is control and inflated costs — if homeschoolers get thousands of dollars per kid per year, they’re going to find themselves filling out dozens of pages of paperwork, forced to admit social workers into their homes without any kind of reasonable suspicion or judicial process required, and as a bonus, everything from museums to index cards will cost more. Never mind possible implications for Mormons in the future: it’s a bad idea for all homeschoolers. Look at what’s happened in higher education in the fifty or so years since the federal government became its single largest source of funds.

  26. Julie M. Smith on October 18, 2007 at 12:14 am

    Melinda, there are lots of ways around this: the school could send home materials (that the parent requested, even). But it -would- prevent making money off the voucher.

    Thanks, Amira. Like I said, I’m coming late to the game.

  27. mmiles on October 18, 2007 at 12:16 am

    This program really does sound extremely similar to the home schooling “charter” school in CA, except with a different name. You have to have a supervising teacher with a BA or BS–except you don’t have to have a site. And yes, money does get misused and abused all the time.
    In AZ charter schools, which have lots of students and school sites, misuse and abuse money all the time. I know of one school where the janitor’s duties which are funded by the school include cleaning the principal’s home. The prinicipal’s spouse is also on the payroll as an assisstant principal with a high salary although he doesn’t work there (That is only the beginning). The teachers call the state repeatedly and never have their complaints investigated.
    The problem with oversite of so many charter schools, private schools, and home school is simple manpower, or lack thereof. What government has the resources to seriously oversee schooling in it’s many forms?

    At least the polygamous families in Utah will easily meet all the requirements for the voucher program. It sounds like it was written just for them.

  28. Bree on October 18, 2007 at 3:23 am

    Julie,

    I’m afraid you’re misreading Susan Morris’ very poorly worded website.

    When she says…

    Currently, only home schoolers who also meet federal
    low-income guidelines qualify for a voucher. The
    exception would be if they have an eligible
    kindergartner for 2007-08. They would then qualify for
    that child, whatever their income.

    …she fails to make clear that homeschoolers qualify for a voucher that may only be used at a qualifying private school, not in the home.

    As per the questions in regards to private school start-ups, the private school must enroll at least 40 students and may not occur in a residence (as previously mentioned). Additionally, in order qualify, a private school must have 80 percent of operating captial on hand for enrolled students. This creates a huge barrier for start-ups because even public schools have a very difficult time meeting this threshold. My data may be off a bit now, but when I last examined the policy in May, most of the eligible private schools were located along the Wasatch front (Salt Lake/Provo Corridor). There were not many in the more rural areas. More than 1/3 of Utah’s private schools are too small to be eligible to participate and only 75 Schools have high enough enrollments to participate. Additionally, many of the more established and successful private schools have expressed that they are not interested in participating in the program (likely because they already have max enrollments with students from higher income families).

  29. ed on October 18, 2007 at 5:16 am

    mmiles,

    If the charter schools in AZ are so bad, how do they get students to sign up? How are the student outcomes at these schools?

  30. Frank McIntyre on October 18, 2007 at 9:02 am

    What Bree said. Also, there is a fair bit of supervisory bureacracy involved with getting “accredited”. It is not as if one can just up and call oneself a private school and go get your checks. I imagine if one were determined enough, a few dozen families could band together to form an organization that would be funded. But once you’re that big and assuming you pass all the state hurdles, you probably really are a school.

  31. Mark B. on October 18, 2007 at 9:18 am

    The university model school may work fine for teaching the children, but what about the all-important babysitting role that the public schools play?

  32. John Mansfield on October 18, 2007 at 9:40 am

    This side effect concept is evocative of Charles Murray’s proposal. Murray wants to eliminate all welfare as we know it and simply give $10,000 to every American 21 or older who isn’t in jail.

  33. Jesse Harris on October 18, 2007 at 10:08 am

    Given that we’ve already established that vouchers cannot be used for homeschooling, what’s left other than beating the dead horse? I don’t say that/this to be snarky, but those of us participating in Utah’s political Bloghive have been discussing this one for months and there’s less than three weeks until the election. I think we’ve almost said everything that can be said barring a discussion about the new figures from the Legislative Fiscal Analyst’s office that established the savings as net instead of gross.

