Some new results on Chilean school vouchers

by on July 9, 2017 at 3:11 am in Data Source, Education | Permalink

There is a new NBER working paper by Richard J. Murnane, Marcus R. Waldman, John B. Willett, Maria Soledad Bos, and Emiliana Vegas.  I have not had a chance to read it, but here is the key part of the abstract:

We found that:

1. On average, student test scores increased markedly and income-based gaps in those scores declined by one-third in the five years after the passage of SEP.

2. The combination of increased support of schools and accountability was the critical mechanism through which the implementation of SEP increased student scores, especially in schools serving high concentrations of low-income students. Migration of low-income students from public schools to private voucher schools played a small role.

We interpret these findings as more supportive of improved student performance than other recent research on the Chilean policy reform.

That is not exactly the Milton Friedman story, but it is essentially a positive report for vouchers.

1 ChrisA July 9, 2017 at 4:26 am

All you need to make the case for school vouchers is that the outcome is not much worse than the state only model in terms of education outcomes. There should always be a bias towards freedom, for parents and children to choose schools most suited to their particular desires. Plus overtime it is likely to be cheaper. The fact that there may also be a slight benefit in education outcomes with voucher is just a bonus.

2 Your Husband's Cane July 9, 2017 at 10:29 am

ChrisA’s argument neglects the likely cost of this increased freedom for parents and children, which cost will be borne by the taxpayer.

We’ve already seen how something like education vouchers works on a large scale. Grants and guaranteed student loans give post-secondary students the same kind of school choice that vouchers would offer to K-12 pupils. It certainly doesn’t appear that these programs have reduced the cost or increased the quality of higher education.

If a widespread voucher program were implemented, we could expect to see elementary and secondary schools following a similar trajectory. Schools would compete on amenities; parents would demand ever-larger vouchers so that little Bobby could attend a school with a domed football stadium; and the taxpayer would wind up footing the bill.

No. If we want to increase competition in K-12 education, the sensible course is to abandon the notion of free education for all, and to require public schools to obtain some fraction of their budget from tuition and student fees. Like a voucher program, this would tend to level the playing field for public vs. private schools. Unlike a voucher program, it would reduce the transfer of taxpayer funds to a special-interest group, viz., the perpetrators of minor children.

3 ChrisA July 9, 2017 at 11:31 am

I would be happy with a voucher scheme that set the value of the vouchers at 90% of the cost of educating a child in the state funded system. That way it would be guaranteed to save money. Anyone who wanted to avail themselves of the state funded model could simply decline the voucher.

4 Boonton July 9, 2017 at 11:57 am

Suppose instead we just say only parents of school age kids get to vote in any local elections.

5 Mark Brophy July 9, 2017 at 1:46 pm

…and only parents of school age kids are forced to pay taxes for schools.

6 Boonton July 9, 2017 at 11:59 am

I mean wouldn’t that be the same, you pay for the schools but only parents get to vote on them.

7 Dave Smith July 11, 2017 at 9:45 am

Not the same at all. It’s still a collective choice if you are stuck with the school in your geography.

8 Your Husband's Cane July 9, 2017 at 1:45 pm

Ungood idea. Per the US Dep’t of Education’s 2014-15 numbers, about 13% of students enrolled in public school receive special-education services. It seems likely that the marginal cost of processing an additional non-special-ed (NSE) public-school student is less than ChrisA’s 90% of the mean cost for all students. We could be looking at a positive-feedback situation here: as NSE students leave the public-school system, the mean cost of educating a public-school student rises, and the value of the 90% voucher rises with it, prompting even more parents of NSE students to leave the system…

Eventually, the remaining public-school population consists chiefly of the most seriously damaged children, and the 90% voucher far exceeds the current per-student public-school spending. However, the private schools would keep up with the 90%, through Olympic-sized swimming pools, interstate cheerleading competitions, Macintosh products for all students…

9 Hazel Meade July 9, 2017 at 1:56 pm

Maybe someone could open a private special ed school , with only staff trained specifically to teach special ed atudents, and thus take advantage of gains from specialization. Ido imagine that one facility dedicated to only the most damaged student could probably operate more efficiently.

10 Potato July 9, 2017 at 3:13 pm

This makes sense. The disabled kids (13%? Give me a break) go to disabled schools. Kids who just want to sit in a detention holding cell go to schools that specialize in detention holding cells (public). They can play angry birds as long as they don’t hurt anyone.

Smart poor kids go to schools where they won’t be shot or threatened by drug dealers. Low hanging fruit here: schools where no student learns because 99% of the management effort is in preventing chaos and violence and lawsuits. That resource can now be concentrated on helping people.

