Saturday, October 27, 2007


Last spring, Utah's legislature passed a private school voucher program. While vouchers have been used on a limited basis in other parts of the country, Utah's law is quite a bit different, and a lot more extensive than anything tried elsewhere. In Utah's system a student leaving the public school system would receive a voucher for the cost of a private school. The amount the student receives is based on family size and income. The average voucher amount is estimated to be $2,000. One of the things that sets Utah's law apart from others is that the public school will still receive the funding they were getting before the student left, but now they have 1 fewer student, resulting in an increase in per-pupil spending.

Of course, the voucher law was not without its opponents, and actually passed by a very slim margin in the House before the Senate and Governor approved it. However, even after its passage, voucher opponents did not rest. Instead, they gathered the thousands of signatures needed to get a proposition on the November ballot to take the issue to the general public.

The voucher debate has been raging in Utah for months now, especially in the blogosphere. Most Utah bloggers are against vouchers, which reflects the mostly Democratic nature of bloggers in general. In Utah, the Democratic party is pretty much unanimous in its opposition to vouchers, while the Republican party is mostly for them, although it is much more of a split vote than one might think.

I have been reading and watching from afar throughout the voucher debate, without much commenting on my part. There are literally dozens of posts on vouchers by just about every Utah blogger I read. Now, the television commercials and glossy mailings are in full force. I even picked up a pile of anti-voucher literature during parent-teacher conference this week. With the election coming soon, I decided it was time to write a voucher post of my own. I've gone over a few of the contention points that I have seen discussed, and that are on much of the pro and anti voucher literature, and have added my thoughts on each:

Certified teachers:

Many opponents complain that private schools don't have to have "real" teachers. That seemed outrageous, until I remembered that my University of Utah degree was heavy on what they called "adjunct professors". Basically, these professors are just professionals from the community who are hired to teach a few classes at the college. I had a great number of upper division, senior level and higher classes taught by adjunct professors. Incidentally, most of them were great. They actually had real life experiences to share, and insight into what was going on now in the accounting profession.

So now it doesn't seem like such a negative.

"Crazy" religious schools:

Seems a bit far fetched. How many are in the state right now? What's the demand in the state for it?

Honestly, this line of argument reminds me of those that complain to me about the War on Terror just being about using fear to control people. Well, that's exactly what's happening here.


I had an old friend who had an autistic child and they were on a waiting list for a really expensive school and scholarship program. I know that there are many people just like them. Vouchers would help families and children just like my friend's. In fact, vouchers could become the avenue to create more schools designed specifically for individual needs.

Will it Save or Cost Money?

This is one point that has gone back and forth a little. So far, I think final word goes to a pair of posts over at Jesse's blog, here and here.

Basically, the initial fear concerning vouchers was that it would take money away from public schools, so Utah's law provided that the public school will still get the money from the state that they would have gotten had the student remained enrolled. So the voucher proponents now argue that public schools will in effect receive more money per student than they were before. Pretty much a win-win scenario.

Of course, voucher opponents countered back with some math of their own, (see the comments) but overall, and considering Jesse's new calculations, it appears vouchers will result in a net savings for Utah and Utah's public schools.

Representative Steve Urquhart is a sponsor of the voucher bill, as well as being a fellow blogger. He has a lot of good information on his blog, plus this link to a debate he participated in recently. Many of these same questions are brought up in that forum.

After reading the arguments for and against vouchers, and weighing the pros and cons, I will be voting for Referendum 1 next month.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I'd Like To Thank The Academy...

So my last letter to the editor in the Deseret News was selected as the Letter of the Month for September, and will be spotlighted this Sunday. I had my picture taken today at the newspaper's office building downtown, and was given a tour of the paper.

It was really neat, as I saw the place in action (it was actually strangely quiet and bussle-free) and met a number of people at the paper, including columnist and editor Jay Evanson as well as Shaun Stahle, the editor of the Church News. I was taken to Joseph Cannon's office, but The Editor was not in at the time. I met a designer/artist/cartoonist who showed me some of his drawings on the computer, and as he told me how he first draws them with pen and then transfers them to the computer for coloring, he handed me the signed, pen version of the one we had just looked at. Sweet!

