Romney and the Utah Voucher Vote

Published November 9, 2007

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) had an opportunity to help deliver a victory at the ballot box in Utah in November, when voters decided whether to repeal the state’s universal school voucher program.

The benefits of sustaining it were clear: An education marketplace encourages innovation, greater efficiency, and more diversity. Instead of being stuck with one-size-fits-all, local-government-run public schools, parents are able to choose the schools that best meet their children’s unique needs and talents.

Schools respond by offering a variety of curricula and specialties. If parents doubt their child is thriving, they can take their business elsewhere. Schools, in turn, hold teachers accountable: They expect professionalism, and accordingly, reward teachers that provide the best service.

Vouchers have a poor track record at the ballot box. In 2000, initiatives to create school voucher programs in California and Michigan were soundly defeated. But choice advocates had reason to hope Utah would be different. Voters weren’t asked to create a program, but rather to approve one that had already made it through the legislative process and become law.

Another Shot

Romney was uniquely positioned to lend a helping hand: His popularity in a state where more than 60 percent of citizens share his religion is obvious. While on the campaign trail, Romney has stated he supports school choice and vouchers. Skeptics might note that as governor, vouchers were not a priority for Romney.

The Utah initiative gave Romney the opportunity to prove his bona fides as a strong school voucher supporter at a critical time. By urging his supporters to give this program a chance, he could ensure that more parents control where their kids go to school and help Utah become a national model for universal school choice.

Carrie Lukas ([email protected]) is vice president for policy and economics at the Independent Women’s Forum and a senior fellow at the Goldwater Institute. A longer version of this column originally appeared on National Review Online.