Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The "Sith Lord" eats Oreos

Finally. The Utah voucher fight is over! The 62% of Utahns who voted against taxpayer subsidized vouchers for private schools have spoken. Maybe we can finally put that issue to rest and work on making a difference for the 96% of Utah's kids who attend public schools.

Let it not be said that the campaign was boring. Anything but! Everyone waited to see what the proponents would come up with next. They certainly seemed to employ some bizarre campaign tactics.

And, I, for one, waited with anticipation to see what Patrick Byrne would say next!

He didn't disappoint.

Early in the evening he told a news station that the voucher vote was an "IQ test" for Utah voters as noted by Deseret Spectacle here:

"I think that this is basically a state-wide IQ test, and I'm very interested to see whether Utah passes or fails the IQ test." - Byrne said.

OK, then as it became clear that vouchers were being rejected in EVERY county in the state, Byrne came up with this gem:

"They (Utahns) don't care enough about their kids. They care an awful lot about this system, this bureaucracy, but they don't care enough about their kids to think outside the box," Byrne said.

So, according to know-it-all Patrick Byrne, CEO of - the non-profit making company - who is under investigation by the SEC - Utahns are...well....stupid.

Not only are Utahns stupid, they don't care about their kids! WHAT?!?!

Oh, and that is not enough. No, Byrne had to impugn the integrity of Gov. Jon Huntsman when he said:

"When he asked for my support [for governor] he told me he is going to be the voucher governor. Not only was it his No. 1 priority, it was what he was going to be all about," Byrne said. "He did, I think, a very tepid job, and then when the polls came out on the referendum, he was pretty much missing in action." (Reported here in the Tribune.)

Geez. This time Byrne can't say his words were taken out of context, as he did when the NAACP asked him to apologize for saying that minority children who didn't graduate from high school should be "burned" or "thrown away."

I imagine all of Byrne's comments will come under scrutiny in the next state he plans to take his message: South Carolina, as Accountability First reports here.

South Carolinians, beware Patrick Byrne. He thinks you are stupid, you don't care about your kids, and if they are minorities, they should be "burned."

And, a message just for you, Patrick: The "Sith Lord" eats Oreos.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Thoughts before the voucher vote

Soon the issue of taxpayer funded vouchers for private schools will be decided by Utah voters. Most of us would say "not soon enough" after having been bombarded by radio and TV commercials, and having hauled pounds of mail out of our mailboxes, and seen the newspaper ads, etc. etc. etc.

After having written about the media observations of vouchers, and various other aspects of this campaign for several weeks, tonight I am making a few observations without links to this or that.

First is that this whole voucher campaign was not a Utah-driven effort. It was thrust upon Utahns by out of state groups that continue to seek out "small states" that they can "use" to experiment with this Libertarian driven concept. (See accountabilityfirst for details.)

My second observation is that a lot of really good Uthans - teachers, parents, business people, civil rights leaders - recognized that this out of state voucher effort was not in keeping with the values of Utah. So they organized a huge effort to ensure that voters would have a say - yes or no - on the issue.

From that, a host of people and organizations weighed in and the whole issue became one of intense interest and emotion.

Now, my position from the start has been clear. You can tell from the title of my blog.

What has had me riled through this whole debate is that the pro voucher advocates have used "dirty tricks" and intimidation and obfuscation to keep the underlying issue at bay. They've tried to put up the teachers association as some bad entity when all the association really is is - duh - an association of teachers. They even went so low as to steal yard signs and send spam e-mail. Good grief.

The pro voucher campaign was single-handedly funded by Patrick Byrne, a childless bachelor, CEO of a struggling (to say the least) company, and paranoid who thinks the "Sith Lord" is out to get him. What was his stake in this effort? It certainly hasn't been the interest of children.

No, the whole underlying effort is truly about dissolving public education and public schools. It is a philosophical tug of war about how our children should be educated. It's a difference of opinion about the public good and the "free market."

Should we be a state, a nation, a democracy where children gain their opportunities through education? Should we fulfill the vision of Thomas Jefferson, who fought for a public school system open to all that would help teach generations about the values of freedom and democracy so that they could intelligently participate in that democracy and stand up to defend freedom? Should we continue and value our public schools and our teachers in their quest to, despite all bureaucratic obstacles, ensure that every child has a chance?

OR, as the pro voucher folks believe, but won't say, should education - the ability to think critically - be reserved for a few? Should the education of our children be open to the "free market" where those perceived to offer a better product be subsidized by state taxpayers? Should a "free market" compete to teach our children? Teach our children what? We know, and we influence, what our public schools teach. There is no influence like that in a "free market."

Utah voters will answer those questions for themselves on Tuesday.

So, however you chose to vote, please do vote. It is a lesson important to our children.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Salt Lake City Tribune says NO to vouchers

This really is the best written summary of the reasons to vote against Referendum 1 - the private school voucher program. Just please remember to VOTE!


No to Referendum 1: Vouchers would not improve Utah education

Tribune Editorial
Salt Lake Tribune

The Republican legislative leadership would have you believe that the voucher law on Tuesday's ballot is a solution to the problems plaguing education in Utah. It is not. Rather, it is a product of right-wing ideologues far from Utah who would like nothing better than to take education out of the hands of the taxpaying Americans who pay for it and turn it over to private interests.

These adherents to the philosophy of the late economist Milton Friedman have tried for years not just to undermine public schools, but eventually to eliminate them. In Utah, they have found an array of acolytes willing to ignore the will of the people and strong-arm enough of their colleagues to get the nation's first universal voucher program written into law - by a single vote.

But the Legislature's privatizers - led by House Speaker Greg Curtis, House Majority Leader Dave Clark, Senate President John Valentine and Senate Majority Leader Curtis Bramble - underestimated Utahns' desire to control how their tax money is spent, and their commitment to public schools.

Referendum 1 was forced onto Tuesday's ballot by a groundswell of opposition to vouchers by a populace unwilling to compromise their neighborhood schools by allowing tax revenue to be siphoned off to pay private school tuition.

Beyond the radical political and philosophical goals of the voucherites, there are other sound reasons for pounding a stake through the heart of this perennial push on Capitol Hill: the potential of vouchers to rob public schools of funding, and the questionable constitutionality of sending public funds to religion-based private schools.

The Utah and U.S. constitutions rightly forbid using public money to fund instruction in religious doctrine. That is why implementing the law would surely trigger lawsuits that would put taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars in legal bills. Regardless the outcome in court, it can be said with certainty today that the voucher law is an offense to the spirit of separating church from state.

The voucher law would not only create a system of private schools that are not accountable to taxpayers, but deal a devastating blow to public schools. In the 1980s and '90s, when Utah was suffering chronic recession and state revenues were tight, members of the Utah Legislature told underpaid educators in overcrowded, underfunded classrooms, "There's only so much money."

State revenue had to meet all the state's obligations, including public education. The same is true today, and can be applied to the impact of spending finite revenues on vouchers. Whether that money were to come directly from the state's public education fund, or from the general fund, it's all the same pot. Reduce the pot by hundreds of millions of dollars, as vouchers eventually would, and the remainder would not be enough to maintain public schools, let alone improve them. This erosion would not await the end of the voucher law's five-year provision to hold public schools harmless. Nor is there anything to keep the Legislature from further squeezing public schools.

The point is, Utah, with its high birth rate, simply does not have the money to support two separate systems - public and private. As it is, lawmakers have not adequately funded public schools, in bad times or good. Class sizes remain the largest, and per-pupil spending the nation's lowest, while teachers still are woefully underpaid.

Moving down the featured items on the bill of goods being sold to voters by voucher proponents is their comparison of the Utah law to voucher programs in other states, programs they claim have achieved some success. There is no legitimate comparison. No other state funds public education so poorly, and no other state's lawmakers have been foolhardy enough to install a universal voucher program at the expense of their public systems.

Utah's voucher law also fails as an antidote to the expected influx of 145,000 new students, many of them low-income immigrants, in the coming decade. Most poor families cannot afford private school for their children, even with a $3,000 voucher.
The bottom line on vouchers is simply this: Sending tax money to private schools is a bad idea. Vote "AGAINST" Referendum 1.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Vouchers - the real agenda

There have been a lot of theories about why conservatives support private school vouchers, and especially our Utah private school voucher program which would create one of the largest state entitlement, state taxpayer funded programs in the country.

I came across this tonight. From someone who is not from Utah but watching with interest. Hits the nail right on the head.