  34. Julie M. Smith on October 18, 2007 at 10:21 am

    OK, y’all have convinced me that the intention of the legislation is that it will not fund homeschoolers (although I suspect that some hsers–and ironically polygamist families/compounds will be in the best position to pull this off may be about to wiggle through the language and take advantage of the program).

    Now let me turn the tables: why shouldn’t homeschoolers be funded? (Admittedly, some don’t want any gov’t money, but some will take it.) Why should Utah favor every stripe of private school except small parent-led ones in homes?

    Ray has well-articulated the potential for financial (and, consequently, educational) abuse, but let’s say the amount per child per year were something like 500–not enough to convince anyone to homeschool, but enough to really generously cover hsing expenses. Some of you will ask, “how do we be sure the parents are spending that 500 on crack?” Well, I’d be the first to sign up for the state contract to review hs expenses and only reimburse the legit ones. The state pays me 750, I pay the parents 500. The parents win, I win, and the state wins (since it would have been spending three times that amount on a voucher). (That takes care of accountability for the voucher, but not for hsing per se. I am assuming that Utah law already provides whatever the state considers to be appropriate oversight for hsing, which is a separate issue.)

    I think it is very hard to make the case that the state should fund parents who send their kids to all kinds of private schools but prohibit funding for homeschools. It is discriminatory and if the political climate doesn’t recognize that now, it will in 20 years.

  35. Amira on October 18, 2007 at 10:55 am

    We were reimbursed by the state department for homeschooling expenses one year. They required a very detailed list of all homeschooling expenses we were claiming and receipts for everything. It worked pretty well in my mind, although it would require a lot more time for someone to review my expenses than to simply see a receipt for a private school that was approved for vouchers. But I do think it could be done in a manner that would reduce financial abuse of the system. Of course, you could just resell everything after you were reimbursed…

    But right now Utah funds K-12, so you can technically homeschool on the state’s dollar if K-12 is your thing. So I don’t know you can say that the laws right now are discriminatory.

  36. Seth R. on October 18, 2007 at 11:03 am

    I think Sarah has already stated the biggest concern.

    You start taking government funds, you allow the government into your home. Half the reason homeschoolers are leaving public schools in the first place is to get away from the stupid, misguided and disorganized government mandates placed on public schools. You take public funding for homeschooling, you’re wading right back into that mess.

    Modern schooling is essentially a bunch of screw-ups. I’d like to wash my hands of them entirely thanks.

  37. Seth R. on October 18, 2007 at 11:05 am

    The only way I’d be on board with govt. funding of homeschooling, is if the funds were unconditional – no strings attached.

    But even then, you just know some politician in Washington is going to come along with some pompous speech about “accountability” and then whole thing will go straight to hell.

  38. Jacob Proffitt on October 18, 2007 at 11:25 am

    @Julie: Your question about why homeschoolers aren’t covered is easily answered by the previous discussion. Look at the concerns people have about kooky homeschoolers and you see why, politically at least, “vouchers” for homeschoolers isn’t feasible. Like so much other hand-wringing legislation it’s based on meddling with other people’s children and “won’t someone think of the children!” is still a very powerful cry.

    That said, the best loophole for homeschoolers right now is programs like K-12 that allow parents to homeschool with the help of a program that includes teacher oversight and review. K-12 gets the state to purchase all the materials in exchange for “official” enrollment in a local school (so that the school receives the remainder of the state funds allocated per student). We homeschool two kids under K-12 in Utah right now and it’s a wonderful program but I’d be willing to bet that the usual suspects (mostly teachers unions because teachers and teacher unions don’t directly benefit from the program) object.

  39. Jim Cobabe on October 18, 2007 at 11:25 am

    To me the voucher thing sounds like the remnants of a great idea, bushwhacked by too many committees.

    Difficult for me to understand concerns about costs, when we can see that primary public education is about as expensive as your classic NASA space project — but glaringly wasteful and ineffective. Our public schools seem to be designed to produce the most expensive idiots in the world.

