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By Anonymous Mike, pseudonymously.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007
The Monster Under the Bed (Updated!)

An election you probably never heard of is taking place just to the north of us as Utahns go to the polls today to decide the fate of a Utah voucher program that would provide up to $3,000 to families wishing to attend private schools.

Two features of the program are unique. First any voucher funding will be drawn from the general fund, not from the education budget. The second is that public schools from which the voucher student would transfer would be able to keep the student on their books for the purposes of state reimbursement. This means the school would be largely paid for a student they no longer educate, increasing their amount of per-pupil spending.

As you can imagine.... not good enough for some.

The AZ Republic quotes the president of the Utah Education Association as saying "No issue is more important to the future of our students, our careers and our schools than this one"

She isn't kidding.

As of September 15 of this year, the UEA has contributed $1 million to the anti-voucher, Utahns for Public Schools. To keep it in perspective, Janet Napolitano received $1.5 million total, primary and general elections, for her gubernatorial re-election bid in 2006 in a state that has more than twice the population of Utah.

It gets better.

Notice I said September 15.

As of September 15, Utahns for Public Schools had raised $1.14 million (of which UEA had contributed $1 million.) As of the last report filed last week, UPS had raised a 2007 total of $3.37 million. So in a mere 45 days, the anti-voucher forces had tripled their contributions. Details are still pending but I doubt it was a lot of $50 contributions from concerned citizens of Panguitch.

So when there is discussion of vouchers during the legislative session, keep in mind that our elected representatives won't have the last word as Utah sends a warning that any voucher program will turn your state into a national battleground.

UPDATE: An e-mailed adds to the story by noting that the voucher battle is more evenly funded then I implied, stating that the pro-voucher forces have raised approximately the same amount of money.

That is true but the key is looking when the money came. As of September 15, the anti-voucher forces (Utahns for Public Schools) had raised about $1.3 million or about 4x what the anti-voucher had raised with $1 million being expended on ad buys by early September. By the time the pro-voucher people got organized, anti-forces had already prepared the ground and forced the other side into attacking up hill for the last 6 weeks of the campaign.

The Utah Education Association provided the money, the manpower, and the national connections to set the tempo for the entire campaign. While the pro-voucher forces took the summer to get spun up, the UEA provided the anti-voucher forces with a ready-bake ingredients.