Copied from trakker with the link here:

"George Will writes about one of today's conservative's biggest issues, educational vouchers and open school choice. These would supposedly give parents, especially low income parents, funds to allow them to enroll their kids in private schools which conservatives assure us are much superior to public schools (because by their definition the private sector always does things better and more efficiently than the government).

"While I believe there are some lower income students who would benefit from such a system, I'm convinced that in the long run all it would do is put an end to public schools, and cut teacher's salaries all over the country in half (need any more reasons to explain why teacher's unions are fighting vouchers?). It would result in just as many bad private schools as there are bad public schools, but because the schools would now be a private sector activity, it would be much harder to solve the problem without massively regulating education, which the conservatives would fight tooth and nail.

"Also, little alarm bells go off in my mind whenever conservatives talk about doing something good for low income children and for improving racial balance, because let's face it, when have you ever heard conservatives really give a damn about the poor and racial minorities? These are not constituencies that conservatives lay awake at night worrying about. They have spent decades trying to convince voters that the poor are poor because they are either lazy or refuse to take responsibility for their actions. And the only time conservatives think about racial equality is when they want to scare white bigots into voting Republican (and let me insert here what a hoot is was to read about racial diversity when writing about a program in Utah, one of the nation's whitest states!).

"Why then are conservatives so intent on school vouchers and school choice? Well, their real objective here is to bust the national teacher's unions and abolish public schools. Conservatives hate the teacher's unions for many reasons, but chief among them is the fact that the unions have been able to negotiate for decent wages for teachers in general...The idea of a guaranteed decent wage and job security is anathema to their view of unfettered, unregulated capitalism.

"Conservatives hate public schools because public schools are subject to public regulation and laws. In theory public schools are supposed to be secular and fact based. While they don't always do this well, abolishing them and replacing them with a hodgepodge of private schools - many of them religious in nature - all competing for the voucher money, and subject to no regulation other then what consumers exert over the marketplace, would result in disaster..."

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Don't trust your children to Patrick Byrne

We learned from the Utah campaign finance filings yesterday that Patrick Byrne - and his Mum and Dad - have almost single-handedly funded the pro-private school voucher campaign.

To the tune of more than $3 million. Patrick is the largest donor at about $1.5 million, but he managed to secure $1 million from his Dad, and $200,000 from his Mum. (You can read the coverage of the Deseret News here.)

Anyone else besides me see the absolute, fundamental hypocrisy in "Parents for Choice in Education" (the Patrick Byrne mouthpiece we now know it to be) hysterically screaming that teachers in Utah and throughout the country, through small dollar donations, were contributing $3 million through their national organization, the National Education Association?

At least Utahns for Public Schools, the anti-voucher group of parents, teachers, educators, business people and civil rights groups, is made up of REAL people! They listed more than 2,500 individual donors. Donors that actually live and vote in Utah.

(Unlike Jack and Dorothy Byrne. They aren't registered to vote in Utah.)

So, we know Patrick is rich.

What else we know about Patrick Byrne is this:

He hates teachers and hates public education. (Calls teachers "educrats" and was quoted by George Will as saying that if he had a "silver bullet" he would shoot the NEA - an organization of teachers.)

He labels the 60% of Utahns polls reveal to be against vouchers "bigots."

He then states that minority children who drop out of school should be "burned" or "thrown away."

You know, one could put this down to the throes of this private school voucher campaign, but after looking around, this really could be a sign that Patrick Byrne is, well, nasty.

See below what he's written in e-mails to some people in the business world. Forgive the graphic language it is Byrne's, not mine.

o In October 2004, Byrne had an email exchange with Bethany McLean--a Fortune magazine reporter who was involved in exposing the Enron scandal--about her 1995 decision to leave Goldman Sachs to become a reporter. Specifically, Byrne wrote, “So, why exactly did you become a reporter? Giving Goldman traders blowjobs didn’t work out?” (New York Post, August 18, 2005)

(An statement indicated Byrne had been upset because McLean discussed Byrne’s cancer in an article she wrote about Overstock.)

o When Donn Vickrey of Camelback (now known as Gradient Research) wrote something about one of Overstock’s Board members that Byrne thought was unfair and unkind, Byrne wrote an email back to him saying he should be “beaten, f---ed, and driven from the land,” a phrase Byrne thought was “particularly colorful.” Byrne said he has always “admired those who can swear creatively.”
(New York Post, August 18, 2005)

And, Byrne is vengeful and deceitful.

Take, for example, his systematic lies about using an underling to blog for him, and using those blogs to get "even" with his detractors as outlined by Sam Antar here.

Then, his "failure" to reveal a subpoena by the SEC for a year. That is documented here.

Then there is how Byrne treats employees, or former employees. Take the case of a couple who worked for Overstock, were accused of "stealing" e-mail addresses, and then held almost "hostage" to the whole suit against them for over a year. At the end, Overstock dismissed the charges as unfounded.

Read all about it because it's all in the court records:

On December 5, 2003, Overstock filed a lawsuit against Jeffrey and Rachelle Knight, accusing the couple of stealing more than 3 million email addresses from the Overstock’s customer database and selling them to other companies that send junk e-mail. On that day, Overstock fired Rachelle Knight.(It had previously fired Jeffrey in an April 2003 layoff.) Overstock also filed a restraining order against the couple to turn over any Overstock equipment and their personal computer, only to withdraw it within weeks.

The Knights and their attorney, Lauren Scholnick, said the lawsuit was nothing more than a “publicity stunt” to show that Overstock was fighting for customer privacy. Before filing the suit, Overstock alleged that it had received a “significantly increased” number of complaints about junk e-mail.

Almost right after Overstock filed a complaint against the Knights alleging civil conspiracy and breach of contract, two Overstock employees who had claimed they saw Rachelle Knight log on to Overstock’s main computer changed their testimony. The witnesses claimed they saw Knight log on to the computer system in September 2003, but later changed that to April.

Days after filing a lawsuit against Rachelle and Jeffrey Knight, alleging they stole 3 million e-mail addresses from the company’s files, Overstock reduced its estimate to a mere “few dozen."

Jeffrey Knight noted in a counterclaim that Patrick Byrne threatened to fire his wife, who was reportedly pregnant, and sue, the company that offered Knight a job. Byrne denied the charges and said the lawsuit against the Knights had nothing to do with SmartBargains.

In February 2004, Overstock dropped the lawsuit against the Knights, arguing that the allegations that they stole information from Overstock were “unfounded.”

On February 26, 2004, Third District Court Judge Sandra Pueller approved an order that dismissed the lawsuit, essentially clearing the Knights of all allegations. The order stated, “Overstock has determined, after a full investigation, that its customer database has not been compromised, is fully secure and that (the Knights) did not attempt to, and have not, accessed any confidential customer information.” Neither party had to pay monetary damages; each paid their own legal fees.

Utahns who care about their children, and their children's education, should take note of this man who is trying to sell them flawed private school vouchers.

With no children of his own, Byrne doesn't really care about YOUR children. He only cares about revenge.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Another great "Not an Oreo" ad

A kind reader forwarded to me a GREAT "Not an Oreo" ad that you should watch. It, too, is on You Tube.

This is a Utah public school teacher explaining, with stacks and stacks of sandwich creme cookies, just what it takes to run a school.

He highlights that money is spent for many, many things to support every student in the school - counselors, bus transportation, janitors, computer labs, libraries, etc.

AND, he very effectively highlights how efficient schools are because teachers serve hundreds of students.

It's worth a watch, so I hope you will take the time.

It is here, as well as above.

Thank you kind readers for sending me the material. And, thank you fellow bloggers for helping share this good message.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The "Anti-Oreo" ad

If you've been following the Utah school voucher issue - and the attendant advertisements - you MUST see this.

It is right on point, although perhaps not 100% factual. But then, the Parents for Choice "Oreo" ad with the famous Eyres isn't even 1% accurate.


You Tube Video against Referendum One, the "Anti-Oreo" ad is here. YOU TUBE.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

KSL's inaccuracies repeated

A week or so ago, a story on KSL-TV by Richard Piatt took at look at the TV ads on both sides of the voucher issue. I thought it was NOT balanced, shallow, and in several cases just flat wrong.

A few folks wrote blogs about it. You can read one here from Bill Keshlar. He was pretty much on target. I thought the controversy would wind down.

But no! Now, Parents for Choice is repeating Piatt's inaccuracies through a mailer sent to some voters.

So, I went in search of setting the record straight and came across a letter from State Board of Education Chair Kim Burningham to the News Editor at KSL.

I am posting most of it below because I think it deserves your attention. It outlines all the incorrect information and assumptions that Piatt used in his story. It's long, but informational.