  40. Frank McIntyre on October 18, 2007 at 11:42 am

    Mark B.,

    Speaking of babysitting, A colleague here wrote a paper on how having kids in schools discourages property crime but encourages violent crime. The main tool they used was, I think, what happened on teacher inservice days. So there are issues, but it was still very interesting.

  41. Mike Parker on October 18, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    The voucher system is flawed, but marginally better than things as they stand.

    A better solution would be to allow a property tax exemption for those who choose to use private schools or who homeschool. If the issue here is one of people paying property taxes for public schools they don’t use, then allow them to not pay the amount of their property tax that would otherwise go to public schools.

    Of course, the best solution would be to get government out of the education business altogether and make everything private, but I admit that’s only my libertarian pipe dream.

  42. James on October 18, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    The State of Washington was incredibly resistant to the concept of charter schools when we lived there because of the political strength of the education union. On the other hand, our school district was very friendly to the homeschool community to the point of having a homeschooling resource center which had elective classes like foreign languages and drama as well as core subjects for parents that did not feel up to those subjects. The district also gave parents a small budget for books and materials with the caveat that the durable goods like books became the property of the district. Our oldest boys were homeschooled with the assistance of that center and they thrived in that environment.

  43. Kim Siever on October 18, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    Here in Alberta, the provincial government provides $1,400 for homeschooling funding. Our school board, which is solely a school board for homeschooled children, manages that money. we make purchases and submit receipts for reimbursement, or we pay using purchase orders. If the purchase order is unreasonable, it gets denied. If the receipt purchase is unreasonable, we’re out of pocket the money we spent.

  44. Matt Evans on October 18, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    Haven’t read the comments, so sorry if this has already been said: the Utah law at issue in Referendum 1 restricts vouchers to privately-run schools with at least 40 students.

  45. Julie M. Smith on October 18, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    Amira in #35: The fact that Utah pays for K12 strengths my point: what compelling reason does the state have to privilege one form of hsing over another?

    Seth R., my premise was that some hsers would want the money and others wouldn’t.

    Jacob, can you give me some feel for how much flexibility that you have with K12? I’m only slightly familiar with it, but I am familiar with the complaint that it isn’t really hsing–it is distance learning–because the parents are tied to the K12 choices.

    Mike Parker–sounds like a huge can of worms–would you exempt people w/o school-aged kids? If so, then you are just charging tuition to public schools based on home value. If not, that’s a little weird.

    “Of course, the best solution would be to get government out of the education business altogether and make everything private, but I admit that’s only my libertarian pipe dream.”

    Amen and amen.

    “Here in Alberta, the provincial government provides $1,400 for homeschooling funding.”

    /swoons. And I bet it isn’t 92 degrees there today, either.

  46. Frank McIntyre on October 18, 2007 at 5:50 pm

    “The fact that Utah pays for K12 strengths my point: what compelling reason does the state have to privilege one form of hsing over another?”

    K12 as a charter school in Utah (the version of it that gets paid for by the state) is done at home but run through the school districts, with oversight by teachers and school districts.

  47. Julie M. Smith on October 18, 2007 at 5:56 pm

    Re #46: which means that other forms of hsing with a similar level (if not a similar format) of oversight should also be funded.

  48. Ben H on October 18, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    Jesse Harris (#33), could you give us links to some of the better Bloghive posts on this?

    The Voter Information Packet is an okay place to get basic info.

  49. Amira on October 18, 2007 at 8:32 pm

    I disagree, Julie. It would be easy to make a law that simply says that if you want to homeschool and want to be funded, then K-12 is your option. The voucher law doesn’t provide money for students to go to any private school under any circumstances and a similar law for homeschoolers wouldn’t have to either. I think it could quite reasonably be argued that K-12 removes the discrimination.

    You’d have to have a number of very defined homeschooling programs and people who were trained to oversee them well for your comment in #47 to work. I can’t really imagine another system besides K-12 type programs that would accomodate a similar level of oversight. And I think the majority of homeschoolers who choose something besides a full program wouldn’t be very interested in the level of oversight that the law would have to require.

