This is the 10th in a series of questions posed to the candidates in the State Senate District 23 race. To see the previous questions in this series, please go to http://www.woodscrosscitizen.com/search/label/Answers.
10) Do you support school vouchers?
Democrat - Richard Watson:
Republican - Dan Liljenquist:
I voted against the voucher bill. Here is the text of the editorial I had published in the Ogden Standard Examiner last fall:
Guest commentary: Tone of the voucher debate disappoints
Saturday, October 6, 2007
By Dan Liljenquist
The voucher debate has digressed in recent weeks from the logical to the emotional, with both sides seeking the moral high ground in a state where voters are committed to "do what is right." It is critically important to re-set the debate and attempt to look at vouchers objectively.
The initial case for private school vouchers was articulated by neoclassical economist Milton Friedman in his 1955 article "The Role of Government in Education."
The article was published in an era of broad based regulation and general public distrust of market economies.
In the article, Friedman argues that it is appropriate for government to subsidize education. He wrote that "a stable and democratic society is impossible without widespread acceptance of some common set of values and without a minimum degree of literacy and knowledge on the part of most citizens."
Friedman then argues that it is not necessary for government to administer public education, as long as its educational goals are met. Friedman presents educational vouchers as a market-driven alternative to publicly administered schools.
In the context of the voucher referendum vote this fall, it is important to consider the following:
* Friedman expected governmental oversight of educational curriculum to ensure common, appropriate content.
* Friedman expected extensive financial oversight by government agencies to ensure proper use of funds, citing the possibility of a greater abuse.
* Friedman does not address what forms of education have the greatest social advantage and how much educational funding is appropriate, except to say that these are questions to be decided "by the judgment of the community through its accepted political channels."
House Bill 148 represents a clear departure from the voucher program envisioned by Milton Friedman. First, the bill does not establish curriculum oversight to ensure appropriate use of government funds; this is contrary to Friedman's approach.
Second, the financial oversight provisions of the bill are simplistic and are not adequate enough to prevent fraud; Friedman clearly advocated substantial financial oversight.
Third, the bill explicitly excludes the judgment of the community from educational decisions, preferring to rely exclusively on parental judgment in educational decisions; this is contrary to Friedman's foundational assumption that all society has a vested interest in how our neighbor's children are being educated and what they are being taught.
While I am disappointed with the recent tone of the voucher debate, I am very pleased to see a grassroots movement to challenge our educational paradigms. Our educational system must become more competitive, with greater parental and community involvement, and more educational choices. We must provide increased funding to reduce class sizes and create greater financial freedom to compete for top talent, particularly in the key secondary education fields of math and science.
We must be focused on preparing our children to excel in hyper-competitive, global labor markets where knowledge and intelligence are the coins of the realm.
I am optimistic that this voucher debate will be the spring-board for broad based, positive educational reform.