I hope that KSL will do something about this, and that after further review, Piatt will issue a retraction. I sure dislike seeing a TV station being purposely used to distort the facts.

Here is the letter:

TO: Con Psarras, KSL News Director

FROM: Kim R. Burningham

DATE: October 21, 2007

SUBJECT: Voucher “Truth Test” Got it Wrong

Because KSL is such a highly respected source for news in Utah community, it is extremely important that the information disseminated by the station is both fair and accurate. Based on the following information, I believe that the “Truth Test” segment that aired on the evening of Wednesday, October 17, 2007, was mistaken on key points, and that labeling the ad by Utahns for Public Schools “FALSE” was done in error. Please find analysis of the report below.

Richard Priatt reported: “During this five-year trial period, the program is an 'experiment.'”

How he got it wrong:

HB 148, while most definitely a risky and costly experiment, does not include a “trial period” clause. It does indicate that an investigative audit will be conducted at the end of five years, but there is no sunset date and no termination or reaction to the study is required. No language exists requiring the legislature to reauthorize the program at any time in the future. It just continues. The fact is that, while the first few years may see some savings for school districts, down the line a voucher program becomes more and more costly as Utahns subsidize tuition for private school students with public tax dollars. This is evident by the official analysis of the Office of Legislative Analyst—the same analysis that Mr. Priatt held up as source material for his misleading commentary.

Richard Piatt reported: “Those opposed to vouchers want to capture that money and apply it toward public education now. That is what Utahns for Public Schools mean when it had the 2006 Teacher of the Year in an ad saying, ‘Private school vouchers take resources away from public schools.’ In a financial sense, that's false… and the $5.5 million dedicated to vouchers---even if it were applied to the education budget---would amount to two-tenths of one percent of the overall budget.”

How he got it wrong:

Utah’s per-pupil spending is the lowest in the nation, as of the 2004-2005 school year. The Legislative Fiscal Analyst has estimated that the voucher program will cost the state $429 million over the next 13 years. The fact is that every dollar spent on voucher schools is a dollar that is not going in to the public classroom. [, Table 8; Salt Lake Tribune, March 8, 2007.]

The “mitigation monies” outlined in HB 148 are only for the first five years after a student leaves the school. So, while the cost of running a school – paying the teachers, the rent, the support staff, the electricity bill – remains much the same, the budget the school has to do those things will diminish.

Furthermore, while there may be some savings to schools during the first few years of the program, as private school students are added on down the line public school districts will experience a significant drop in funding as the cost of the voucher program balloons from $9 million to over $70 million by 2020. This is because all private school students by year 13 of the program will be receiving state money – whether or not it makes a difference to their family in being able to afford private school tuition. The $429 million estimated by the Legislative Fiscal Analyst as the cost to the state over the next thirteen years far outweighs any estimates of savings it could provide.[Salt Lake Tribune, March 8, 2007]

While $5.5 million may be a small percentage of the overall schools budget, it could still have a big impact – with an average teacher earning $37,006 per year in Utah, $5.5 million could fund 148 new teachers – that’s three additional teachers for every one of Utah’s 40 school districts, with funds left over.

Richard Piatt reported: “In anti-voucher ads those questions are cast as troubling questions: ‘Setting few if any standards for private voucher schools. Like no accreditation…’ That’s false. In fact, school accreditation…[is]spelled out in both voucher bills.”

How he got it wrong:

HB 148 states that schools taking voucher students must “provide, upon request to any person, a statement indicating which, if any, organizations have accredited the private school.” This does not constitute a mandate for accreditation from any organization – merely that the schools disclose whether or not they have achieved accreditation. HB 174 makes no further mandates for accreditation on private schools.

According to the Utah Administrative Code Rule R277-410, the Utah State Board of Education is “not responsible for the accreditation of nonpublic schools, including private, parochial, or other independent schools.” The same rule mandates the accreditation of all public secondary schools, including charter schools, while public or charter middle, junior high, and elementary schools may seek accreditation if they wish.

Further, according to the Utah State Office of Education School Accreditation website: “In the State of Utah, by law all public schools, granting high school credit, are required to be accredited.” The State Board of Education says that “Private and parochial schools that issue high school credit and/or diplomas should be accredited” – again, not constituting a mandate.

Richard Piatt reported: “’Setting few if any standards for private voucher schools. Like …no accountability for our tax dollars…’ That’s false. In fact…accountability… [is]spelled out in both voucher bills. That includes requirements for annual student testing.”

How he got it wrong:

Section 53A-1a-805 of HB 148 says that private schools accepting vouchers “annually assess the achievement of each student by administering: a norm-referenced test scored by an independent party that provides a comparison of the student's performance to other students on a national basis.” The results of that test must be available to parents and to “other persons” upon request, but the school may choose any norm-referenced testing mechanism.

The test chosen by a private school may be any norm-referenced test in any curriculum. It may have absolutely no reference to the achievement required from public school students on, for instance, the Utah Performance Assessment System for Students (U-PASS). U-PASS, enacted in 2000 by the Utah State Legislature to ensure the effectiveness of the tax dollars being used in public schools, is just one of many testing requirements of the 96 percent of Utah students who attend public schools. The results of U-PASS testing are widely available and reported to allow parents to see how their child’s school is doing with the core curriculum approved by the State Board and required of all public schools. On the other hand, schools accepting vouchers have no such requirement for a comprehensive core curriculum, let alone a test that definitively covers such a curriculum. There can be no basis for comparison between public and private schools to determine success if students are not held to the same standards.

Additionally, accountability goes beyond testing - while public school budgets are reported annually and in great detail, private schools accepting vouchers must only account for the voucher payments separately and contract with a certified public accountant to make a report to the State Board every four years.

Richard Piatt reported: “’Setting few if any standards for private voucher schools. Like…no requirement teachers have a credential.’ That’s false. In fact…teacher credentials are spelled out in both voucher bills.”

How he got it wrong:

Section 53A-1a-805 of HB 148 says that private schools accepting vouchers must “employ or contract with teachers who: hold baccalaureate or higher degrees; or have special skills, knowledge, or expertise that qualifies them to provide instruction in the subjects taught.” What subject matters those degrees are held in or what “special skills” constitute making a teacher qualified is left up to each individual school. No license or teaching credential is required – merely that the school makes the qualifications of the teachers it has chosen available for review by parents.

Alternatively, Utah public school teachers are required to hold a State Office of Education issued license, which requires not only an extensive review of a teacher’s qualifications prior to being granted, but also that the teacher commit to ongoing education.

• The USOE offers “alternative routes” to licensure (ARL), which still requires a baccalaureate degree or higher for those wishing to teach in secondary schools and a minimum of 27 semester hours of college credit for those wishing to teach in elementary schools. In order to be granted a license, ARL candidates “complete course work determined by a transcript review, take required content knowledge test (s), teach for a minimum of one year and a maximum of three years in a licensed position, successfully pass evaluations of classroom performance skills by the principal, and, upon program completion, are recommended for licensure by the principal and ARL advisor.”

• There are a variety of methods for obtaining a license by more traditional methods, for those who have participated in a teacher preparation program. In-state teacher program graduates forward their completed file from their higher education institution. Out-of-state graduates must provide, among other requirements, university transcripts, verification of educator experience, and either a license from the state they graduated in or an institutional recommendation from their university.

• Additionally, in order to remain licensed in Utah, teachers must attend and pass additional university courses, go to in-services or conferences, conduct research, or lead students in volunteer activities.

KSL and Richard Piatt - correct the record.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Byrne won't apologize

Last night I "borrowed" from Gary Weiss's blog (here) that posted Patrick Byrne's You Tube video where he suggests that minority children who don't graduate from high school should be "burned" or "thrown away."

Today the NAACP of Utah called for Byrne to apologize and retract his comments. He wouldn't. What a surprise.

So what did Byrne say? He tried to turn it around, of course. Obfuscate. From the Associated Press, as reported by the Deseret News (story here):

"Byrne said he had no intention of apologizing and claimed his comments were taken out of context."

But, Jeanetta Williams of the NAACP held her ground:

"Williams said she believes Byrne literally meant that minorities who don't graduate should be burned or thrown away.

"Those were his words, not mine," she said."

For Byrne "burning" or "throwing away" a few kids really doesn't mean that much to him. Especially kids of color.

Consider this:

1. In September 2001, after returning from a trip to India and Southeast Asia, Byrne launched Worldstock "Socially Responsible Goods," a store within whose ostensible purpose was to sell disadvantaged artisan work “as inexpensively as possible so as to maximize the amount of return for them.” Regarding Worldstock’s relationship with vendors, Byrne said “it’s got to be paternalistic” because in reality, Worldstock is “holding all the aces.”

