Education Letter to the Editor

Utah Voucher Vote Follows Usual Script for Initiatives

December 11, 2007 1 min read

To the Editor:

Jeanne Allen, the president of the Center for Education Reform, claims that school vouchers were rejected by voters in Utah because “ballot initiatives on such emotional issues as education rarely succeed when they’re looking for dramatic change, because people are uncomfortable with making policy at the ballot box” (“Utah’s Vote Raises Bar on Choice,” Nov. 14, 2007). Those of us who live in or pay attention to states with citizen-initiative procedures know that Ms. Allen’s contention is laughable.

In Oregon several years ago, voters radically transformed the state’s land-use law, a deeply emotional issue in that state. This year, they transformed it again. Also in Oregon, voters approved an initiative allowing doctor-assisted suicide. It’s hard to find a more emotional issue than legal suicide.

In Washington state, voters have used initiatives to change tax policy and land-use laws in recent years, as well as to approve the medical use of marijuana.

California voters have approved so many policy initiatives in the last decade that the list would be longer than the space allowed for a letter, including one banning bilingual education in California’s public schools and another providing $3 billion for embryonic-stem-cell research. Some emotion in these issues, yes?

Obviously, there are tens of millions of voters in these three states alone who show no reluctance in making policy at the ballot box on emotional issues.

David Marshak

Bellingham, Wash.