Tuesday, March 13, 2007

PTA Anger

So I'm angry at the PTA (and the UEA, and stupid people, but let's start with the PTA). Of course my anger is not as great as it was last week, but that's how anger works, for most people anyway, I have a friend who manages to maintain a level of white hot incandescence, day in and day out, which is so great that he can't eat chocolate (except for M&M's of course, with their hard candy shell). But he's an exception. Obviously your question is from whence comes this anger? Well it's all about school vouchers...

You may or may not have heard that Utah recently passed the first universally available school choice program. It's actually fairly complicated, primarily to address the myriad concerns of schools and PTAs etc. etc. (though my impression is that there is no bill which could be passed anywhere, containing the word vouchers, however moderate which wouldn't send teachers unions into paroxysms of rage), though after a fair amount of reading I think I finally understand all the intricacies. (The best summation is here, it's a word doc)

Basically the only students not eligable for vouchers are students from high-income families who are already in private school (or home-schooled presumably). The vouchers range from $500 to $3000 based on income and family size. There are some regulations on the private schools, they have to be over 40 students, do certain testing, etc. But the big thing that I think most people miss (and leads to my important point) is that the schools continue to receive all the money they would otherwise receive for a student for five years or until the student would have graduated whichever comes first.

Not all of the money goes to the local school, as far as I can tell $1500 per student goes to the school and the rest goes into the general education fund. So here's the big important point, schools, educators, PTA, etc. are always whining about increasing per student spending. Well given that the voucher is going to be less than per student expenditures and that it doesn't even come out of the money set aside for education, and that in fact the schools don't even loose any money for five years but have fewer students to spend it on, doesn't this give them exactly what they have always claimed to want?!?!

In any case I haven't even gotten to the actual source of my PTA anger. So in any case the vouchers are now law, in response the various factions oppossed to vouchers, the UEA (Utah Educators Association, the PTA, etc.) have started a petition drive to get vouchers put on the ballot. Obviously the only reason they would do this is in hopes of getting the law overturned, if they were happy with it they wouldn't bother. But of course this isn't how they sell it. They had a table set up at the school program on Thursday, and their pitch was, "This isn't pro or against vouchers this is just so that we can get a vote on it." I guess I'm more angry at people who don't realize that if they're for vouchers it's in their best interest to not sign that petition.

I found out later that every school's PTA has been given a quota of signatures. This came out when they discovered that the signatures they got on Thursday did not count towards their quota. And while I did enjoy a brief moment of schadenfreude at their expense, I wonder how many people in the PTA like the idea of vouchers and think that they're working towards a relatively benign vote, rather than overturning a law they agree with? Of course don't even get me started on the whole monopoly issue and the analogy between Microsoft and Internet Explorer and the school system and the PTA.

Just call me Mozilla


Anonymous ed said...

The PTA has joined unions at being a good idea gone horribly bureaucratic, in the worst sense of the term -- self-preservation at all costs, even to that of its members and their opinions.

12:25 PM  
Blogger aozora said...

"... continue to receive all the money they would otherwise receive for a student for five years or until the student would have graduated whichever comes first..."

I wish I could get terms like that for my job. *chuckle*

In addition to games I am a sucker for a good MS-IE metaphor. Any time you're ready!

6:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heavens to Betsy! What heresy. Do you mean to say that competition would be good for education? We can't have that. The teachers and their unions want their safe, padded birds-nests-on-the-ground. Thats another way of saying "a rathole that we stuff money down".
Why is it that private schools can educate students for an average $5000.00/year and public schools need at least three times that amount to do a poorer job?

4:24 AM  

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