Me and Jay Mathews: IT’S ON!

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Last week I challenged Jay Mathews of the Washington Post to a bet:

Tell you what, Jay. Let’s make a bet. You say there won’t be “a wave of pro-voucher votes across the country”…[W]e’ll set a mutually agreed on bar for the number of voucher bills passing chambers this year. If we hit the bar, you have to buy me dinner at a Milwaukee restaurant of my choice. But if we don’t hit the bar, I buy you dinner at a DC restaurant of your choice. That’s pretty lopsided in your favor, dollar-wise. How about it?

Today I’m proud to announce that Jay has accepted the bet!

The terms, exactly as I offered them to Jay over e-mail:

Here’s what I propose. I win the bet if at least ten legislative chambers pass bills in 2011 that either create or expand a private school choice program. Otherwise you win. Just based on my experience in the movement, I think if we got that many chamber passages, it would mark 2011 as a banner year for choice.

Definitions: A “private school choice program” is a program that funds attendance at private schools using public funds, either directly (by vouchers) or indirectly, through the tax code (as is the case with many school choice programs these days). That means charter schools don’t count. This is the definition we use here at the foundation. “Expanding” a program means increasing the eligible student pool, or increasing the amount of funds available to support the program (on either a per-student or global basis). That’s in your favor because I’m agreeing not to count, say, relaxation of burdensome restrictions on participating schools as an “expansion.”

Jay’s succinct response: “It’s a bet!”

Well, I didn’t plan it this way, but during the time I was working out the details and deciding how many programs to propose for the bet, and then communicating with Jay, there were a few votes on school choice programs!

When I proposed the bet to Jay earlier this week, I had missed the votes in Arizona a couple weeks ago. I thought we only had three of the ten passages needed for me to win the bet – the Virginia House, the Oklahoma Senate and Douglas County, Colorado.

When Matt clued me in on the Arizona votes, I realized that we were already at five out of the ten passages needed for me to win:

    1. VA House new tax-credit scholarship program (February 8 )

    2. AZ Senate tax-credit program expansion (March 8 )

    3. AZ House tax-credit program expansion (March 10)

    4. Douglas County, CO new voucher program (March 15)

    5. OK Senate new tax-credit scholarship program (March 16)

Then what happens?

    6. IN House new voucher program (March 30)

    7. U.S. House voucher expansion (March 30)

We got to seven votes before I even announced the bet! So much for my plans to make this a big, drawn out, suspenseful thing. The whole shooting match is going to be over before I even get three blog posts out of it. And here I made these cool ruler graphics and everything!

Here’s one other thing that’s bothering me. Was it unethical for me to make the bet with Jay without revealing to him that Indian is the official ethnic food of Jay P. Greene’s Blog?

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15 Responses to Me and Jay Mathews: IT’S ON!

  1. matthewladner says:

    The Arizona legislature will also soon pass ESA for disabled students. The Indiana House also passed a major expansion of the tax credit program, but I guess under your terms, each chamber only gets to count once.

  2. matthewladner says:

    Still in play, off the top of my head=

    1 chamber in Oklahoma
    1 chamber in Indiana
    2 chambers in Ohio
    2 chambers in PA
    2 chambers in Wis
    2 chambers in Fl
    2 chambers in NJ
    1 chamber in Congress
    2 chambers in Minn
    2 chambers in Texas
    2 chambers in Tenn
    2 chambers in KS

    I’m sure there are others. Obviously not all of these are going to pass something, but let’s just say I like your odds to win the bet.

  3. I would think that the unit to count is chamber/bill. If a chamber passes two different programs that should count as two.

  4. Greg Forster says:

    As you can see above, in the original blog post the unit of measurement was “bills passing chambers.” However, in the formal bet to which Jay agreed, the unit of measurement was “chambers passing bills.”

    That was intentional! I wanted to give some ground to Jay in exchange for the right to count expansions in addition to new programs (a point that had been ambiguous in the original language). Since Jay’s column had predicted no “wave of pro-voucher votes across the country” I felt it was only fair to preclude any possibility that I might win by racking up ten bills in one state.

