My worry about vouchers

Here is one good bit, you can trace back an interesting debate through Kevin Drum, Matt, Ezra (can’t find the link), and Jane.  I have two worries:

1. The federal government will pay for vouchers, to some extent, and thus extend its control over schooling.  Admittedly this is happening anyway.

2. No politically feasible vouchers program will apply immediate depth charges to current public schools or even reduce their initial budgets ("oh, you aren’t letting public schools compete…).  That means the new money must come from somewhere.  That means our taxes will go up.

Vouchers would create a new middle class entitlement, ostensibly aimed at education but often simply capitalized in the form of cash.  In the meantime public schools would require additional subsidies to stay open.  How pretty a picture is this?

For sure, I favor selective vouchers for inner cities and voucher experiments.  But Yana is finishing high school now, and we have had quite a cozy local arrangement in Fairfax County.  I don’t wish we had had vouchers, and I’m a libertarian (Bryan can laugh if he wants).  That’s why the vouchers idea has not really gotten off the ground.

I would be happier with vouchers if we were starting from scratch in designing educational institutions.  And while I agree with Jane that children have a positive right to an education, I think the out-and-out laissez-faire option doesn’t get enough attention.  Keep the public schools we have, but make them charge tuition.  I’m not sure that the number of good educations obtained would actually go down.  Even if we can’t institute this reform today, might it become possible at some level of per capita income?

When it comes to teachers’ unions, I don’t have much sympathy.


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