by David Safier
You don't hear the privatization crowd using the word "voucher" much. That's because the "V" word doesn't poll well. "Tuition tax credits" gets a pretty good response. "Empowerment Scholarship Accounts" and "Education Savings Accounts" — basically the same thing — are too new to be polled accurately. But vouchers themselves remain unpopular.
So, use the term "vouchers" whenever you talk about the programs, not the wrapped-in-a-pretty-package-with-a-bow-on-top euphemisms the corporate privatizers dream up. If people aren't familiar with vouchers, tell them it's paying for private school tuition at public expense.
Fitz gets it. In his satirical op ed in the Star, The case of the missing tax dollars or how Public Ed refused to die, he used "voucher" four times, twice pairing it with "vultures." And his Sunday cartoon, Vouchers, shows elephants in hard hats, called the "Voucher Crew," taking the bricks out of public education and using them to construct private schools. Perfect.
The economist Milton Friedman started pushing vouchers in the 1950s, and his Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice has been trumpeting them ever since. This January, the foundation published the results of a survey evaluating people's feelings about vouchers. When it came to the best ways to reform education, people chose smaller class sizes, technology and accountability over vouchers. (Teachers' unions scored just slightly lower than vouchers, even after years of demonization by the right.) In 2013, when people were asked what they think of the idea of "allowing students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense," only 29% gave a positive response, the lowest number since 1993.
Voters have never given their support to vouchers. Even in Utah, 62% of voters said No to vouchers in 2006. So far as I know, every voucher program in existence around the country has been put there by legislators. They don't dare put the question to the voters. They know what will happen.