2. One issue Byrne knew Worldstock would face was the possibility that its goods were produced by child labor, products which he described as being “morally tainted.” However, after considering the arguments for and against the possibility of child labor in making Worldstock items, Byrne decided “children might legitimately help their parents in informal, cottage-industry settings, if their work were [sic] limited and they go to school.” Given a “blurry world,” “Worldstock allows child labor for less than two hours a day, coupled with mandatory schooling, because such labor occurs in the home rather than the factories.”

Yes, this is the multi-millionaire bachelor funding Utah's private school voucher scam. In his own words. For which he will never, ever apologize.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Patrick Byrne says "burn those kids"

WOW. This is completely stunning!

Patrick Byrne, pro-voucher funder and debater (and failed businessman) said that kids who fail to complete high school should be "burned" and/or "thrown away."

Gary Weiss found a You Tube video and posted it on his blog here.

To quote from his writing:

"As he continues his charm offensive in Utah, where the lifelong bachelor is campaigning for school vouchers -- yesterday he called voucher opponents "bigots" -- Byrne has brought a refreshing Hitlerian tone to the voucher debate..."


"I guess that's easy enough to say when you're the son of an insurance industry executive, and have never had to work a day in your life. Just burn the underclass. Useless people. Untermenschen."

Please check out Gary's blog. And the You Tube video.

You will be shocked, too.

Patrick Byrne can't do math either

Patrick Byrne, CEO of, hasn't ever been good at math. One can see that in how he's run (or run aground) his company - which has yet to make a profit. (Can he even add or subtract??)

(Byrne also can't hold his temper and is always offering to "fight" people. As he did at Fechheimer Bros when he offered to settle a union dispute with fisticuffs, Gary Weiss noted here yesterday that Byrne got into a tussle with Utah legislators, too. Weiss also notes that Byrne has labeled 60% of Utahns as "bigots." Hardly a temperate comment.)

But, I digress. Byrne can't do math. That view is reinforced by Byrne's position in a "business leaders" (aka "business bullies") group that wants CEOs to intimidate their employees into supporting the Utah voucher measure. None of them can do the math - which also makes me a little wary of their role as company heads.

If Byrne and the others COULD do math, they might know that it would take over 20% of students in public schools to switch to private schools to make the Utah voucher measure come close to "breaking even." And, folks, that isn't going to happen. There aren't enough spaces in Utah private schools to hold even that many students. Plus, historically, not that many students are going to "switch" and leave Utah's public schools.

But, Byrne just joins a growing list of pro-voucher folks who can't do math.

See Paul Rolly's articles here and here where Sen. Bramble not only bumbled the so-called fiscal analysis of vouchers by presuming that ALL private school students would end up in public schools, his subsequent analysis of public school enrollment was off, too. Wildly off. In both cases.

The Parents for Choice in Education pro-voucher group also can't do math. They keep claiming that tuition would be affordable for average Utah families with a voucher and they cite erroneous tuition data.

But, as reported here in this morning's Deseret News, even with a voucher most families (and particularly the low income families that all the millionaires seem to want to "help") cannot afford to send their children to private school. Period. Even the highest level voucher of $3,000 would barely cover half the cost of tuition. And, then when you add in uniforms, books, school activities, transportation to and from school, then vouchers seem even more paltry.

Since Byrne and all the other the people supporting school vouchers can't seem to do basic math you've got to ask: What they are trying to put over on the people of Utah?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Stunning Milwaukee failure

Last Friday I posted some information about the very few existing voucher experiments around the country, in order to get some perspective about the proposed Utah voucher law.

So today when I scanned through the various blogs keeping track of the voucher "discussion", I spotted Accountability First's entry today about the latest research on the Milwaukee voucher experiment.

WOW. To have Howard Fuller, one of the leaders of the voucher movement, and the conservative Wisconsin Research Policy Institute say that vouchers haven't worked for Milwaukee students is an absolutely stunning admission of failure.

Competition didn't improve student performance, or the public schools. Lack of oversight led to fraud and abuse (and fly-by-night schools). AND, Milwaukee taxpayers have been forced to foot the bill with ever increasing property taxes to pay for the voucher program.

It's all there for us to learn from. The dismal failure of vouchers in Milwaukee is reason enough to reject them in Utah.

Here's the full story from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. I encourage anyone still undecided how to vote on Referendum 1 to read this.

And I sincerely hope that Paul Rolly, or Glen Warchol at the Trib or Tiffany Erickson at the News will put some hard questions before the parade of out-of-staters that the Sutherland Institute is bringing in to try to bolster the failing voucher effort.

And I hope all the business leaders who are trying to intimidate their employees into voting for vouchers will really check the record on tax increases in Milwaukee. School vouchers caused taxes to go up. As the Journal-Sentinel reported here:

"In a letter last week to state Rep. Sheldon Wasserman (D-Milwaukee), Milwaukee School Board President Joe Dannecker said that $7.6 million of the $16.5 million increase in the amount of property tax to be collected for schools for this school year is due to the voucher program and that each voucher student increased property tax collections by $447, while each MPS student increased collections by $91. The total property tax bill being levied by MPS increased this fall by 7.7%."

Vouchers are a dismal failure.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Pro voucher business bullies

Just when it seems that the pro-voucher groups tactics can't sink any lower, they all surprise me again.

You recall when the legislative leaders who rammed the school voucher law through the Utah House (by one vote) and the Senate called in the lobbyists to strong-arm them into putting up cash and votes for the failing voucher referendum?

And then legislative leaders threatened to hold up a United Way and business leaders health care plan unless these folks also got on board with vouchers?

Well, now those business leaders appear to have succumbed to the bullying and intimidation and blackmail.

Worse yet, it appears they are, in turn, being asked to bully and intimidate THEIR OWN EMPLOYEES to vote for vouchers.

Read this from the Salt Lake City Tribune, just posted online here:

"A group of prominent Utah business leaders is campaigning for vouchers by sending pro-voucher letters to employees.

"The group Business Leaders for Referendum 1 has been sending an e-mail to business leaders encouraging them to tell their employees about projected enrollment increases and how Referendum 1 could help. According to the letter, voting in favor of Referendum 1 could help the state avoid overcrowded classes and tax increases as a result of a projected enrollment increase over the next 10 years.

"Time is short and we must help voters understand these issues," the letter says. "We are asking you to tell your employees about this aspect of the debate and encourage them to carefully consider the economic impact of their decision."

"The letter also includes a draft of another letter for employers to distribute to their employees. That letter states: "As your employer, it is not my intent to tell you how you should vote. However; as I listen to the debate being waged on the airwaves, I am deeply concerned that one of the most important considerations is not being discussed." Business leaders who signed their names to the letter include: Fred Lampropoulous, CEO, Merit Medical; Keith Rattie, chairman and CEO, Questar Corp.; Patrick Byrne, CEO,; Thomas E. Bingham, president, Utah Manufacturers Association; Howard M. Headlee, president, Utah Bankers Association; James V. Olsen, president, Utah Food Industry Association; L. Tasman Biesinger, executive vice president, Utah Home Builders Association; M. Royce VanTassell, vice president, Utah Taxpayers Association; Chris Kyler, Utah Association of Realtors; Candace Daly, National Federation of Independent Business; Lee J. Peacock, executive director, Utah Petroleum Association; David A. Litvin, President, Utah Mining Association."

These same "business leaders" - or rather "business bullies" - also have a brand new website. You can check it out here and get the same lies and half-truths and exaggerations that PCE has been trying to get Utahns to swallow. (I certainly will be watching to make sure they file a report with the Lt. Governor for these expenditures -- all of them.)

A campaign is one thing. But bullying your own employees?


Monday, October 22, 2007

Voucher "savings" not true

Well, hmmm. For months now voucher supporters have been claiming that giving voucher schools tax dollars would actually save Utah money.

No one could credibly arrive at the astronomical savings legislative leaders touted, and Sen. Bramble would not allow the worksheets of the fiscal analyst to be released.

Well, no wonder!

Under pressure, Bramble finally released the background information, as Paul Rolly reported in the Salt Lake City Tribune this weekend:

"Utah legislators pimping their personal agendas appear to be getting more adept at using (abusing) their professional staffs to produce data that supposedly justify their political initiatives. Take the recent trek into Fantasyland by Senate Majority Leader Curtis Bramble, who waved numbers from the Legislative Fiscal Analyst's Office to back his claim that the private school voucher bill would save Utah $1.4 billion over 13 years.