11 Your Husband's Cane July 9, 2017 at 5:06 pm

@Hazel Meade: Specialized special-ed school? More efficient, certainly; but just imagine the response from the soi-disant advocates for the disabled. At least 25% of the online comments will refer to Jim Crow in some way, and at least 5% will point out that this kind of thinking leads straight to gas chambers.

@Potato: That 13% probably encompasses everything from Susie, with 20/100 vision, to Joey, who’s got nothing going on north of the cerebellum. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that schools tend to push as many students as possible into special ed, in order to secure additional federal funds; just as we get the strong impression that schools try to keep kids from being certified as English-language proficient for the sake of the extra money they get for bilingual ed.

12 Hazel Meade July 9, 2017 at 9:38 pm

@Your Husband’s Cane

Yes, I’m with you on that. If the cost of educating disabled kids in regular schools is so high, then is it really worth it just to make them feel like they are normal and belong (or whatever the point of that is supposed to be)? Which I doubt they do anyway – it’s not like the other kids don’t know who rides the short bus, figuratively and literally.

Separating them into a different school might also reduce the number of kids classified as “disabled”, because they wouldn’t be able to demand as much funding for each one, and of course, parents are going to fight to keep their kids in the regular school. So we’d end up with some narrow criteria like actual medical diagnoses of disability. And then parents would stop having their kids diagnosed with ADHD just so they can get extra time on tests.

13 Boonton July 9, 2017 at 11:04 am

Freedom means spending someone else’s money in this case? I’m all for parental input but it isn’t exactly ‘freedom and choice’ for the taxpayer who funds vouchers.

It’s interesting when it comes to college, the complete opposite tact is taken by conservatives. College tuition is inflating supposedly because gov’t is paying for it while giving students complete ‘choice’ when it comes to which college to attend, if any at all. Or these days the ‘problem’ is student loans….but with student loans you have even more connection to consumer freedom, choice and responsibility.

Now that said I’m not against vouchers but I’m against their pitch as a free for all ‘right’ that will somehow fix all that’s bad about the education system that’s worked for well over a century.

14 ChrisA July 9, 2017 at 11:46 am

I am not a conservative, I lean libertarian. But if I was designing an education system from scratch I would go with something like a basic income for everyone from say 14 years up to early 20’s. The payment could be used either for education, or just as simple supplemental income. Many people, I am sure, would simply spend the money on dope and sleep the day long, but at least they wouldn’t be wasting the time of the teachers or the other students who did want to learn. And it would be more fair, why should clever Jonny get funded by the state to go to College rather than dumb Donny?

15 Boonton July 9, 2017 at 11:54 am

OK exactly what problem are you trying to solve. The population today is no dumber than it was decades ago…in fact its probably smarter.

16 JWatts July 9, 2017 at 2:07 pm

“Freedom means spending someone else’s money in this case? ”

No, the money is being spent already and will be spent in any case. This is just allowing the consumer of the educational resource more freedom of choice.

17 Daniel Weber July 10, 2017 at 10:54 am

If someone spends their Social Security money donating to a synagogue, we don’t scream that government money is going to religion.

If the government needs computers and buys them from private company Dell, we don’t complain that PUBLIC money is going to PRIVATE corporations.

Yet with education, somehow we need to meet some magical requirements that aren’t met elsewhere.

The government wants an educated citizenry. And it will spend money to get it. The mechanism shouldn’t be that important. Funding the schools and teachers themselves, or funding the schools and having vouchers for the teachers, or raw vouchers for everything, the question is isare our children learning? and are we paying a good price for that. The same as if the government were buying computers.

18 BC July 9, 2017 at 11:32 am

Both Your Husband’s Cane’s and Boonton’s comparisons between college financial aid and vouchers are off the mark. College financial aid increases the demand for college and, hence, increases prices. If everyone, even people that presently don’t go to college, were assigned a college, then costs would be even higher. Vouchers for K-12 do not increase total K-12 demand.

ChrisA is correct. The case for geography-based government monopoly requires showing that it produces significant benefits over vouchers. Unless there is a good reason for government monopoly intervention, why preclude the probability of harnessing parents’ localized knowledge and school accountability that is inherent in school choice?

19 Boonton July 9, 2017 at 11:42 am

So it’s a supply-demand problem? But the demand for K-12 schooling has to be about 2X+ the demand for college since at best 50% have a college degree. Add to that a 4 year degree is only 4 years while k-12 is 13.

Given that you can increase the supply of college by essentially hiring people with degrees, it seems odd to assert that there’s a serious problem increasing supply given the population has many more people with degrees now than it did in the past?

20 Daniel Weber July 10, 2017 at 10:58 am

Sending 60% of the population to college is generally going to be twice as expensive as sending 30% of the population to college.

