This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The combatants in Utah's private-school-voucher campaign spent more than $9.3 million, making it one of the costliest political battles the state has ever seen.
Supporters of the voucher movement, bankrolled primarily by Overstock.com founder Patrick Byrne and his family, outspent their adversaries, which were largely funded through teachers unions.
Supporters spent $5.4 million to opponents' nearly $4 million.
Anti-voucher forces ended up spending $12.48 for each vote their side received; proponents ended up spending nearly $28 per vote.
In the end, the flood of spending appears to have done little to change voters' minds, as 62 percent of voters rejected vouchers - about the same margin that polls showed opposed vouchers before the costly campaigns began.
Patrick Byrne and his parents, John and Dorothy, pumped in nearly $4 million to the pro-voucher campaign, or 75 cents of every dollar that went into the campaign.
The group Parents for Choice in Education's spending included an approximately $1 million spending spree in the last week for a flurry of direct-mail advertising, public-opinion polling and get-out-the-vote phone calls.
On the other side, the National Education Association and the Utah Education Association funneled more than $3 million to the group Utahns for Public Schools, which spent little in the election's final days.
Both sides filed their 2007 year-end reports this week.
"This report closes the door on Referendum 1, yet thousands of Utah children continue without access to a quality education," Robyn Bagley, co-chairwoman of Parents for Choice in Education, said in a statement. "PCE must continue to advocate for meaningful education reforms that put the child first, rather than the system."
"We knew going into it that the voucher people would put everything they could behind their campaign," said Lisa Johnson, spokeswoman for the anti-voucher Utahns for Public Schools. "That's why for us it was important to fundraise as aggressively as we could."
The issue before voters was whether to approve taxpayer-supported subsidies of between $500 and $3,000, depending on income, for each new student enrolled in a private school. The objective was to help ease public school overcrowding and improve the quality of education.
* Pro-voucher: $5.4 million
* Anti-voucher: $3.9 million
If all the money spent on the referendum campaign so far went directly to the classroom, it would have:
* Paid to educate 1,769 students - or all of the students in the South Summit and Rich school districts - for a year.
* OR covered the annual costs of 80 average-sized classrooms.
* OR provided 4,650 private-school vouchers worth $2,000.
Source: Tribune calculations based on U.S. Department of Education statistics