"Alas, the only problem is that it's not true.

"Nevertheless, this "fact" has been oft-repeated by Bramble and other pro-voucher legislators, and it was included in a promotional film produced by the Informed Voter Project, a committee formed - and misnamed - by those same lawmakers.

"Critics contend the committee's claim of dizzying voucher savings is a gross misrepresentation, a result of Bramble's manipulation of the Legislature's professional staff. Not surprisingly, Bramble was reluctant to share the research supporting the conclusion. That is, until he learned that the anti-voucher side had released other research from the same Legislative Fiscal Analyst's Office showing that vouchers would actually cost the state millions of dollars.

"Once Bramble caved and released his data, the picture cleared. It showed that he had asked the analysts for a calculation based on what all students eligible for vouchers would cost the state if every one of them were in the public system. That includes all the students already in private schools and those potentially moving into the state.

"In other words, it was a house of cards. But structural deficiency is not part of the message being trumpeted by lawmakers trying to persuade voters to approve vouchers in next month's ballot referendum on the law they passed last winter."

You can read the full story here.

What a sad day when voucher supporters resort to lies.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sorry record of vouchers

There aren't many other school voucher programs to look at and compare Utah's law to -- only limited programs in Cleveland, Milwaukee, Washington, D.C. and, to some extent, the state of Florida.

Curious, I looked at the records of those programs and found:

1) No one can say definitively that students do better in voucher schools than in public schools. Two reports published in the past month both reiterate what most independent researchers have found (independent means not paid to draw conclusions) -- students do about the same in voucher schools than similar students in public schools. (You can see the research here and here).

2) A draft report from the General Accounting Office on the Washington, D.C. program found that students are, in fact, being HARMED in voucher schools. That's because they have been placed in schools that do NOT have to meet standards for teacher training or even safety requirements. (The story is here).

3) In 2005, the state Legislature in Wisconsin required Milwaukee voucher schools to report how students were doing on standardized tests. Now, mind you,lawmakers didn't impose one test or another, they simply asked for a report on how voucher students were doing. As of August of this year, one year after the deadline for the first academic achievement report, the voucher schools had not submitted test results. (This story can be found here.)

A state Senator on the Legislative Audit Committee said:

"Wisconsin taxpayers will shell out $246 million for the voucher program over the next two years and they deserve to know how these schools are performing," Decker says.

4) There are a lot of horror stories of schools opened by zealots or by craven embezzlers that have led to school closures in Cleveland, Milwaukee AND Florida.
Here are some examples from Milwaukee:

"In just the last 8 months, three schools have been ordered out of the voucher program and a fourth is now under investigation. These schools were created in response to the voucher program and did not exist prior to its start. Here are some of the details:

•Alex’s Academics of Excellence in Milwaukee received $2.8 million in voucher money over three years despite the fact that the school’s founder and chief executive officer was convicted of rape in the 1970s. The school principal had been fired from the public school system after being accused of inappropriate behavior with female students. Teachers at the school went unpaid, and former school administrators and teachers say employees smoked marijuana at the school and carried around crack cocaine. The school was evicted from its building and owed more than $50,000 in overdue rent. The school was ordered out of the voucher program in July 2004. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, June 15, 2003; Sept. 15, 2003;
Jan. 27, 2005)

•The Mandella School of Science and Math signed up more than 200 students who never showed up and then cashed $330,000 in state-issued tuition checks, which the principal used to buy two Mercedes vehicles. In the meantime the school did not pay many of its teachers, vendors or the landlord. Prior to the fraud finding, many of the school’s teacher had already quit complaining that they were not paid and that the school had no formal curriculum. In closing the school, the Circuit Judge stated “We have all failed these children” and appointed a former judge to find new schools for these children. A woman with a grandson in the school stated, “I’m upset, mad and angry. These kids have been misled. My son might have to repeat a grade.” The school was ordered out of the voucher program in July 2004. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Feb. 16, 2004; Feb. 192004; and Jan. 27, 2005)

•Academic Solutions Center for Learning, one of the largest and fastest growing schools in the voucher program, was closed due to unsafe conditions and is now under investigation for fraud. Five student fights occurred in a recent two-month period. At the last fight in January 2005, no teachers had been present all day because teachers had not been paid. In their absence, several students in a classroom began fighting, which spread to the common area of the school. The melee involved over 100 students and it took 15 police officers an hour and a half to stop the fighting. The school, with 396 students,operated in a building with an occupancy permit for no more than 200 students. The state is now investigating fraud at the school. A state preliminary audit found improper student applications, inappropriate cashing of 300 voucher checks worth $430,000 that should have been returned to the state and inaccurate student counts submitted by the school.
(Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Jan. 27, 2005; Feb. 10, 2005)"

By design, Utah's voucher law has minimal oversight. Voucher students do not take the same tests as public school students, so comparing how each group performs will be impossible. Financial audits are only required every FIVE years, so discovering fraud could take a long time. Teachers in voucher schools do not have to even have a college degree. The requirement for schools is that they enroll "more than 40 students" leaving a lot of safety questions unanswered.

Additionally, the voucher law SPECIFICALLY states that no one can impose any more standards than the meager ones listed in the bill.

In that light, I am going to look closer still at the few other voucher programs that exist. So far it doesn't seem they've been all that successful.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Don't get on Towner's SPAM list

There is an e-mail "poll" circulating from Parents for Choice, the pro-voucher folks. If it lands in your e-mail box, don't answer it unless you WANT to be on Mark Towner's SPAM list...

Here it is (edited for brevity):

"A lot of people in Utah are rightfully concerned that the NEA, a national union headquartered in Washington DC, is spending at least $3 million to overturn an important education law passed by our state legislature..

Do you think the NEA should be spending $3 million to take away parents' rights?


(click a response above to cast your vote)

If you'd like to help protect the rights of Utah families, click here.

PO Box 57637
Salt Lake City, Utah
United States"

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Floridians convicted of voucher fraud TODAY

Utahns are still deciding how to cast their ballots on Referendum 1.

One thing to consider is the potential for fraud as new schools pop up and people see an opportunity to make money. Keep in mind that the Utah law lacks significant financial or academic accountability. So, the potential for abuse and fraud is very real.

Fraud and abuse has been well documented in voucher programs in Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Florida. (See here.)

Just today, the Lakeland (FL) Ledger reported on a jury verdict that found two sisters guilty of embezzling more than $200,000. Here's a look:

"More specifically, the state contended that, in the summer of 2003, Mitchell purchased a used 2003 Hummer H2 with $35,000 in cash that was taken from state scholarship funds. Prosecutors also told the jury that her sister, Jeannette Nealy, also bought a car using voucher funds. They swindled about $200,000 from state and federal programs, prosecutors said."

And, the article continued:

"Had it not been for some alert local officials and investigators trained in financial crimes, the money shuffling might have gone undetected and unpunished. At the time, the state of Florida was providing little oversight for the way money was dispensed from Florida's three voucher programs."

Further, it noted:

"Just months before, a bill that would have provided more accountability in the state's voucher programs died when the Florida Legislature's session ended April 30. Then-Senate President Jim King warned that the lack of greater oversight had created "a disaster waiting to happen."

And, Senate President King was a co-sponsor of the original voucher bill.
He clearly had second thoughts.

You can read the full story here.

Hmmm. The Florida law (since struck down as unconstitutional) was just like Utah's in that it had little oversight and virtually no accountability for voucher schools.

Today's story holds a good lesson.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Surreal hypocrisy

If there is one thing that seems to bind together many of the paid PCE workers and consultants it's this: Hostility.

Each of the PCE ads and presentations I've seen has a strong undercurrent that is downright hostile. Hostile to teachers, to school administrators, to parents, to anyone who disagrees with their numbers or their opinions.

Read this diatribe about our public schools below, which is pasted from a pro-voucher blogger:

"It is only from a special point of view that education is a failure. As to its own purposes, it is an unqualified success. One of its purposes is to serve as a massive tax-supported jobs program for legions of not especially able or talented people. As social programs go, it's a good one. The pay isn't high, but the risk is low, the standards are lenient, entry is easy, and job security is pretty fact, the system is perfect, except for one little detail. We must find a way to get the children out of it."

And, most of PCE's paid ads are a rant against the teachers' association. You know, it is your teachers (and my Mom) who belong, voluntarily, to the association.

Even toward the end of Richard and Linda Eyre's 7-minute Oreo cookie video, Richard says to the camera, "and if our schools have to cut a few teachers, that won't be so bad..." (which of course causes one to question his wide-eyed claims that schools will hire MORE teachers because of vouchers).

