The results are in out in Utah and the voucher referendum went down, big time. This referendum result showed several things, not the least of which is the abject lack of knowledge and understand by the general public regarding the absolute necessity of instituting real choice. Overstock.com chief executive Patrick Byrne called the referendum result: “a statewide IQ test that Utahns failed,” “They don’t care enough about their kids. They care an awful lot about this system, this bureaucracy, but they don’t care enough about their kids to think outside the box.” Byrne is dead right on this… you have to have the civic mentality of a six year-old to not understand the merit and essential morality of choice.
Moreover, it shows in spades why we need economic educational choice more than ever. If you had any thoughts in your mind that my contention that the current system is an absolute negation of a free society was overly dramatic, this result should remove those thoughts. The voting in Utah showed the absolute ability of special interest groups including teachers, their spouses, those who do business with the government schools, teacher’s unions in and outside of Utah, and all the other collectivists out there to bring millions of dollars and thousands of votes to bear in squashing fundamental rights of parents. Their message was clear: compulsory, tax supported, monopolized state-run education is, at least temporarily, elevated and the rights of parents subordinated. Shame on Utah. Shame on these people to not take the first significant step towards re-establishing some semblance of the vision of the founders in the realm of education.
I have argued in the past that once we pass the point where more than 50% of the voting population are either philosophical collectivists, or have their livelihoods tied directly or indirectly to the redistribution of other people’s money we are all screwed… Clearly, this is now the case as demonstrated out in Utah. Utah could have been a beacon of hope for the rights of man, for the rights of parents, for what is truly in the best interest of budding minds. Sadly, this referendum reflects just the opposite. In addition, this particular referendum result reinforces my contention regarding the intransigence of the educational looting class. Lastly, it illustrates that there is nary a politician who is not adept at waving a wet finger out the window… Something tells me that Utah Governor Huntsman will not be receiving the same level of support from Mr. Byrne that he did when he was running as a pro voucher candidate.
I have never been a voucher proponent primarily – I prefer a comprehensive universal tax credit system. I have said that I would support an intelligent voucher plan, but frankly I saw some significant fundamental problems with the Utah voucher plan. First, given the religious fundamentalism which is rampant in Utah I believe there was a subconscious aspect to this referendum – that voting for it was an overt endorsement of Mormon fundamentalism. It will be interesting to find out if the teachers union in Utah and the NEA (who poured millions into defeating this effort) played on this subconcious guilt that I suspect is shared by many in Utah. Moreover, I believe that it is too easy to create a smokescreen of “tax-subsidized private schooling” argument when vouchers are the vehicle for choice. Tax credits demonstrate both a support for government schools AND the ability to engage in market education. Vouchers are a check with the state’s name on it and that fact makes it too easy for opponents to convince small minds that the money is not really theirs in the first place… and ergo it ought not be used to support private schools.
Mr. Byrne is right on one thing, the IQ of the average voter in that particular referendum is wanting. But, what this referendum does not say, however, is that the ideas of freedom in the realm of education are dead. In the case of Utah, roughly 200,000 people voted for the measure and now firmly establishes a very meaningful grass roots constituency. It merely reinforces the idea that most people simply do not see the danger of the path we have allowed society to go down. If anything, this result has me more energized than ever to remove any semblance of a sanction for this irrational and immoral system of education.