    Oh, and I don’t think nearly all those chambers are really “in play,” Matt. For example, the U.S. Senate strikes me as a long shot given that the president is expressing opposition and is even willing to lie to back it up (although he didn’t threaten a veto), voucher opponents control the calendar, and you need 60 votes to get the thing passed.

  5. matthewladner says:

    If that is the definition, then Arizona and Indiana will wind up providing 8- each with an expansion and a new program. Oklahoma and U.S. House have already gone.

    On to 20!

  6. matthewladner says:

    Greg-

    I believe that the Utah legislature appropriated a sizeable increase to the Carson Smith program to help with the waiting list. The session there ended a couple of weeks ago.

  7. matthewladner says:

    I’m at the plate, pointing at the left field bleachers, calling my shot:

    I predict that some how, some way, that the Speaker will get DC vouchers reauthorized.

    There, I said it. You will have long since won your bet by the time it happens. If I’m wrong I’ll take you out for your second Indian food feast!

  8. The was DC vouchers could clear the Senate is if it is attached to the budget continuation bill. That would provide cover for Senators and Obama wouldn’t veto.

  9. Jay,

    Missouri and Nevada have a Parent trigger bills that include triggering a voucher option. That should count, should they pass.

    Further, the Utah digital learning bill has money following the child to the virtual option and leaving the district, and both chambers passed it. It’s now law. I think that should count.

    Why not count those and spot Mr. Matthews another 5-10 chambers? It’s the decent thing to do.

  10. scott Jensen says:

    There will be more than 20 legislative chambers approving private school choice bills this year. Easy. Count on two chambers each in WI, IN, OH, GA, FL, LA, OK, AZ, and UT. Possibly two chambers in PA, NJ, IA and MN. At least one chamber in DC, VA, and IL. I don’t know how you count Douglas County in Colorado. Overall, I think we can get to 25 legislative chambers or more in 2011.

  11. Greg Forster says:

    Virtual schooling doesn’t fall within the ordinary meaning of “attendance at private schools,” which is required by the terms of the bet. (Not especially the preposition.) I could lawyer up on that, but I don’t intend to. I’m going to win this bet within the plain meaning of the language or take my licks like a man.

    Parent trigger is more ambiguous. A lot would depend on bill design. I think there are a lot of ways to subvert a parent trigger. If the law weren’t carefully written to account for those problems then I’d be reluctant to count it. If it were, I’d count it.

  12. scott Jensen says:

    I just learned that the MN Education Budget passed the House late Wednesday night with a private school voucher included in the package. The Senate version passed yesterday without a voucher program. The conference committee or behind the scenes negotiations will decide whether a voucher program lands on the Governor’s desk soon.

  13. Minnesota Kid says:

    Glad to hear that a voucher bill finally will emerge to be vetoed by a liberal Democratic governor in MN. It’s about time.

    Greg, you can’t count Douglas County. A school board is not a “legislative chamber.” Still, you clearly won’t need it to “curry” favor with your fans.

  14. Greg Forster says:

    School boards are absolutely legislative chambers. They have the power to raise funds through taxation and direct the use of the funds. Anglo-American political philosophy has always treated these as intrinsically legislative functions – “intrinsically” meaning they cannot, as a matter of definitions, be delegated; any body that exercises this power is a legislature. (This was a point of central importance during both the Glorious Revolution and the American Revolution!)

  15. […] Last week I challenged Jay Mathews of the Washington Post to a bet: “Tell you what, Jay. Let’s make a bet. You say there won’t be “a wave of pro-voucher votes across the country”…[W]e’ll set a mutually agreed on bar for the number of voucher bills passing chambers this year. If we hit the bar, you have to buy me dinner at a Milwaukee restaurant of my choice. But if we don’t hit the bar, I buy you dinner at a DC restaurant of your choice. That’s pretty lopsided in your favor, dollar-wise. How about it?” Today I’m proud to announce that Jay has accepted the bet! The terms, exactly as I offered them to Jay over e-mail: “Here’s what I propose. I win the bet if at least ten legislative chambers pass bills in 2011 that either create or expand a private school choice program. Otherwise you win. Just based on my experience in the movement, I think if we got that many chamber passages, it would mark 2011 as a banner year for choice.” https://jaypgreene.com/2011/04/01/me-and-jay-mathews-its-on/ […]

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