But at least my Uber driver gets to talk to me about French history!

21 Boonton July 9, 2017 at 11:51 am the demand argument fails.

Between 1940 and 2000 the portion of the population with a HS diploma went from about 25% to 80%. A 4 year degree went from maybe 5% or so to 30%. Getting more than half the population to finish HS means adding enough capacity to put half the population through 4 years of school. Why would a much smaller increase in college education tap out our supply and capacity to add to it?

22 Potato July 9, 2017 at 11:41 pm

Cannot tell If serious…

Truancy laws? It literally became against the law.

What I do not understand is the liberal resistance to vouchers. Everything for the poor unless they get to make a choice. Then it’s evil incarnate.

I want to assume the best of intentions. Is it a belief that government does everything better, is it trust in the democratic accountability process (which is wrong given failing schools), is it a desire for social engineering via forcing poor smart children to go to school with dumb poor children…they certainly don’t send their children there.

We talked about moving to SF and I vehemently rejected the idea. Bay Area does schools via housing prices. Liberals would burn in effigy anyone who proposed making success schools with admissions criteria being a standardized test.

What does that say. 🤔

23 dearieme July 9, 2017 at 5:20 am

If vouchers didn’t work nobody would bother opposing them.

24 rayward July 9, 2017 at 6:35 am

Study: “Migration of low-income students from public schools to private voucher schools played a small role.” Cowen: “That is not exactly the Milton Friedman story, but it is essentially a positive report for vouchers.” Woody Allen: “The food here is terrible, and the portions are too small.”

25 Thiago Ribeiro July 9, 2017 at 7:11 am

Instead of vouchers for private and moneyed interests, I would rather favor payments for students and their families. Brazil has one of the biggest aid programs for poor families with school-aged children in the worls: poor families receive money provided their children remain at school. I think better performance should earn them more money. If children treated their schooling as it were a day job, outcomes would probably be much better and society would recoup the money invested and much more as the human capital would soar. Being stingy with the nation’s future is being penny wise and pound foolish.

26 Bill July 9, 2017 at 8:14 am

I guess that no one looked at the NBER paper:

“In an effort to boost student achievement and reduce income-based gaps, the Chilean government passed the Preferential School Subsidy Law (SEP) in 2008, which altered the nation’s 27-year-old universal school-voucher system dramatically.”

Basically, they had a FAILED school voucher system, and they made improvements by giving more money in vouchers to poor students.

Alex is right, uncle Milty might be rolling in his grave.

27 Bill July 9, 2017 at 8:18 am

By the way, if you want to read more about the Chilean school voucher system, read here:

“Chile’s voucher program has been widely studied and largely found to have exacerbated inequality, reduced public school enrollment and minimal to no impact on student achievement.

A 2012 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report highlights Chile’s high-levels of socio-economic stratification between public and private schools. According to the report, 80 percent of the most-advantaged quarter of students attend a private school, while only 38 percent of the least-advantaged students attend these schools. Chile’s system has been closely studied by Chilean researchers who find that school vouchers have only served to increase, socio-economic segregation between schools. Researchers at the University of Chile and New York University found that children from families in the lowest income groups enroll in public schools at much higher rates than do children from the middle-class, who are more likely to use vouchers to enroll in private-subsidized schools.”

Here is a link:

28 Anon7 July 10, 2017 at 3:24 am

Reducing enrollment in government schools is all to the good (and even more desirable in the US).

29 Viking July 9, 2017 at 8:56 am

If school vouchers lead to better outcomes for rich students, because some disruptive poor students were kicked out of the private schools, is that a failure of the original voucher program?

30 Potato July 9, 2017 at 11:52 pm

Failure to understand their value system.

Verboten is that it comes down to conscientiousness. For me, it’s a tragedy when smart conscientious minorities in the US are confined to shit schools because of their zip code. For liberals it’s a tragedy of funding. Inner city schools already receive the most funding, but it’s not enough. If we give them 30,000 dollars per student then we’ll live in utopia.

Charter schools come along and say they’ll kick out disrupters. They educate at cheaper rates and similar or better scores. Liberals attack. Some charters are scams. True.

But the bottom line assumption is that no one should have choice except them. Since they can afford it.

Make republicans (congressmen) use Medicaid and democrats use public schools in the lowest SES neighborhood within 30 miles.

See who cries first.

31 Ignacio July 9, 2017 at 9:16 am

The thing about school vouchers in Chile is that charter schools are highly regulated, including how they must spend their money, and are subject to strict and burdensome controls by authorities seeking to undermine them, so they are forced to be as much as possible as a public school. Therefore, their advantage over regular public schools is that they are better managed and that they generally hire more motivated staff. It is actually surprising that they are any better than public schools and provide to students under such circumstances.