  50. A. Nonny Mouse on October 18, 2007 at 11:39 pm

    Entering late into the conversation, as always, with regard to #8 by Carl Younblood:

    “I don’t think anything could really convince most LDS people I know to homeschool.”

    Several families with elementary aged children in my south Provo ward home school and several which have younger kids are seriously considering home schooling.

    In the ward I grew up in in Ohio, several (like half?) of the families with school-aged children home school. As far as I can tell home-schooling is spreading like wild-fire among Mormons.

  51. mmiles on October 19, 2007 at 1:19 am

    A Nonny Mouse–
    I don’t think it is spreading like wildfire amongst Mormons. It is simply spreading. That’s what happens when the schools are what they are.

  52. Kim Siever on October 19, 2007 at 10:38 am

    “And I bet it isn’t 92 degrees there today, either.”

    No. We got up to only 54° yesterday.

  53. Kathryn Lynard Soper on October 19, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    if homeschooling becomes something that “good” Utah Mormon women do–either out of devotion to their children or a desire to supplement the family budget without working outside the home–I think we’re in for a heap of trouble. The potential for homeschooling to become a Mormon cultural mandate or a barometer of righteousness is something to be avoided at all costs (You can just see it, can’t you: “Well, you wouldn’t have to work away from your home or send your children to that mediocre school if you homeschooled them!”)

    Julie, I love you.

  54. queuno on October 19, 2007 at 9:57 pm

    If homeschooling becomes something that “good” Utah Mormon women do–either out of devotion to their children or a desire to supplement the family budget without working outside the home–I think we’re in for a heap of trouble. The potential for homeschooling to become a Mormon cultural mandate or a barometer of righteousness is something to be avoided at all costs (You can just see it, can’t you: “Well, you wouldn’t have to work away from your home or send your children to that mediocre school if you homeschooled them!”)

    I see elements of “real Mormon housewives homeschool” culture beginning to foment in North Texas. It’s easily dismissed by the current condition that our community’s schools are downright awesome; that, and there are a lot of ward and stake members employed by the local school district.

    (I’m not anti-home schooling, by the way. Have friends and family who are doing it. I can say that every one of them would have been better off not doing it. Then again, none of them are Julie M. Smith.)

  55. queuno on October 19, 2007 at 9:58 pm

    Let me retry #54 with appropriate formatting…

    If homeschooling becomes something that “good” Utah Mormon women do–either out of devotion to their children or a desire to supplement the family budget without working outside the home–I think we’re in for a heap of trouble. The potential for homeschooling to become a Mormon cultural mandate or a barometer of righteousness is something to be avoided at all costs (You can just see it, can’t you: “Well, you wouldn’t have to work away from your home or send your children to that mediocre school if you homeschooled them!”)

    I see elements of “real Mormon housewives homeschool” culture beginning to foment in North Texas. It’s easily dismissed by the current condition that our community’s schools are downright awesome; that, and there are a lot of ward and stake members employed by the local school district.

    (I’m not anti-home schooling, by the way. Have friends and family who are doing it. I can say that every one of them would have been better off not doing it. Then again, none of them are Julie M. Smith.)

  56. Ryan Byrd on October 21, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    Let me explain the American educational system. You see, for a long time there were two types of kids, the regular kids and the rich kids. Regular kids go to public schools where they get beaten up, experiment with drugs and, if they’re lucky, learn stuff. Rich kids (or, rather the children of rich parents), go to stuffy-sounding “prep” schools with names like The Waterford or the Milton Academy. Everybody at these schools is good looking, wears plaid uniforms and gets to go to Ivy League colleges. That’s how it’s always been.

    That is, until now.

    read more: School voucher madness

  57. Alison Moore Smith on October 21, 2007 at 11:04 pm

    I can say that every one of them would have been better off not doing it.

    Wow, queuno, it must be great to be omniscient. Let me in on your secret. Or is it just that you have a gift for receiving inspiration where you have no stewardship?

    I’m glad it’s already been cleared up that the homeschooling argument about Utah vouchers is a red herring. As was said, the poorly-worded reference was to the fact that almost all students had to be IN a public school on a certain date to qualify to get the voucher for a private school. So those who WERE homeschooling at a particular point in time, couldn’t get the vouchers to the private school at all. It was a funding for migration from public to private almost exclusively.