The guy that showed me around was very gracious. He told me that my letter was a unanimous pick, and to continue writing letters, saying that many of the monthly winners in the past stopped writing. In fact, many of the people I met remembered my letter and chatted with me about it. Next February there will be a banquet for all 12 monthly winners of the past year, with many of the editors and staffers in attendance.

In all, a pretty cool day. I guess I'd better get started on my next submission...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Holy Ghost: Testify of Truth

In my church I teach 10 and 11 year olds each Sunday. We are studying the New Testament this year and a couple of weeks ago I taught a lesson about the Day of Pentecost. As we discussed the Holy Ghost and what happened that day, I gained a few insights of my own.

I had prepared a few things to teach, and I had a manual to follow with stories and suggestions on how to conduct the class discussion. In the hour before class began, I revisited the lesson and spent some time pondering on the things I had prepared. I had a couple more things make their way into my mind, and I felt impressed to use them in the lesson, though it seemed to deviate a bit from my earlier preparations. One of those things was the "fruit of the spirit" scripture found in Galatians 5:22-23:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Through this scripture I taught the class how to recognize the influence of the Holy Ghost. Then it was my turn. As we discussed the Holy Ghost, another scripture was brought to mind. In Moroni 10:4-5 it says of the Holy Ghost:
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
We then were able to discuss how the Holy Ghost will assist us in discerning truth. Through the gift of the Holy Ghost we can all know what is right and true.

To this point I had not followed much of what I had prepared. Now, as time was running out, I was prompted to make one final point. Acts chapter 2 is where the scriptural account of the day of Pentecost is found. You will remember that it was on this day, 50 days after Passover and the Last Supper, that the Holy Ghost was given to the disciples and they began speaking in tongues. Since this was a festival time in Jerusalem, there were people there from all over Israel, and all over the world, with many languages and dialects represented. Yet all these people "heard them speak in his own language". We talked about how amazing this experience was. What an incredible thing to have been there, to have witnessed this remarkable event and to know through the power of the Holy Ghost that what Peter was preaching was the truth. As a result, thousands of people were baptized. Nevertheless, many were not. And why not? How could someone be present for something so wonderful and not have the Spirit "manifest the truth of it unto you"? Again, the scriptures gave us the answer:
And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?
Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.
Our own state of mind can prevent the Holy Ghost from testifying of the truth. If we mock, or insist on flippancy, we might keep ourselves from learning truth.

As I closed the lesson, I was able to testify of the power of the Holy Ghost to guide us and teach us truth. Through teaching, and following the Spirit, I had learned the selfsame lesson.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Be All End All Solution to Illegal Immigration

In my neck of the woods, illegal immigration from points south of the border can be a much discussed topic. Congress tried to tackle immigration recently, and failed miserably. So here's my plan to solve it once and for all.

Learn Spanish.

Now don't freak out. I'm not saying "Mexifornia" is going to take over the rest of the country, nor am I arguing that you give up English or Americanism or any other such thing.

The "problem", as I see it, with illegal, southern immigration is that a second culture, a second country really, has and is being formed. When I go to the grocery store, I watch people. I watch as English speakers and Spanish speakers self-segregate. They don't speak to each other, they hardly look at each other. There may be a furtive smile, or a nod of the head as they pass in the aisle, but no more open communication than that occurs. And that's stupid.

I speak Spanish. When a native Spanish speaker finds out that I speak, their entire countenance changes. They smile. They move a little closer and ask me how I learned. I can sense as they gauge how fast they can speak and still have me understand. I love seeing the question in their face as they realize I am speaking a form of Spanish called Castellano, where the "y" and the "ll" make a "sh" sound. Generally they will compliment me on how I speak, but mostly just that I speak. An instant bond is formed.

That bond comes about because of our common language. This is the bond that lessens the impact of that "second country". It does away with the furtive smiles and nods of the head. It is the bond that creates a community.