There are even the PCE-led letters to the editor that claim that Utah's public schools are controlled and "monopolized" by teachers through their union. Clearly that can't be true because if the teachers' association controlled education, then they would be the best paid teachers in the country! And, they wouldn't have to deal with the huge classes that they have. Too, Utah would be a lot better than last in the nation in per pupil funding.

With so much hostility emanating from the PCE campaign, it is impossible to believe their latest ad, in which U.S. Congressman Rob Bishop says: "I know how hard our Utah teachers work and what a great job they do with the resources they have."

The hyprocrisy is surreal.

P.S. For those who tuned in for the next chapter on Patrick Byrne, it will be forthcoming. There is a LOT of material to go through.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Mr. Byrne and Associates

Although campaign reports aren't due until the end of the month, it's pretty obvious that Parents for Choice in Education(PCE) is getting a huge influx of money from SOMEWHERE or SOMEONE. They're running a field operation (that includes lots and lots of e-mails, so watch your inbox for their spam), have increased their TV and radio ads, and generally don't seem to be as underfunded as they once claimed.

Again we ask, where is the money coming from? Patrick Byrne, CEO of, has put plenty of his own money into PCE and the legislators' PIC. Or is Byrne tapping his friends?

We have the report from California that money was going to be diverted to the Utah voucher issue. Charles Hurth, the Missouri mystery-man behind the money in California was linked to Byrne through his failed "First Class Education" operation - a short-lived concept that went defunct in every state.

Or, is Byrne getting money out of his friends from the Milton and Rose Friedman Foundation? (The Friedman Foundation exists solely to get taxpayer funds diverted from public to private schools via school vouchers.)

On the Board with Byrne are two familiar names in voucher schools: William Hume, a huge donor to the "All Children Matter" operation in Michigan, and one Howard S. Rich from New York City. (You can learn more about Howie Rich here.)

Or, is Byrne really digging deep in his own pocket to fund PCE? He certainly seems to have a lot of personal money, despite the fact that his company isn't doing well. (Please look here and here for some thorough reviews of Byrne's business dealings. I must say these are very telling and thanks to Gary Weiss and Sam Antar for the information they've posted.)

Byrne, of course, was born into a well-to-do family. He had all the privileges and connections that enabled him to get a good education, graduating from Walt Whitman High School, then Dartmouth, then Stanford.

His father, Jack, proved himself to be a very smart businessman, saving GEICO insurance from near bankruptcy. Jack also served on Boards and such for both Dartmouth and Stanford, positions that undoubtedly helped young Patrick.

Patrick Byrne has proven himself to be resilient, surviving bouts with cancer, becoming a heavyweight fighter and an expert in martial arts. He's a pilot, though he hasn't apparently flown in some time. (More later about a little incident in 1997.)

But there are also some things that are a little "odd" about Patrick. Like someone who tilts at windmills but can't even get that right. His "jihad" against the "Sith Lords" (his words, not mine) that he claims are ruining seems more than a little off the charts.

And, his relationship to a Col. Bo Gritz seems a little strange, too. Gritz recounts his relationship with a young Patrick Byrne in China. Seems Gritz used Patrick as an "agent" in Asia. Young Patrick sought Gritz's counsel, and later Gritz claims to have helped Patrick attain a "miraculous" recovery from his cancer. You can read Gritz's claims here, once you get past some of the religious verbiage and the rants about Ruby Ridge.

Some of these references are Patrick's early years. We will continue to explore his relationships to people, and we will see if we can figure out who - besides Patrick Byrne - is funding PCE.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Plausible deniability in paying for votes?

Bloggers were quick to post thoughts about the latest gaffe by Parents for Choice in Education (PCE), although PCE claims the organization had nothing to do with a letter offering payment to "motivated" persons who "deliver" pro-voucher voters.

Utah Amicus, Accountability First, One Utah and Democracy for Utah all had excellent posts on the revelation.

Both the Salt Lake City Tribune and Deseret News reported the story.

And, in both, PCE claims it had nothing to do with the letter, despite the fact that two PCE staffers were listed as contacts for "motivated" volunteers who would get cash for every pro-voucher voter who voted.

As Tiffany Erickson reported in the News:

"The Free Capitalist Project sent out e-mails earlier this week looking for "advocates" who could earn $250 for securing 25 names of voters who committed to vote for Referendum 1. They could earn $10 for every additional name after that.

"The group also claimed they were working on behalf of Parents for Choice in Education, something PCE said Thursday was false.

"We are looking for staffing in the next month to help us out in the community, but it is not what was stated in that e-mail," said Leah Barker, spokeswoman for PCE. "Some groups, they just want to help, but this was really misrepresenting what we are looking for."

Not associated with PCE? Given its history of not playing by the rules, I wondered, so did a short search.

And, I found this, apparently posted on Oct. 11 at 11:36 p.m. by someone named Jim who posts responses for questions posed to Rick Koerber of the Free Capitalist Project. I am pasting it below just in case this post is taken down.

"I spent most of today working on a commitment I have made to help a friend outline and solidify the unique process his company offers to clients. Most of the Evening was spent strategizing on the campaign. I talked with Mr. Wark and his group will be creating an template e-mail that I will be using with several business owners who have client lists that they would like to contact in support of the Utah Vouchers."

Now I am not sure if Jim was the author, or if he was posting for Mr. Koerber.

What I do know is that Elisa Clements of PCE told the Tribune in a story published August 30,2007 that her organization was hiring Steve Wark, a political consultant from Las Vegas.

"Parents for Choice is getting outside help in organizing its grass-roots campaign from Steve Wark, a Republican political consultant in Las Vegas, Clements confirmed."

So, Jim, or Rick, posted on Oct. 11 that he spent the evening working on the campaign and e-mail templates and consulted with a Mr. Wark, and PCE said they were hiring a Steve Wark from Las Vegas, yet PCE had nothing to do with the offer to pay for pro-voucher votes? Hmmm.

P.S. After I posted this, I got the KVNU information that you can check out here. Seems one of the authors of the e-mail points the finger at PCE.

"I just got off the phone with Brandon Dupuis, the author of the email. He says the cash for votes program was not his brainchild, but that of PCE. He says PCE contacted him with the program and that the cash for the votes was to be provided by PCE. Though he wouldn’t tell us who his contact for the progam is at PCE, Dupuis maintains that the PCE votes for cash program is both legal and ethical."

Hmmmm again.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

What REALLY happens to class size

After listening, time and again, to the convoluted concept that vouchers will reduce class size in Utah's public schools, I wanted to figure out a way to explain how class size really IS determined. Without the Oreo (registered trademark) cookies.

Then I came across this teacher's blog. It is the most succinct explanation of what really happens in Utah's schools, and is based on direct experience. I am pasting the blog in below and including the link. I really hope you will share this widely, for it is the best explanation yet.

The Basics of Class Size - Or Why Vouchers Won't Make a Difference

"I thought I’d explain a bit how class sizes work for those who might believe that commercial with the Oreos the pro-voucher people made.

"Last year we had about 108 sixth grade students at our school. With that number we were able to have four sixth grade teachers, meaning there were about 27 students in each class. This year we are down to 100 sixth grade students. That does not mean that we now have four classes of 25 students. Instead it means we have three classes of 33 students.

"The number of teachers is not a fixed amount. It is determined by how many students there are in the school. So with fewer students in that grade, we were alloted money for fewer teachers.

"And the difference in the number of students wasn’t even that big from last year to this year. And if more sixth graders move into our school, it’s already past the date when we’d hire a new teacher, so the classes will just get bigger.

"So when students leave a public school to attend charter or private schools, it does not result in smaller class sizes. It can often result in larger class sizes. The only thing that would reduce class size would be to allocate more money for teachers so that more could be hired."

Read it here.

Towner admits to spam

Well, Mark Towner came clean to Paul Rolly at the Tribune. He was behind the spam from Utahns for Public School (singular) that was created to look as though it was from the coalition of teachers, parents and community members opposed to vouchers (Utahns for Public Schools - plural).

Hat tip to Jesse, WasatchWatcher, and all the others who brought attention to Rolly's blog.

As for Towner, his explanation is, well, er....BIZARRE.

"Sting" operation? To see who would visit his pro-voucher, anti-teacher website???

Wait a minute. If Towner were to operate an effective "sting" wouldn't he have preferred, instead, to see who visited the ANTI-voucher website on "company time??"

And, Mark, you really MUST apologize to Jesse for calling him a liar. He is NOT. You, sir, are.

