1. The opponents of school choice repeatedly lead with the notion of accountability. Ironically, it's the public schools that aren't accountable. If a child is failing in a public school, what recourse do the parents have? If a child can't read, who's held accountable? Public schools operate independently of the desires and wishes of the parents. Because parents have no alternatives when a school fails to meet a child's needs, there is no accountability.
Implicit in their accountability argument is that parents can't be trusted to choose wisely. That's nonsense. Every parent using a voucher will invest additional funds to pay tuition. Any parent who has voluntarily chosen to put more money, beyond what she's already paying in taxes, will hold that school accountable. If the school doesn't respond, the parent will take her child somewhere else.
Having visited with hundreds of low-income parents who are recipients of Children First Utah scholarships, I know that parents, including poor, uneducated ones, know when their children are learning and when not. That's the reason they're willing to sacrifice to pay more in the first place. Their children aren't learning in their assigned school and they're desperate for one that is responsive to their child's needs. That responsiveness is the essence of accountability.
2. Mr. Burningham is simply wrong on the cost of private school education. Children First Utah writes checks monthly to over fifty private schools in this state. The average cost of tuition is less than $4,000 per year for these schools.
3. There he goes again with his bad math. Mr. Burningham only cites the first part of the equation: the cost of funding the vouchers. He fails to mention the saving for those students who use the vouchers. Since the average voucher will be $2,000 and the cost of educating that child in public school was $7,500, there is a $5,500 per student savings. The total projected savings are more than a billion dollars, according to leading researchers at Utah State University.
4. In a review of more than 25 school choice studies, Gerald Robinson of Marquette University concluded: A growing body of evidence suggests strongly that vouchers improve academic performance; increase parent satisfaction and involvement; and appear to have a positive impact on student achievement in public schools.
However, the real test whether vouchers work is to look in the eyes of the moms and dads making the sacrifices to send their children to private schools. I've spoken to hundreds of moms, most with tears in their eyes when they tell stories of hope and salvation after choosing a school that works for their child. Mr. Burningham and I can argue studies all day long, but the true measure is the in the eyes of mothers.
5. Our opponents have created a false dichotomy with talk of investing in public versus private schools. We need to adopt a new paradigm and a new language. We invest in children. The kind of school, whether owned by the government or a nonprofit organization, is irrelevant, just as it is at the university level. All that matters is that parents have the ability to get the best education possible for our children.