Media Advisory: Utah Governor Signs Voucher Bill, Experts React

Published February 13, 2007

(Chicago, Illinois – February 13, 2007) In a quiet ceremony last night (February 12), Utah’s governor, Jon Huntsman Jr., signed the most expansive school reform legislation in American history. The Parent Choice in Education Act will give the parent of every child in Utah a voucher worth up to $3,000, depending on family income.

The following statements are from experts affiliated with The Heartland Institute and can be quoted in part or in full. For more information about The Heartland Institute, or for assistance contacting these experts for further comment, please don’t hesitate to call me at 312/377-4000.

George Clowes is senior fellow for education policy and can be reached at 847/255-1820 or via email at [email protected]:

“Despite having a maximum value of only half the current per-pupil spending in Utah, this universal voucher is a significant advance in the fight to liberate parents from the insulting paternalism of the existing K-12 education system, which takes it for granted that most parents–and low-income and minority parents in particular–just aren’t capable of choosing the best school for their child. When parents have the authority to spend their child’s education dollars at a school they choose, they will be pleasantly surprised at how important and respected they have suddenly become to school officials, who will be much more responsive to any concerns parents raise about academic standards, progress in developing reading and math skills, school conditions, and so on.

“The right of dissatisfied customers to take their business elsewhere is a very powerful and self-sustaining incentive for service providers to keep quality high and prices reasonable. In terms of consumer goods and services, that free-market competition for customers has given us the richest and most productive economy in the world. The introduction of these universal vouchers in Utah is an essential first step in allowing free-market forces to begin to transform our K-12 education system into the best in the world.”

Robert Holland is senior fellow for education policy and can be reached at 540/977-2584 or via email at [email protected]:

“Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman had a dream: that all parents would have an unfettered choice of schooling, public or private, for their children. Utah’s enactment of the Parent Choice in Education Act has brought the Friedman dream of universal vouchers closer to realization than ever.

“Over the past quarter-century, school choice has gained momentum with the advent of praiseworthy voucher and tax credit programs targeted to needy children. Dr. Friedman applauded such initiatives, but his dream was bigger than that. If all families could use public vouchers for schools of their choosing, healthy competition would force public as well as private schools to improve or go out of business. As a result, a community’s educational system would flourish.”