* Shakes head. * Sigh.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Still on the voucher money trail

Finding out how much money is being spent on this voucher campaign won't come until the end of the month when reports are due. Once again, Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) likely will complain about the money that Utah teachers, and teachers around the country, are putting into the opposition to Referendum 1.

And I will bet anyone in Utah $1 that the PCE finance report again shows that the majority of its expendable funds were donated by the "PCE Foundation" and "PCE, Inc." Both those entities clearly were created to obfuscate the REAL donors to the pro-voucher side. Neither foundations nor corporations making political expenditures are required by Utah law to reveal their donors.

It could well be that the All Children Matter operation out of Michigan is still funding PCE. Likely, even. But, since the ACM operation in Michigan is a corporation too, it can donate to its heart's content to the "PCE Foundation" and "PCE, Inc." and never leave a trace.

Or, it could be that ACM has its hands full right now. It got a little too clever when operating in Wisconsin in 2006 where the organization was found guilty of violating campaign finance laws. (You can read about it here if interested.)

Now, ACM's mother operation faces similar election law violations in Ohio where the Secretary of State is challenging ACM's convulted money laundering operation. (And, if you're interested in Ohio, you can read about ACM's troubles here.)

But then we just don't know if ACM's multi-millionaire donors are funding the pro-voucher effort in Utah. We do know at least one Utahn, Patrick Byrne, is investing some of his considerable fortune into PCE and its operations.

Mr. Byrne will be worth looking at and I relish the opportunity. Stay tuned!

P.S. If the Friedman Foundation also is expending money to persuade reluctant Utahns to support vouchers, does it have to register as a PIC? Glen Warchol noted this in today's Salt Lake City Tribune:

"The voucher discussion began with a slick promotional film, paid for by the Milton Friedman Foundation, that presented the voucher program as necessary to prepare Utah for an expected onslaught of 155,000 new students over the next five years."

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Vouchers fail -- observations from one who knows

The Sutherland Institute issued a news release today about another so-called "study" they've done on the "virtue of vouchers" (see the release here; it explains the "research" although no research paper is pro-offered).

Said "research" supposedly shows that voucher schools do a better job for "those who need vouchers the most." (i.e. supposedly a reference to low-income, mostly minority children)

(BTW: I am sure that Sutherland didn't expend any money doing the "research" or promoting the "research". If they had, they should register as a PIC.)

At the same time, a heartfelt and compelling column appeared in the Madison, WI Capital Times. The Milwaukee, WI program is one that Sutherland glows about, but one that a watchful Wisconsin resident believes is an utter failure.

Joel McNally, weekly columnist, decries the fact that in Wisconsin the achievement gap between African-American students and white students is wider than any other state in the nation. He is bothered by the test results and puts the blame squarely on....vouchers.

"If any political leaders really cared, they would advocate pulling the plug on a 17-year failed experiment that appears to be doing more harm than good, producing the lowest reading scores in the nation.

"Then we could put those millions of dollars into Wisconsin public school classrooms, where they are desperately needed to teach the overwhelming majority of black students how to read."

You can read his full column here.

More questions than answers

As I was reading and contemplating Bob Aagard's world here wherein he posits about the absence of media attention to key questions surrounding pro-voucher backers, I followed his link to the accountabilityfirst blog that asked similar questions.

Both just caused me to think of more questions that I wish someone would answer.

For example, why are Richard and Linda Eyre so supportive of vouchers for private school? They don't seem to have a financial stake (yet) in private school operations, though they do sell a pre-school curriculum, noted here.

(As an aside, I noted that the Eyre's "value of the month" is self-reliance. Can someone please tell me what is self-reliant about parents accepting public taxpayer funds to pay for private school? Wouldn't a truly "self-reliant" parent eschew tax dollars and dig deeply into his or her pocket, in a self-reliant way, and pay for their own children?)

Another question for the media: Do PCE, or the Eyres, have trademark permission from Nabisco, et. al. to use Oreo cookies in their demonstrations and TV ads?

If vouchers are so good that stacks of Oreo cookies can be used to demonstrate how wonderful vouchers supposedly are for the public schools, why aren't the Double Stuffed Oreos used? That would make vouchers twice as good! YUM.

Or if truth in advertising is applied to the Eyres' commercial, why are they not forced to use the Oreo 100 calorie snack size since vouchers really are NOT good or yummy for public schools?

Sigh. We may never know.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Going after parents?

Not content with attacking Utah's public school teachers, voucher supporters now are turning their sights on Utah's parents!

Paul Rolly reported in today's Salt Lake City Tribune that:

"After receiving a number of complaints, the Utah Lieutenant Governor's Office says it is investigating whether the state PTA should register as a Political Issues Committee (PIC) because it apparently is spending money to defeat the voucher law in the November referendum. We're not sure whether the complainants are the same folks who refuse to reveal who is spending money for pro-voucher radio ads."

(BTW: Did that issue with the anonymous client of Crowell Advertising who paid for those radio ads ever get resolved? If so, I didn't see it, so please let me know.)

Parents, especially parents who belong to and lead the PTA, are the most unlikely targets for the continued intimidation tactics of the pro-voucher crowd. I'm not sure who is advising PCE and its friends, but their tactics are crude, ugly and totally unnecessary. Parents and teachers have just as much a right to speak out as say, Paul Mero at the Sutherland Institute does.

Wait! I am sure that with all the flacking that the Sutherland Institute has been doing on the pro voucher side they certainly are registered as a Political Issues Committee (PIC).

After all, the Lt. Governor's site lists this definition of a PIC:

"Political Issues Committees (Utah Code 20A-11-101)

"A Political Issue Committee is an entity, or any group of individuals or entities within or outside this state, that solicits or receives donations from any other person, group, or entity or makes disbursements to influence, or to intend to influence, directly or indirectly, any person to assist in placing a statewide ballot proposition on the ballot, assist in keeping a statewide ballot proposition off the ballot, or refrain from voting or vote for or vote against any statewide ballot proposition; or sign or refuse to sign an incorporation petition or refrain from voting, vote for, or vote against any proposed incorporation in an incorporation election."

Hasn't Sutherland made "disbursements" (i.e. spent money) to try and influence the outcome of Referendum 1? Isn't Paul Mero unabashedly pro-voucher? Haven't all of Sutherland's so-called "research" papers and news releases made private school vouchers sound better than sliced bread?

Then, surely they must be registered as a PIC!

Alas, no. No sign of the Sutherland Institute in the list of PICs. You can check the list here.

Wonder why not???

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Beyond "dirty tricks"

The "dirty tricks" in the Utah voucher campaign have really had me steamed. As you can tell. And, I intend to keep an eye out and continue investigating when these things happen. But, there also is a point, I guess, where these things get turned over to appropriate folks who deal with campaign finance enforcement and/or damages.

So I want to focus the false notions being foisted on us from the other side.

Take Sutherland for example (PLEASE take them).

One of the press releases they cranked out this week, as a part of their PR machine worked up for the pro-voucher side (and, they are a 501(c)3 organization, with IRS limitations on their "advocacy" activities - but that's another story) claimed in the thinnest of veils that private schools are "accountable."

No they are not. And, as several folks have pointed out, that really is kind of the point - from THEIR perspective.

BUT you really can't have it both ways - if we are going to be called upon to spend the tax dollars everyone pays into the state on a whole other education system - the private system - then we should expect they will meet the same standards that the public schools meet.

Under HB 148, private schools do NOT have to hire teachers who meet state standards -- or even have a college degree, they do NOT have to give the SAME tests that public school kids take, they do NOT have to account for money the SAME way (public schools must report budgets every year), they do NOT have to have the same coursework that public schools have, and they do NOT have to even have attendance standards.

THEREFORE, under a private school voucher sytstem, tax dollars would go to private schools that are unaccountable to the PUBLIC.

Sigh. I am just venting here. What is fair is fair. If it is fair for public schools to meet standards, then private schools should have to meet those same standards if they are going to take public money.

Amazingly, the "father" of private school vouchers, the late Milton Friedman, agreed with this assumption, as you can see from Dan Liljenquist's guest editorial today here:

"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."

Friedman wrote that even under a fully privatized education system, schools should meet agreed upon standards. So here we are in the throes of a bitter fight that even the "father" of vouchers probably wouldn't have waged.

Go figure.

Friday, October 5, 2007

More on voucher spam

(Thisi s a re-post. On the kind advice of some readers, I am editing the address of the probable spammer.)

In yesterday's post I speculated that Mark Towner of "The Political Spyglass" blog might have been the person who sent the deceptive e-mail (SPAM) from Utahns for Public School (singular). The public education coalition opposing private school vouchers is Utahns for Public Schools (plural).