And now that have amended the law that regulates them to reduce and discourage charter schools, so we will probably see fewer of them, working under worse conditions. A great loss for families and the country.

32 John Thacker July 9, 2017 at 9:50 am

Migration of low-income students from public schools to private voucher schools played a small role.

In “the Milton Friedman story,” we should not want a situation where voucher schools (or charter schools) persistently outperform public schools, and the largest role is simply students switching from bad schools to better ones. We should want a model where the threat of competition causes public schools to improve relative to being a monopoly. Over the long term, if the gap between voucher schools and public schools decreases, and public schools improve, that is strong evidence in favor of the vouchers. If there is a persistent gap where voucher schools do better, that is likely to come from either an artificial cap on the number of voucher and charter schools (preventing new schools that would be marginally worse than the worst current charter school but still better than the average public school) or a voucher or charter system that is not truly available to those trapped in the worst schools.

Very strangely, I see education researchers and reporters mess this up all the time, praising Massachusetts for having a low cap on charter schools that leads to a large gap, and claiming that results in DC– where after a few years of stimulating competition public schools have started to improve and close the gap, are bad for charters and vouchers.

33 John Thacker July 9, 2017 at 9:52 am

Partly this is a result of what is easy to measure; it is very easy to examine the gap between schools, and only somewhat harder to measure the gap adjusted for various factors (or looking at lucky lottery recipients versus those turned away.) It is extremely difficult to determine if a generalized improvement is due to the threat of competition. So I don’t overly blame most researchers for measuring what can be measured, but it’s a reason to be restrained in drawing conclusions.

34 Hazel Meade July 9, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Yes, this is consistent with the recent results in US studies.
Voucher students didn’t outperform public school students, but that may be because the public schools improved once they faced the threat of competition.

35 Kevin ONeill July 9, 2017 at 11:05 am

Chile has had a national voucher system since 1981 when the school voucher system was instituted by Pinochet.. The policy changes this study covers are increases in voucher value for the poor.

Not sure how any of this relates to the US.

36 JWatts July 9, 2017 at 2:14 pm

For the most part it doesn’t, but you do have a anti-voucher contingent that insists that vouchers would create some massive harm. This is yet another study indicating that vouchers don’t tend to harm students and particularly the poorest students.

The only solid argument that I’ve seen for significant harm is that the various public teachers would have their total work force cut. Of course, the amount of teachers wouldn’t change so some would certainly just start working at private schools. But this would effect the numbers and the political power of the various public teachers’ unions.

37 Art Deco July 9, 2017 at 3:07 pm

More than 4,000 words from you two blowhards on a subject regarding which neither of you has an ounce of expertise.

38 Careless July 9, 2017 at 11:25 pm

Was that supposed to be in response to PA, or was something deleted, or what?

39 Demosthenes July 9, 2017 at 6:54 pm

Wonder why Maria gets listed second to last.

40 Edgar July 9, 2017 at 8:58 pm

Schooling in the US has nothing to do with education and everything to do with the wealthy maintaining their neighborhood real estate value by using school attendance zoning to segregate out undesirables so the precious offspring of the annointed can be protected from hypergamous predation. Nowhere is this more evident in Northern Virginia where public schools are de facto private enclaves zoned to maintain exclusivity among the wealthy Democrats who reside there. Consequently no school vouchers or charter schools at all, except for the intelligent ones who get segregated into Thomas Jefferson so as not to wreck the local grading curves. Anyone who cares about children’s actual welfare need only look to the Netherlands where families have meaningful educational choice, far less is spent per pupil than in the US, and Dutch students significantly out perform even the top tiers of US students.

41 Bill July 9, 2017 at 10:20 pm

Visited a nephew in Alabama. Private schools there were basically white only because the city was desegregated.

42 Potato July 10, 2017 at 12:05 am


What do you think you’re proving with this inane comment?

The only thing I garner from it is that you’re white trash. The lady doth protest too much? Makes more sense. Self hating southern family?

Some day we’ll take you seriously. We promise. Just keep emasculating yourself.

But our kids won’t mix with yours. For obvious reasons. But keep voting democrat. Maybe if you make us enough money you can over leverage yourself into a house with decent schools for your kids.

But let’s be honest. They’re not Ivy League material. So public schools for the masses. Don’t even think about vouchers. Gives me the vapors!

Or you know…..maybe we do vouchers and the rich Marthas Vinyard kids have to compete with the smarter kids with darker skin.

Then again it’d tank your house price.

Decisions decisions……

43 Bill July 10, 2017 at 7:48 am


No denial of my observation in your statement.

I am not paying for your segregation with federal dollars. And, if you want to send your kids for religious education, pay for it yourself, or send them to public school and bible studies on the week end.

