Thursday, November 08, 2007

Sutherland Institute: "We won!"

The Sutherland Institute's weekly press releases begging people to vote for vouchers didn't do the trick, but it did earn them a reputation for, um, "new math." Remember the famed "affordable tuition" press release -- the one where it calculated "average" tuition for private schools only after excluding the most expensive ones? Well, they're at it again. To read their latest press release, you would think that vouchers passed resoundingly. Check this out:
Despite the referendum vote on HB 148
I believe the technical term is "spanking." Shellacking, stomping, or rejected! are acceptable alternatives.

school-reform efforts are not going away. The Sutherland Institute is continuing to develop sound policy ideas for education reform in Utah, including how to provide the large population of minority students – who are now not graduating with a diploma – new opportunities to succeed.
Because a Sutherland Institute study reveals that vouchers were all about helping minority students (*excluding the 94% of voucher supporters who admitted that their goal wasn't to benefit low-income families).

"Thirty-eight percent of Utahns voted in favor of Referendum 1," said Derek Monson, education policy analyst for Sutherland Institute. "Further, an unknown portion support voucher policy but voted against this bill. That is a significant number of Utahns who are dissatisfied with the state’s educational system and feel it merits substantial change. . . . .
After eliminating certain votes that we deemed irrelevant and adjusting for potential unknown supporters, Yea! People want vouchers! All our press releases weren't a big waste of time that had no influence on voters! Whew! For a moment there, we thought we were irrelevant.


Jason The said...


Well put.

Derek said...

This was an entertaining post. Really, you have a knack at making your posts fun to read. Unfortunately its also completely detached from reality because anyone who takes 2 minutes to actually read our press release will realize that you're post is a pathetic and nonsensical attempt to spin our words.

I'm honestly curious as to why you took the time to make this post? More than anything it seems that the motivation is because our reasonable and honest analysis of the affordability of private schooling is beyond the comprehension of your worldview.

It's obvious you disagree with us; that's fine. But not only do you fail to see the reasoning behind our analysis but you also fail to acknowledge the honesty behind it. Rather, you continually insinuate that we were instead being dishonest. I find that rather uncivil given that you actually know little to anything about me (who did the analysis); you haven't even met me. And this is what you call "politics elevated?"

Your post glosses over the fact that a significant portion of Utahns (almost 2 out of every 5) thought that an education policy reform supporting something other than the public education system was a good idea. If it is "new math" that comprehends that reality, then I think your "new math" is more appropriately labeled "reason."

Further, this outcome validates any current and future voucher policy discussions by policy makers. I quote from the Utah code (62A-4a-201): "a parent has the right, obligation, responsibility, and authority to...educate...the parent's children; and the state's role is secondary and supportive to the primary role of a parent." You'll note that the state's role isn't ammended with "unless the majority of Utahns think it is a bad idea." If you disagree with Utah's law and constitution on this matter than all I can say is that I'm glad that our state is built on a world view more inclusive than your own.

Your post does highlight an important point: while in truth the group that will benefit the most from good voucher policy is low-income minority families, the debate centered around other issues (as reflected by the 94% figure). It's sad that both sides successfully diverted most people's attention away from what was most important about the voucher bill. I think though that moving forward we should show a little more civility than to question the honesty and character of those we disagree with, particularly if we truly know nothing about them.

brownbag said...

I just read the press release. It doesn't say anything other than parents are upset with the status quo -- ergo -- they want vouchers. Where's the logic in that? I never read anything about how vouchers were really targeted at children who were going to drop out. You should have pushed that. The kid was going to leave public school anyway ... parents, now you can have 3,000 to try to figure out how to solve the problem for your kid. At least he's not our problem anymore, and we don't have to put him on the stats as a failure. He's a voucher success. If he fails, it's the parents fault for not caring enough.

If anything the shifting waves of what vouchers are going to solve, perhaps even some forms of skin disease, change so often, VoU was probably too light on you.

Derek said...

brownbag--At Sutherland we DID push a message similar to the one you mentioned: that the voucher bill was targeted at students who were failing in the public education system. Unfortunately, the two faces of the voucher referendum (Utahns for Public Schools and Parents for Choice in Education) were too concerned with other things to give too much time to this issue. In my mind that is the saddest part of the recent referendum campaign.

In regards to your question regarding the logic of our press release, I think you misunderstood the logic. It wasn't "parents are upset with the status quo -- ergo -- they want vouchers." Rather it was parents are upset with the status quo, ergo they want change. One of those potential changes is through a voucher program, hence for the future we're considering ways voucher policy might be properly incorporated into education in Utah. But, like we emphasized in the press release ("Among other types of reform..."), vouchers are only one type of reform we are considering at Sutherland.

Rich said...

Man, those Sutherland people are touchy. . .