I noted that the spam e-mail redirected to a site that Towner was accused of using before to send unauthorized and unsolicited spam to thousands of Utahns. (Thanks to Jesse for documenting this spam.)

Seems to have stirred some folks, particularly Towner.

Despite his fairly incriminating history, Towner huffily protested his innocence in his blog:

“No email was sent by The site is parked and has been inactive for weeks.” - The Political Spyglass here.

Eh? Inactive for WEEKS?!? Hmmm.

Well, here is a copy below wherein Utahns for Public School (singular) is linked to The Spyglass:

Index of /thespyglass
Name Last modified Size Description

Parent Directory 03-Oct-2007 18:44 -
prepare_removal.php 13-Sep-2007 00:38 2k
Apache/1.3.37 Server at Port 80

Note that the last modification of the parent directory happens to occur on the same day the Deseret News broke the "deceptive e-mail" story. Hmmm. Coincidence?

(Check it out here.)

Towner also takes offense that we didn't KNOW he was the poster at "vouchernews" blog (under the juvenile pseudonym "Jason Bourne"). HUH? I've been reading the Spyglass for quite some time now. I didn't know.

"...I indicated that I created the site some time ago to focus on the voucher battle, so the spyglass can continue posting about other events..." - The Political Spyglass 10/5/07.

So, this morning I went back as far as June and July. Never read ANY mention from Towner that he also was behind vouchernews blog! (Unless he backtracked and added that somewhere this morning).

Oh, wait. Now Towner posts on Utah Amicus that he is NOT "Jason Bourne" yet in his own blog Towner admits to running the vouchernews blog? Whew.

Following a hunch, I also went back to the Parents for Choice in Education PIC filing with the Lt. Governor's office, just to see who the group had paid for what services.

Well, well. Here's a link (pdf format) to the report.

Wonder what entity is "SG Consulting" at 1**1 G***n St. that received $5,000 from the PCE PIC on September 4? Hmmm.

SG Consulting - could that be Spy Glass? 1**1 G***n St.? Could that be Mark Towner's home address?

Was Mark Towner paid to spam?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Who is spamming? Could it be....

Democracy for Utah wrote about this morning's Deseret News story regarding spam e-mails that appeared to come from Utahns for Public Schools, the folks working against Utah's universal private school voucher program.

It's an interesting story, with apparently more "dirty tricks" from the pro-voucher folks, although this time Parents for Choice in Education claims they don't have a clue as to the identity of the spammer.

The Deseret News story also went on:

"Lisa Johnson, spokeswoman for Utahns for Public Schools, said in addition to Wilson, the coalition received a number of calls and e-mails from others who got the "deceptive" e-mail and requested clarification."

"It was clearly intended to look like it came from us," Johnson said. "The one thing we can say for certain that it didn't come from our campaign and it's a concern for coalition members because someone purports to be speaking for us."

"Johnson said her group is trying to find out who is behind the Web site and the mass e-mailing while looking into options of what sort of complaints can be filed against that person."

Certainly spam constitutes a "dirty trick". Especially when it is specifically designed to look like it is from a group that it's NOT from. A clever use of words made the difference. The e-mail was from Utahns for Public School (singular) while the public education coalition's name is Utahns for Public Schools (plural).

Now, hmmm. Anyone know anyone in Utah who is a spammer? Ever been accused of spam?

Well, there is a clue in the Deseret News, when it reported this about the deceptive e-mail:

"It asked recipients to provide a personal e-mail address, name and contact number and then visit another Web site..."

A friend of mine far more sopisticated at the technology end of the Internet found that Utahns for Public School (singular) - host of the offensive, deceptive e-mail -redirects to a site called

Now, who else do we know who might be using or have used for other purposes?

Well, it seems Mark Towner used that site to send spam! And, he got caught, as these folks report.

And isn't Towner's blog called something like "The Political SPYGLASS"??

As Bob Aagard noted this morning, seems the pro-voucher folks will take anyone they can get -- dirty tricks and all.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Out of state friend? Dick Morris? In Utah?

Paul Rolly's notes in the Salt Lake City Tribune caught my eye this morning, particularly this piece:

"Consulting the guru: Dick Morris, the former political adviser to President Clinton who resigned in the 1990s amid a call-girl and toe-sucking scandal, subsequently repented his wayward ways, including being a Clinton supporter. Now a regular Sean Hannity buddy on Fox News, he's joined Utah's voucher fight.
Morris contacted the pro-voucher Parents for Choice in Education recently and offered his expertise in campaign strategies, said PCE's Joe Hunter. He said Morris is not a full-time consultant, but lent his counsel to the campaign several days ago. Hunter said he doesn't know how much Morris was paid, but doubted it was much."

Well, so Dick Morris, the big-wig consultant wants to be on the Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) payroll? Interesting.

Morris gets paid between $20,000 and $25,000 for each speaking engagement, so tapping him to help the pro-private school voucher effort would cost a pretty penny.

But then PCE's funders(we still don't know who they are) may think Morris can help them win this campaign. Did they tell the Utah pro-voucher folks to retain him?

Still, don't look for Dick to spend too much time in Utah. Morris is speaking to a Republican group in Winston-Salem, NC on October 22. Oh and tickets to the event are only $25, so let's hope they have room for a big crowd.

Maybe it's that Morris really needs work. After all, it seems he owes the state of Connecticut some $280,000 in unpaid taxes, as reported by WTNH-TV of Hartford, CT.

Or perhaps it's that Morris needs to "buff" his reputation. You note that Rolly's piece referenced a "scandal" that Morris got caught up in.

Indeed. We're not just talking about a call-girl and toe-sucking situation. We're talking about Dick Morris, consultant, who let the prostitute he was cavorting with listen in to conversations with the President. You can read the full story here. Now, really, what kind of judgement does the man have?

Oh, wait, he says he has "reformed." OK, then maybe it won't be true that his phone number is in Deborah Jean Palfrey's telephone logs as reported here. Deborah Jean is the "DC Madam" who claims she supplied women for many powerful men in Washington, D.C.

But if Morris has reformed, and is the consultant that PCE's shadowy funders support, then maybe he can help their campaign.

Then again, maybe not. See what even his "friends" say about Morris' record:

"FOX News Managing Editor and Chief Washington Correspondent Brit Hume, anchor of Special Report with Brit Hume, has said of Dick Morris -- the onetime adviser to Bill Clinton turned FOX News Channel contributor -- "[S]ometimes he says things that you think are inspired from another planet. ... If you're a political analyst, being wrong is a drawback." Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, has said, "He's frequently wrong." And a Boston Globe review of Morris's 1999 book, The New Prince: Machiavelli Updated for the Twenty-First Century, noted that "Morris's contradictions and factual errors too often make a hash of what is supposed to be his argument." [USA Today, 8/16/00; The Boston Globe, 7/20/99]

Maybe that's a little harsh. Morris did, after all, predict that Newt Gingrich would enter the 2008 presidential race.

Vouchers create no value

Despite claims from pro-private school voucher advocates, a new study of the Milwaukee voucher program confirms what many previous studies have shown: Students who use vouchers to attend private schools do not show significant increases in academic achievement.

Nor, as the new Economic Policy Institute study reveals, do vouchers create a climate of "competition" that improves public schools.

Today's Salt Lake City Tribune story can be found here, and directly refutes Parents for Choice in Education's (PCE) claim that vouchers will create "competition" that will make Utah's public schools better.

In fact, the only thing Utah's private school voucher system will do is increase what taxpayers pay for education because they'll be called upon to fund two systems - one public and one private.

This sets up a situation where money that could be used for our PUBLIC schools will be diverted to unaccountable private voucher schools.

As the leader of the teachers' association in Milwaukee stated:

"The only competition that we've really seen between public schools and voucher schools in Milwaukee has been competition for resources," said Dennis Oulahan, Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association president. "Public schools lost big time."

About the only thing pro-private school voucher folks can say about this and other studies is: Vouchers don't seem to "hurt" public schools.

Well, yes they do! Vouchers for private schools drain precious resources away from public schools - resources that could be used for textbooks, supplies, teacher aides, and teacher training.

This research isn't the only report verifying that students achieve as well in public schools as they do in private ones. The pro-voucher U.S. Department of Education quietly released a study last summer that came to the same conclusion after examining student performance over time. You can download and read the entire study here (pdf format).

So if Utah's proposed private school vouchers won't help students achieve more but will drain resources from public schools and cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, why have private school vouchers at all??