Saturday, February 03, 2007

Voucher Discussions with Paul Neuenschwander

I sent an email to Sheryl Allen and Paul Neuenschwander asking them to vote No on vouchers. I heard back from Sheryl Allen within a day or two. She encouraged me to email Paul Neuenschwander, which I found amusing (she voted no, he voted yes).

After the voucher bill passed, I heard back from Paul (we've had quite the email conversation lately, so I can call him by his first name). Here's what he had to say:

Thank you for writing. You likely know by now that the bill passed and I voted in favor of it. Let me give you my reasoning. As I examined the matter and stripped out the emotions, my decision came down to a pure business decision. We have 150,000 students coming in the next 10 years and that is on top of the 550,000 students we
currently have. We need to fund the students in some way or another. I found this to be a partial answer of that funding. If I can move a student out of the system in which the tax payer has a $8,000 burden for only $2000 (the amount the fiscal analyst thinks will be the average) that makes sense for me. We can save many thousands each student by building this private/public partnership. The fiscal analyst also thinks not more than 4000 leave the system. Even at 4000, if we save $5000 per student, that would amount to about $20,000,000 in savings. This would be good for the system. I hope that helps you understand where I am coming from. I know it will not satisfy everyone, but I did receive numerous emails from other constituents that wanted me to vote for them. Thanks for writing and please feel free to keep me informed of your opinion. I will be happy to share my thinking process. Paul

I emailed him back:

Thank you for your reply.

I am disappointed in the way you voted. Tax money should not be spent to support private, for-profit businesses. In business, the higher the demand, the higher the cost. With more children able (although I have serious doubts as to how many children this bill will actually "help") to attend private schools, the cost of private schools will increase. Supply and demand. Pure business.

It will be interesting to see what happens.

I was surprised when I got another email from him...

Thank you. We have numerous public/private partnerships. Most of the health delivery system is provided by companies in the private sector. They can provide the services to those who need them better than the state can do it. It is the second largest budget item. Historically only tax money has been used to fund public schools. With this public/private cooperation, we are hoping that some of the services (in this case education) can be provided less expensively than just funding the public schools. It will certainly relieve the situation. It is not the only answer and in fact the fiscal analyst said only 4000 students will take advantage of it. Given our current enrollment that is less than 1%. But, if we had to finance them in the system it would be upwards of $28 million. With this partnership it is about $8 million. No matter where we have them, we have to pay for them. I for one want to make sure we do all we can to help educate our kids in the best possible way and I think this partnership is one step. Paul

And my final email back to him (you never know though, he might email me back again- if he does I'll edit this post to include it)...

Like I said, it will be interesting to see what happens. I truly hope that vouchers are able to help the education system. I have my doubts, but we will see.

I do find it rather amusing that you use health care as an example of sucessful private/public partnerships. Our health care system is probably more messed up than our education system.

Thank you for the discussion. :)

He has voted completely opposite of what I would have liked for him to vote. I realize that my views are more moderate than many of the conservative voters of Davis County, so I can't expect to always feel represented, but his voting record has been frustrating for me. It's nice to have civil discussion with him about an issue, even if we disagree. It helps me to remember that he really probably is a very good person. It's been interesting.


utahcitizen said...

Representative Neuenschwander must have been listening to the voucher groups the $8000 per student (way over what we actually pay) and $2,000 are often hypothetical figures cited by them.

His figures may work the first year, but fail to account for the NEXT years when we may be funding students that we DID not pay tax money towards before. Thus, ADDITIONAL money is taken out of public education funds. What is also missed by voucher people is that those receiving the voucher NEVER pay for them at all. OTHER people do. Some seem to think that because they have two kids, that they pay all the cost for educating them personally. It's a shared cost. Note that I've heard many "justify" it by saying:

I "deserve" to have some of my money back that I put into education.

That's the same sort of entitlement feelings that so-called conservatives decry in other aid programs. But I guess if it's part of their political agenda, it doesn't matter.

I am a teacher, but my main opposition is personal. It's a blatant insult to tell someone like me that you have a "lack" of choice and expect me to pay for it. I've been wanting to have just even ONE child for 13 years. I am working toward my "choice," but I don't expect others to pick up the dole. I will achieve it myself. A person who has a child or especially multiple children has NO "lack" of choice at all regarding them, but does have the most wonderful privilege one could ever have of raising a child, one that some just yearn and ache for every day.

I am, however, blessed with many wonderful things in life and a great opportunity to serve others' children.

Vouchers is about money and politics, it seems.

utahcitizen said...

If education succeeds it will be on its own merits--because of dedicated teachers, parents, and students, not because of vouchers. Nonetheless, the voucher folks will either take credit for such or use any negative things as more ammunition as to why vouchers are needed.

Mark said...

So I think the actual state contribution per student is more like $5800. That's still 3800 left with the school district, while reducing the increase in students, saving taxpayers in the district some of the added expense of new buildings. I live in the Alpine School District, and in the last 11 years they've come to us four times to bond/tax for new buildings and increased school maintenance. I've voted yes each time, because it was simply needed. I believe this bill overall will lead to higher per pupil dollar support in the public schools, and reduced capital expenditures.

I also like something new in this bill, with the graduated means test guiding how much of a voucher the family gets. Poorer families will get a more significant level of assistance in getting the best education for their children.

Allie said...

My problems is that the "poorer" families who get more voucher money will still not be able to afford to send their children to private schools. It's too expensive.

If vouchers are going to exist, I would rather see them set at a limited number for low income families and have them cover all the costs of the private school.

(Of course, I'd rather not see them exist at all)