Real Leadership is More than Just Tilting at Windmills

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

On Monday, Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman signed the nation’s first universal school voucher law. The program will allow nearly every family in the state to have a choice in their child’s education, fulfilling Milton Friedman’s vision that he first articulated in 1955.

The new law will provide nearly every Utah parent with school-aged children a voucher worth $500 to $3,000, depending on their annual income. The voucher could be used at any eligible private school. Any student enrolled in public school is eligible for a voucher; children currently enrolled in private school will also be eligible for vouchers if their family incomes are below 185 percent of federal poverty guidelines.

All students will be eligible for vouchers when they first enter kindergarten, meaning that every Utah child will be eligible by 2020.

Here in Oregon, poor kids can’t escape failing government schools because Gov. Kulongoski opposes vouchers. But he does have a package of bills before the legislature to subsidize windmills and solar panels, because he wants Oregon to be the national leader in renewable energy.

So if the administrators at a dysfunctional public school want to put solar panels on the roof next year, the governor will be happy to help. But if the kids want to transfer to a private school, they’re out of luck.

This is what passes for political leadership in Oregon.

John A. Charles, Jr. is president and CEO at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon-based think tank.

© 2007, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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