Meanwhile, learn to practice religion, as it is not reflected in your intemperate and racist comments.

44 Daniel Weber July 10, 2017 at 11:14 am

Alabama should follow the proper model of having rich cities where people go for “good schools” which keep out the poor by zip code. They aren’t discriminating right!

45 Hazel Meade July 10, 2017 at 9:44 am

It’s the other way around. Because people have to go to the school in their neighborhood, school quality determines real estate value. Of course, it is somewhat circular because poor areas can’t afford great schools, and rich people will sort themselves into the better school districts, so property values will tend to rise in the good school districts and fall in the bad ones with consequent feedback on funding levels.

But as to your point, rich people don’t deliberately spend money to improve the school district so as to keep property values high. The effect is much more of a natural market outcome of a lack of school choice than you suggest. The fact that people MUST, in most cases, send their children to the local school if they can’t afford a private one creates this sort of emergent sorting effect, it’s not deliberately planned.

46 Hazel Meade July 9, 2017 at 9:27 pm

I wonder if all the voucher opponents simultaneously arguing that (a) vouchers are subsidies to rich people because only rich people can afford private school, and (b) that anyone who wants to send their children to religious schools is obligated to pay for them out of pocket (while still paying for the public ones), can see the hypocrisy in this position.

Is this not equivalent to asserting that only rich people should be able to send their kids to religious schools?

47 Boonton July 10, 2017 at 6:55 am

In terms of the first, let’s say we had a universal voucher of $5K. Why wouldn’t every private school raise their tuition by $5K? I mean the that’s a pretty simple model but in terms of consumer choice, the parents were already willing to spend whatever it is tuition was so simply raising tuition $5K would leave the parents no worse off.

What exactly are private schools offering as their product? I suspect one aspect is a positional good (a positional good is something like “I have the best house on the block”….no matter how rich society gets, how efficient production becomes….only one person can have that good unlike, say, HDTV’s which get cheaper all the time and almost everyone can have one). If that’s the case then parents would *want* private schools to raise tuition to counter vouchers because adding more seats just dilutes their product. Why does Harvard and Yale sit on billion dollar endowments instead of opening dozens of branch campuses and scaling up the # of degrees they offer each year?

“anyone who wants to send their children to religious schools is obligated to pay for them out of pocket (while still paying for the public ones), can see the hypocrisy in this position.”

Anyone who wants to be a member of a country club rather than going to the public park has to pay for the club out of pocket while still paying for the park in their taxes!

48 Hazel Meade July 10, 2017 at 9:50 am

Tuition might rise due to increased demand, but there’s no reason to think it would cancel out the voucher. Schools compete and new schools would enter the market. You might as well ask why food stamps don’t increase food prices by exactly the amount that would cancel out the food stamps, or why Section 8 housing wouldn’t cause rents to rise by exactly the amount that cancels out the subsidy.

Anyone who wants to be a member of a country club rather than going to the public park has to pay for the club out of pocket while still paying for the park in their taxes!

A country club is not a life necessity, the way schooling for one’s children is. Nor is it mandated by the government. Many people feel that some kind of religious education is an important part of raising their children. Not just rich people who want to show off that they went to a fancy private school. Most local public schools used to have, for example, morning prayers, or Christian-themed christmas pagents. Lots of people want those things for their children still. You’re telling them they can’t have them unless they are rich enough to afford the positional good.

49 Boonton July 10, 2017 at 10:43 am

In the example I provided demand did not really rise. At the end there is not a single additional student in private school than there was before. Rather than help students or even rich the vouchers simply end up increasing the incomes of those who run private schools.

“A country club is not a life necessity, the way schooling for one’s children is. Nor is it mandated by the government. ”

Hang on, choose what you want to complain about. If schooling is a necessity, then gov’t mandate is irrelevant to you.. If Congress passes a law saying you must breath air, that doesn’t mean you’re being oppressed should they fail to give you ‘air vouchers’ good for buying tanks of oxygen.

“Most local public schools used to have, for example, morning prayers, or Christian-themed christmas pagents. Lots of people want those things for their children still. You’re telling them they can’t have them unless they are rich enough to afford the positional good.”

What if I want to have morning prayers every morning on an elegant 18 hole golf course? You are seeing a huge issue here because you are pretending these goods are bundled somehow and they can’t be unbundled. Plenty of places do Christian pageants and do morning prayer either formally or informally. You do not have to buy a full k-12 education from them, just go to their paegent or attend their prayer session. The fact that the taxpayer paid teacher isn’t conducting this is no more an oppression to you than the fact that your postman isn’t allowed to come in your house and give you a 15 minute sermon is an oppression.

