"Education is the only domestic issue that matters," says Patrick Byrne, the Park City millionaire who is basically funding the pro-voucher campaign in Utah out of his own pocket.

A climber, skier and outdoorsman, Byrne is the sometimes-controversial chairman of the board and president of Overstock.com, a Web-based retail outlet, who moved to Utah eight years ago "because it has better snow than my native New Hampshire."

Added together, Byrne, his immediate family and a foundation he helps oversee have given the pro-voucher campaign in Utah more than $3 million. But Wednesday Byrne said his Utah donations are only a part of his personal effort to make education in America better — especially for African-American and Latino youngsters.

"I've given millions of dollars toward the Washington, D.C.-based voucher effort. Millions of dollars personally to help educate minorities across this country." He has built 19 schools from Nepal to Africa — all named after his mother, Dorothy — where 6,000 students, mostly girls, get the chance for a good education, he added.

"All other domestic issues that Americans get hung up about from the left and the right are in truth just derivatives of education," said Byrne. There is such an unfair difference in education achievement in America today, he said. "As long as that exists, everything else that the left and the right fight about — whether it is income inequality, racial inequality, affirmative action, all that stuff — it is all just downstream effects. If we can't fix this, we are just rearranging furniture on the Titanic. But if we can fix this, a lot of pernicious ills of society would wash out over a generation."

"And the only way to fix it is to move to a system where accountability shifts to the parents." He said Utah's private school voucher law is a step in that direction.

E-mail: bbjr@desnews.com