    Just for fun, here are a couple of resources relating to education:

    Here are some statistics about how homeschoolers perform.

    Here is a fun article about public schools in the west.

  58. Ray on October 21, 2007 at 11:23 pm

    Alison, be fair to queuno. He didn’t say all home schooled children would have been better off not doing it. He said the kids of friends and family he has observed would have been better off not doing it.

    I have nothing against home schooling either – as a concept, in a vacuum. I know quite a few families who do it well and whose kids probably are better off than they would be in the terrible-mediocre public schools in their area. I also know quite a few families who do not do it well and whose kids almost certainly would be better off in the decent-excellent public schools in their areas.

    Public schools are a crapshoot in many cases. So is home schooling. Even within the same family, there often are kids who would benefit from one and kids who would benefit from the other. My biggest frustration in this type of discussion is how dogmatic each side often gets – as if either option was the “one and only true option” and the other was Satan’s tool. Your links certainly seem to be making that assertion.

  59. jethro on October 23, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    Sarah #25:
    “Look at what’s happened in higher education in the fifty or so years since the federal government became its single largest source of funds.”

    uh, let’s see, it became widely accessible for the first time to middle class and minority students?

  60. jethro on October 23, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    AMS #57:
    “Just for fun, here are a couple of resources relating to education

    Here are some statistics [from a pro-homeschooling group] about how homeschoolers perform [ ( they win spelling bees! ) ].

    Here is a [dishonest] article [from a ultra right wing site] about public schools in the west.”

    there. i fixed your comment for you.

    btw, that WND article about califnornia SB777 was huh-larious!

    article title: ” ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ banished by California ”
    paragraph 11: ” …the law is not a list of banned words… ”

    d’oh!

  61. Marie Cornwall on October 24, 2007 at 5:55 pm

    You have it all wrong. The voucher question is not about home schooling. But you also have it wrong for low-income families. Fair market rent in Salt Lake City for a 2-bedroom apartment is $690 a month, for a 3-bedroom it is $971 per month. Each requires a family income of between $27,600 and $38,840, or an hourly wage of between $13.27 and $18.67. You are suggesting that mothers of homeschooled children could earn $3000 per child. If she is homeschooling two children she can earn $6000 a year. Sounds good until you figure that her working wage would be $2.88 per hour. If her husband is bringing in even $16.00 per hour, they would have a little to spare if they live in a two bedroom apartment and would just barely afford a three bedroom apartment. If her husband is earning $16.00 per hour and she could earn $7.00 an hour in a part-time job (bringing in around $14,280 to supplement her husbands income of $33,280 they would be earning $47,560. Their median income is still well below the median for a family of four in utah ($67,335), but they could maybe save up for a down payment on a house. I agree that $9000 to $11000 sounds like a good income, but only if your husband has an income of $50,000 or more and health benefits come with the job. If you are wondering who makes only $16.00 per hour next time you buy new tires, be sure to notice who is putting them on your vehicle. Or next time you buy gas and some munchies at the gas station, be sure to thank the cashier. If you are wondering who makes $7.00 per hour, tip your Red Lobster waitress a little more next time.

  62. Rob on October 25, 2007 at 2:08 am

    I wrote my honors thesis at BYU on \”Values, Vouchers and Education Reform in Utah.\” I\’ve been out of state for awhile, haven\’t read my own paper in longer, so it is interesting to read this post 10 years after finishing up my public policy degree.

    Here are a couple problems Utah could face:

    1. Drift towards mixing religion and public money
    2. LDS church has typically supported public schools
    3. Demographics (vouchers and choice works well in SL and Utah counties where choice exists, but in Delta, Utah it doesn\’t mean diddly).
    4. Human behavior. Even given choice of a better school, people tend to send their kids to a school that is geographically convenient most all of the time.
    5. For choice/vouchers to work, in a cold and dreary world…schools have to be allowed to fail. Natural human tendancy is to rescue failing schools with more money which reverses benefits of competition.