50 Hazel Meade July 10, 2017 at 11:46 am

Well, that’s a silly assumption. If there were vouchers, obviously more parents would go to private schools and demand would rise.

Secondly, there are costs involved in having to have a separate facility to do religious education – you have to transport your kids physically from one place to another, which working parents may not have time to do. Sunday school, evening classes both mean that leisure time on weekends and evening must be sacrificed. It’s more efficient to do it all in one school, if that what you want.

I feel I must reiterate again that I AGREE that religious activity in public schools should not be allowed. I’m saying that parents should have a choice of schools where they can direct their tax money and there’s nothing wrong with allowing options including religiously affiliated schools in that array of choices – I see not first amendment violation in allowing parents to decide that their tax dollars will go to a religiously affiliated school. Moreover, I’d even say the religious schools should admit any student who applies, not just students of the affiliated religion, AND that those students should not be required to take part the religious instruction offered in the school. In other words, the religiously affiliated school must offer a secular program for any student who wants one. It’s just that the religiously affiliated school would be allowed to have religion classes as electives, religious activities as extracurricular activities on school property and morning prayers, and would be allowed to display religious symbols on school property. One could even require that voucher money not be used to finance the religion classes, so the parents pay for that part of it themselves. It’s just that it’s all allowed to occur in one building where the kids are there all day.

51 Boonton July 10, 2017 at 4:23 pm

I don’t think you really demonstrated why. Today let’s say your cost range for private school might be $3K for a Catholic education all the way up to $40K for an elite prep school. The only demand that might be hidden here are parents who are willing to spend more than $0 but less than $3,000. They use public school simply because no private option exists at that price. If a universal $5K voucher was instituted, who is going to demand additional private school slots? The parent who was already spending $3K would have no issue spending $8K because the voucher brings that cost down to $3K. A clear dynamic would be initially many private parents trying to shuffle their kids ‘up’ to a more prestigious school but existing parents would ‘defend’ their place in the schools by opting to hand over the vouchers via tuition increases.

“Secondly, there are costs involved in having to have a separate facility to do religious education – you have to transport your kids physically from one place to another, which working parents may not have time to do….”

So my father-in-law grew up in Newark NJ in an Italian community. Families were expected to attend mass every Sunday and many people attended *daily* mass. Somehow they did this in an era with fewer cars, fewer jobs that offered ‘flexible time’, less money. If the religion is important you’ll do it, if it isn’t you won’t. That’s not the government’s concern nor my concern.

What is interesting is you are ignoring the benefits to religion. When I was young it was CCD once a week. For min. cost I attended classes in the evening at the nearby Catholic school. Unlike the students who attended the Catholic school, the readings, workbooks, little tests, none of those things required the Catholic school to teach me the basic toolsets. They didn’t need to teach me to read, or write, for example. They didn’t need to accustom me to taking tests with ‘fill in the blank’ questions. All that ground work was done free by the public schools allowing the Catholic school to just pick up with the actual religion.

52 Hazel Meade July 10, 2017 at 5:43 pm

Well, get this, I’m an atheist. I don’t see benefits to religion. I just feel that all parents should have options and that there’s no first amendment violation in allowing people to choose options which include religious instruction. I also think there is something unfair about requiring religious parents who are poor or middle class to fund non-religious public schools while denying them the right to put their children in a religious school. A school isn’t like a park. It’s a place your kids are going to be all day five days a week for 13+years of education. It’s going to dramatically shape who they are as people. It’s like if we mandated that everyone pay for community meals that included meat and then told the vegans they have to pay for it themselves if they want a vegan option, and only rich people can afford to be vegans anyway, so allowing vegan options in the community meal program would be a subsidy to rich people. Well, guess what, there are actually lots of poor vegans!

53 Boonton July 10, 2017 at 6:50 pm

Problem is you aren’t denying anyone a right to do anything. Put your kids in a religious school. You’re saying today that’s a horrible unfair burden on poor and middle class families. But generations of even poorer families paid for religious schools while at the same time paying the taxes that support public schools. Are you saying you only support vouchers with an income cut off? If not then why are you playing a class angle? Giving Ivanka Trump a voucher while telling us you are only doing it for the poor mother in the welfare motel?

The park is an apt example because whether or not a park is a necessity is really up to you as an individual. Having kids does incur responsibilities to them but that is inherent in the decision to have kids, gov’t requirements are there because your kids are not mini-Ayn Rands who can intelligently bargain with you and ensure their future interests as adults are protected.

“It’s like if we mandated that everyone pay for community meals that included meat and then told the vegans they have to pay for it themselves if they want a vegan option”

Suppose the gov’t, for whatever reason, wanted to support chicken farmers. It agrees to buy 300M chickens per year. Each New Year every American is given a coupon good for 1 free chicken.

