Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Re: Re: Vouchers

Thanks to everybody that has commented on this topic. My opinion has been changed by the insight that people here have provided. Here is an explanatory video about vouchers that Heather mentioned in her comment on the post below (the pro-voucher Oreo commercial is a confusing extract from this video). Vouchers are not a perfect solution - in fact they are far from it, they are an experiment that can be molded and changed over time - because as Clark mentioned, there simply cannot be an immediate mass exodus from public school because the private infrastructure is not yet able to accommodate. This video also seems to address many of the concerns that Ben brought up in the post below.


Sabrina said...

I'd have to read the bill in its entirety, but I have heard it said that we actually spend more like $4,800 per pupil once you actually break down how much goes into public ed and how many students there are, so that actually that leaves less after a voucher is given. I have also heard that the remaining money doesn't remain with the public schools. They are allocated funds based on the actual enrollment, so if a student doesn't enroll in a public school the money isn't given. Again, I haven't done my homework, so I won't say that's correct. However, I don't have anything that verifies that the information the Eyres give out is anymore accurate. You'd think with the amount of time I've spent responding on your blog about this issue that I spend a lot of time on it, but I actually don't. I've only evaluated it on principle, not on specific logistics yet.

Clark said...

Well, we're just having a party tonight.

First off, it really isn't a coincidence that I mentioned Mt. Vernon, Sabrina. Just me pandering to my audience.

Second, I have a beef with one statement made by Mr. Eyre, that the average cost of private school is $3,800. In the text sited on this blog he adds that this figure excludes the two most expensive schools. I've been focusing my research on SL county high schools, because it just cuts down on how much I have to look through. The largest private HS in SL county is Judge, with 860 students. They charge $8,600 for non-Catholics, $7,250 for Catholics. The second largest private HS is Juan Diego. Those 780 students pay $8,200 ($6,600 for Catholics). The third largest is Waterford, whose 285 high school students pay $16,200, Catholic or not. I simply can not figure out how the 'average' of $3,800 can be meaningful in anyway when the three largest schools are all much higher than $3,800. Those three schools seem to have the majority of private HS students in the valley.

(I add that these more specific numbers somewhat contradict my claim of only 1,000 private high school students. I think I forgot that Judge is only high school so I incorrectly cut their numbers down significantly. Even still, 2,000 isn't a bad number. I've been using http://www.privateschoolreview.com/county_private_schools/stateid/UT/county/49035 for some of my information, with tuition numbers coming from the individual school websites.)

Ben said...

I've got to agree with Clark that the $3,800 number is misleading. First off, why would they omit the two most expensive schools? Perhaps these two schools are extreme outliers, and if so maybe they should be left out since a big outlier can skew the average way up. However, based on Clark's numbers I'd be surprised if there we two schools that were way above the rest (as in a full standard deviation higher or something like that). So, in reality leaving out the two most expensive schools will just suppress the number.
Secondly, I wonder if the $3,800 figure is the unweighted average. I think the average be weighted by the number of students that attend each school? Weighting by enrollment would give you the true average, since many more kids pay the tuition of a large school than a small school. Again going off of Clark's numbers, if the three largest schools are also the largest, then computing the unweighted average will give you a lower number. That would be like saying that the average student that attends either the UofU or SLCC pays (UofU tuition + SLCC tuition)/2. That's just not true, since many more students attend the U than SLCC.

Now, I also take issue with the way they portray the extra money being spread to other students when one student leaves and goes to a private school. Let's just assume that $7,000 is actually the correct number (although Sabrina might be right that the figure is incorrect, I don't know). The way they spread around the Oreos make it look like all $7,000 are variable costs, when that is definitely not the case. Of those $7,000 dollars, a big proportion is being spent on janitors, utilities, administration salaries, groundskeeping, and other administrative costs. These are all fixed costs--when the student leaves and goes to a private school, the janitor is still going to have to clean they whole building, and they'll still have to heat the whole clasroom, etc. To me, it seems likely that the proportion of the $7,000 that are variable costs (e.g. books for the student, desks, etc.) is probably fairly small--maybe no more than 50%, but that's just a stab in the dark. Let's say it was 50%, just for argument's sake. So, if the students takes $3,000, that actually leaves only $500 to be spread around to the other students, not $4,000, since the other $3500 is still going to be spent on fixed costs. You really can't spread the cookies around as easily as the video portrays. It's true that some money would be left over to spread around to other students, just not nearly as much as they're claiming.

Okay, I've said my piece. Just for the record, I would probably vote for the vouchers, I'm just trying to show that arguments on both sides can be misleading! I'm sure that the NEA is every bit as bad about leaving out little details that can make a huge difference. Why would I vote for the vouchers? Because I think that the good (more choice for parents, more pressure on schools and teachers to perform) outweighs the bad (possibility of good students all leaving, and disadvantaged students being "left behind," as it were).

Alison Squire said...

I actually saw a commercial today saying exactly what the flaws and loopholes of Referendum 1 are. Like I said in an earlier comment, the main argument in favor of vouchers seems to be that it will decrease class sizes, but it may actually increase them.

The Mad Hatter said...

Tyler! I just discovered your blog!

I read your post about better teachers increasing the quality of student output. Here in Oregon, starting wages for teachers is about $10k higher than Utah, with a cost of living that is really not much higher at all. I am curious as to how that affects education here. I do know that it's highly competitive to get a teaching job here. I wonder what the numbers are.

tysqui said...

This is an old story but I just saw it today. It turns out that voucher supporters are from the Devil...

Read Here.