  63. Julie M. Smith on October 25, 2007 at 10:31 am

    Marie,

    I’ll refrain from telling you that you have it all wrong, but the original point of the post wasn’t to address working class families, but rather middle class families where the mother is “on the brink” of needing to work. In that case 11K tax free with no child care or transportation expenses may very well be her best option. But as further comments have shown, that is not likely (although it is possible) to be an outcome of the bill.

  64. Marie Cornwall on October 25, 2007 at 11:21 am

    Based on current election polls, the voucher is going to fail anyway.

  65. Marie Cornwall on October 25, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    Our current social policy is not to pay women to care for their own children in the home.. Unemployed single mothers who are without economic support and receive TANF funds are to work towards full employment with two years (according to Utah law). Some states are more lenient and give them five years. Given our current policies for low income women, I don’t see Americans or Utahns willing to pay middle and upper class mothers to home school their children.

  66. Julie M. Smith on October 25, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    Marie, no one is arguing the point that you make in #65. The issue was whether the proposed law would allow it and what its side effects would be.

  67. Julie M. Smith on October 25, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    Also, this is a day late and a dollar short, but another problem with #61 is that it runs the numbers on a woman with two children to show that my analysis on a woman with four children is wrong. Even so, I think it errs by making a (wrong but understandable for someone not familiar with homeschooling) assumption about the number of hours required. 10K (four kids) per year divided by 190 days (180 school, 10 teacher prep) divided by five hours per day is $10.53/hour which, again, is tax free and without child care or transportation costs. I have no idea what a worker has to gross to net $10.53 an hour after taxes and child care costs, but if the wage numbers Marie gives in #61 are even close to accurate, then this would (hypothetically speaking) be a very attractive proposition, even to working class women, and we haven’t even gotten into the social, cultural, and religious (perceived) advantages of being at home with children as opposed to working a service sector job.

    Not that any of this matters, as previous comments have illustrated.

  68. Rob on October 28, 2007 at 2:49 am

    Mark # 41, I hear Libertarian Mormons are the next soccer moms.

  69. Rob on November 3, 2007 at 12:48 am

    I finally found my old Honor’s Thesis from 1999. I feel like Prince.

    Anyway, It’s about 13 posts total, starting with the Intro: http://jenirob.blogspot.com/2007/11/values-vouchers-and-education-reform-in.html

    As far as any savings Vouchers might bring, back when I ran the numbers, it was something like $16, per pupil, per $1000 voucher in actual savings. Which, when you look at the cost back then of educating a kid still was diddly.

    – Rob

  70. Dan on November 6, 2007 at 8:04 pm

    I have read through the bill for the vouchers twice. My 3 school-aged children will not be effected either way it turns out because I pulled them out of public school this year in order to homeschool them. As I am still taxed for education like every other citizen, I am going to make a decision as to whether or not I want vouchers in our state\’s system. I am voting today against referendum 1 because as I read the bill, it seemed to me that it was a LOSE-LOSE-LOSE situation. From what I read (and keep in mind that this was a very unbiased decision), 1) the public schools will LOSE some money now, and all money after 5 years, for each student who takes advantage of the vouchers, making it even harder on them to find and keep the excellent teachers we all desire our children to have involved in their education. Our family has school teachers and I know that they moved out of state because they couldn\’t afford to stay in Utah and work as school teachers. No matter how well the commercials may make the bill sound, the reality is that public schools will have less money to work with. 2) The parents who want to send their children to private schools but have never been able to afford this option, will LOSE because they will still have to come up with a considerable amount of additional money in order to fulfill this option. Therefore, it will not realistically be an option for those who it proclaims to be for, i.e. those who couldn\’t already afford private school. 3) The parents who are currently sending their children to private schools, along with the private schools that accept vouchers, will LOSE because private schools that were once competitive and willing to keep high standards in order to attract students will now have to follow whatever guidelines or criteria the public schools have to follow. The reason private schools do so well is, in part, because they are not bound by the conveyer belt system that our once well minded public school system has become. They will now be governed by all of the same agencies that are over the existing public school system. This will only cause the private schools to become more like the public school system (having to be more conerned about how test scores look to an agency rather than how parents percieve their children are really doing in school), defeating the whole purpose of creating a bill like this, which was to better the education options for all of our children.
    The idea of having options and more choices is very appealing. The idea of having money to go towards a noble cause and even benefit our current popular system of education is ideal… But it seems like this bill is not really about helping anyone who really needs help in this area, rather it seems to me to be a way towards more of a monopolized educational system and that makes me sad. I hope that all of you who voted today, either way, read the bill before voting. After all, what is the point of voting on something you don\’t understand?
    Dan