Whatever the economic wisdom of this idea (and it’s probably a fraction of what is done in terms of special favors given to oil/gas/cattle/corn producers)….how would this work for your vegan friends? No one is forcing them to eat chicken….but they do have to eat. Is it a right that they also get a coupon for veggies equal to about 1 chicken (however you measure that)? I would say no, if you don’t want what the gov’t is providing gratis, that’s fine but you don’t then get a right to force the gov’t to add to what it offers by demanding it pay for substitutes you would prefer.

54 Hazel Meade July 11, 2017 at 9:52 am

Problem is you aren’t denying anyone a right to do anything.

You are forcibly taking their money in order to pay for public schools where religious is banned while KNOWING that they will not be able to afford to send their children to a private religious school – by your own explicit statement that only rich people can afford them.

55 Hazel Meade July 11, 2017 at 9:56 am

No one is forcing them to eat chicken….

No, you’re just forcing them to pay for chicken they can’t eat.

56 Daniel Weber July 10, 2017 at 11:37 am

The most expensive 5% or 10% or so of private schools are probably positional goods. And you’re right that it doesn’t make sense to subsidize positional goods.

For the rest, they just want their kids to receive an education. For my oldest, the public school basically told us to pound sand and they weren’t going to do what was legally required. It was less work to put him in private school for a while.

For our second child, we’ve done public all the way, fighting with advocates to make them do the legal requirements. It’s weird that, even though we are putting a bigger strain on the public school system, we would be regarded as being more supportive of the public school system by the usual suspects here.

57 Boonton July 10, 2017 at 4:53 pm

I think it’s less the schools than the parents. I suspect nearly 100% of private parents are to some degree buying a positional good. At my work, for example, there’s many people that use Catholic schools without much to indicate to me devout Catholic faith as a major motivation. I suspect they also correlate positively with higher end car brands in the parking lot.

I don’t think this is a perfectly simple “give everyone $5K voucher, every private school raises their tuition by $5K” but to the degree any parent is buying a positional good they will become price insensitive to spending $5K. Unfortunately supply cannot help here because *new* private schools cannot make more positional goods. So by some measure, right off the bat, a universal voucher program is going to start by wasting money because it is going to be sunk into the search for positional rank by parents.

This is pretty serious, let’s say 30% of the motivation is positional. I think that’s low but let’s say it is. If you replaced the entire public school system by simply taking the total budgets and voucherizing them you end up with:

1. A loss because students who were already in private school with parents paying their way are now getting a voucher out of the funds that had been used for the public school kids. That’s a dead weight loss to taxpayers. Let’s say pre-voucher 10% of kids are schooled privately.

2. If 30% positional ranking is in effect, you’re going to get price run ups sinking voucher money in the ranking chase.

3. Inflation acts as a further tax on parents. If 30% of parents will be willing to blow their voucher chasing ranking, what happens to the rest of parents? A school that used to charge $6K now charges $12K because they are a bit better than their competition catching rankings chasers. What does this do to the parents who aren’t into the rankings game but just had their kids there because they found it a good school? Their costs have been increased from $6K to ($12K-5K voucher) $7K.

You’re now looking at a triple whammy of cuts. Even if the private schools universally do better than our mostly public but private available system, you are starting from a sunk position. If all this adds up to a virtual 50% cut then even if the schools are twice as good that only brings you back on par.

In reality I think the situation is worse. In the college market I feel like the % of money spent on ranking/position is more like 60-70%. At least in the college market, though, you don’t have vouchers (Pell grants pay for almost nothing these days). If you want to chase the positional good you end up paying the student loan. I don’t see any reason why a universal voucher system wouldn’t start out blowing the same amount on positional goods.

58 Hazel Meade July 10, 2017 at 5:49 pm

I suspect nearly 100% of private parents are to some degree buying a positional good.

This is crazy. Clearly, a lot of people believe that public schools are failing their children, and that private schools provide ac better educations. You’re literally arguing that all of those people are lying or delusional.

59 Hazel Meade July 10, 2017 at 5:50 pm

At my work, for example, there’s many people that use Catholic schools without much to indicate to me devout Catholic faith as a major motivation.

yeah, because they are that desperate to get their kids out of the public school system, they are willing to risk them being subjected to religious indoctrination to do it.

I’m an ATHEIST, and I’m considering putting my kids in a Catholic school, rather than the local public school.

60 Boonton July 10, 2017 at 6:34 pm

“You’re literally arguing that all of those people are lying or delusional.”

Keep control of yourself. You make it sound like a positional good is something like child abuse or neglect. Many people would be happy if their kid got into an Ivy League school. Do they literally believe 4 years later he will have 5 to 10 times knowledge in his brain compared to those who go to a more average school? Probably not but they think the network connections established plus the education is more than worth it.

It’s also economically rational. Networks are powerful. It’s worth money to get into a more potent one if you can. But they are also limited goods. Money will help one person get into them, but by definition it can’t help everyone, if you try you just pay monopoly rents to those who control the networks.

Clearly, a lot of people believe that public schools are failing their children,
As evidence you will submit attendance at local school board meetings, voter turnout in school elections and mass organizing on the local school level?

61 Hazel Meade July 11, 2017 at 9:50 am

Whether you think positional goods are ok is beside the point. You’re asserting that 100% of parents putting their kids in private schools are buying a positional good. You are denying the possibility that a significant percentage of parents actually believe that their kids are going to get a better education.

And you have to know that college entrances are very competitive and so a 10% improvement in education is going to make a large difference.

62 Daniel Weber July 11, 2017 at 11:28 am

Beneath the top 10% or so (where you are filthy rich and paying to make sure your entire social circle is filthy rich), elementary and middle school students aren’t going to be doing networking with other people. High school students will barely be doing this.

I went to both public and private schools growing up. I keep in touch with 0.0% of those people. It was never about networking. It was about education. Sometimes my parents thought the better opportunities were at private schools, sometimes at public schools.

Catholics dominate the private school market because it’s a Catholic value to educate everybody, even non-Catholics.

Clearly, a lot of people believe that public schools are failing their children, As evidence you will submit attendance at local school board meetings, voter turnout in school elections and mass organizing on the local school level?

This is the refrain of the people who have a lot invested in the current system: all other reforms should be dropped in favor in improving the system they have a lot invested in. I can see why they want it, the same way I would love to demand that someone do free labor on repairing my house. “Hey, if my house is worth more, than rubs off on you. Externality!! Urk urk!”

I’ve had people complain to me that the reason private schools do better is that parents volunteer, and if those parents could be forced to volunteer at public schools, imagine how great the public schools would be! Beyond the typical pattern of considering other people as pawns on a chessboard to be arranged by one’s will, it ignores that the reason those parents volunteered at the private school and not the public school was because they saw the private school as well-functioning.

Exit beats voice. Do you think we would have better computers if everyone got together and voted on them? Better coffee? Better cars? The ringleaders despise exit, but exit is much more powerful than voice.

63 Boonton July 10, 2017 at 5:01 pm

Side note, if you toss out the libertarian argument to give vouchers to everyone….these concerns I have vanish if you consider vouchers not as an entitlement but as a tool. For example, giving vouchers in a population dense area that can support multiple schools that could be cashed in by either public, charter or private schools could be an effective way to help failing schools (although to be honest, a failing school is a bit of a fiction IMO. Invariably you only find ‘failing schools’ in communities with massive social problems. If our problem was bad public schools why are there no failing schools in communities that pay $5K per house per year in property taxes or more?).

64 Hazel Meade July 11, 2017 at 9:48 am

US students on average test worse than most other OECD nations. If that isn’t attributable to a lower quality of education in public schools, what is it attributable to?
A school can be worse than it ought to be without being full of total incompetents.

65 Boonton July 11, 2017 at 11:05 am

Maybe, who knows. Who says the OCED test measures education quality? How many job interviews have you been on where the employer gave you the OCED test or asked for your score? If zero then why should I care about them?

66 Boonton July 11, 2017 at 11:45 am

Just to show I’m not silly….

Let’s say here’s a long test of multiple choice questions about business. The average Harvard MBA grad scored a 78.5 on this test. OK I took the test myself and scored 80.

Does that make me equal to a Harvard MBA? Would employers be impressed that way? If you were helping your child choose a college and she was accepted at Harvard with full scholar ship or NoName school whose grads nonetheless scored an 80 on that test…would you send her there as a better school?

67 Jon July 9, 2017 at 10:36 pm

You really *should* read the paper before declaring a victory for Friedman.. As the paper title makes clear this is about a ‘voucher reform’… a reform to make the system ‘a very different design than that which Friedman designed’… and instead a model similar to that proposed by Jencks. . The reforms greatly increased resources to lower income children and began imposing much more strict regulation the behavior and pricing of private schools receiving the vouchers (e.g. regulation of the fees they could charge in addition to priority vouchers, they could no longer select students by income etc)…. More recent educational reforms passed in 2016 go much further and now effectively require that any school receiving vouchers be a non-profits. Again, it seems hardly at all what Milton had in mind.

68 Bill July 10, 2017 at 7:51 am

No one read the papers, as my comment showed. And, no one did further research to see how their voucher system faired. See my link showing studies of their voucher system.

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