  71. Ray on November 6, 2007 at 9:11 pm

    “After all, what is the point of voting on something you don’t understand?”

    Complaining about the result.

  72. Mark D. on November 7, 2007 at 9:57 am

    Dan,

    You do realize that the cost of education has something to do with the number of students, right? Public schools in Utah are currently funded based on the number of students attending. So why should they be compensated (in the long run) for students who do not pass through their doors? Are hospitals compensated for patients they do not treat?

  73. Matt Evans on November 7, 2007 at 10:10 am

    3 school-aged children . . . I pulled them out of public school this year in order to homeschool them

    Dan, you also realize that the districts now get less money because *you* pulled your kids out, right? By the convoluted logic of voucher opponents, your decision to homeschool costs Utah school districts around $18,000 to $22,000 a year, and to make your act worse, they insist the class size of your kids’ former teachers didn’t even go down!

  74. Dan on November 7, 2007 at 9:35 pm

    Mark D. an Matt Evans,
    Actually you are both incorrect. I have checked into this legally (through our attorney) and my children’s schools still receive the same amount of money as before because, in Utah, our students do not presently have an amount of money “attached to them”. Whatever district we reside in, The only difference my choosing another option made was that now our School District has the same amount of funding (approx. $21,000) and 3 students less. As for the student to teacher ratio, I think it is a catch 22. Everyone complains about the amount of students in the classrooms, but when I pull my kids out, you assume you will lose money instead of thanking me for taking the extra time it requires to school them at home and for reducing the class size. The real issue shouldn’t be whether or not it will cut out another teacher, but why the teacher to student ratio is so high in Utah.
    Dan

  75. Mark D. on November 8, 2007 at 2:57 am

    Dan,

    Not that I fault you in the slightest, but it appears that your attorney does not know what he is talking about. From Utah Code Title 53 Chapter 17a, the “Minimum School Program Act”:

    (4) “Pupil in average daily membership (ADM)” means a full-day equivalent pupil….
    (6)”Weighted pupil unit or units or WPU or WPUs” means the unit of measure of factors that is computed in accordance with this chapter for the purpose of determining the costs of a program on a uniform basis for each district. (Utah Code 53A-17a-103)

    Determination of weighted pupil units.
    The number of weighted pupil units in the minimum school program for each year is the total of the units for each school district determined as follows:
    (1) The number of units is computed by adding the average daily membership of all pupils of the district attending schools, other than kindergarten and self-contained classes for children with a disability.
    (2) The number of units is computed by adding the average daily membership of all pupils of the district enrolled in kindergarten and multiplying the total by .55. (Utah Code 53A-17a-106, emphasis added)

    State appropriations for education are allocated to school districts according to the number of weighted pupil units of each in order to meet state constitution requirements for equal education. By law, the weighted pupil unit is computed from full time equivalent class membership, i.e. public school attendance. There are no adjustments for home school students, private school students, or other non-attenders.

  76. Mark D. on November 8, 2007 at 3:02 am

    Of course it is true that home schoolers and private school students reduce the total tax burden on the public at large…just that school districts do not get appropriations for students they do not educate.

  77. Matt Evans on November 8, 2007 at 10:58 am

    Dan, as Mark points out, Utah (and most other states) actually determines funding based on daily attendance. A kid stays home sick, the school district gets less money. Oh, and I think it’s great that you’re homeschooling. My pretended “criticisms” were based on the illogic of voucher opponents, and solely intended to demonstrate their illogic. If they oppose vouchers because it removes students and money from the government schools, they should oppose government policies that support homeschoolers, too.