A national voucher program?

Well, this is great, but it would have been nice if they had pushed this a couple of years ago. I never understood how someone could oppose competition in education. Is there any other field, such as cars or food or entertainment or computer programs or health care, where customers would be better off just having the government supply the product? Is there really any explanation for why is education so different? There is a strong argument not to have the federal government involved in local educational decisions, but if it is already involved, why not use some of that money to engender competition?

With Education Secretary Margaret Spellings joining them in a show of support, Congressional Republicans proposed Tuesday to spend $100 million on vouchers for low-income students in chronically failing public schools around the country to attend private and religious schools.

The legislation, modeled on a pilot program here, would pay for tuition and private tutoring for some 28,000 students seeking a way out of public schools that fail to raise test scores sufficiently for at least five years.


Blogger saturdaynightspecial said...

I got a better idea (and so does everyone else.) Milton Friedman mentioned vouchers over thirty years back. Libertarians oppose vouchers for good reasons. One of the worst aspects of vouchers is that it will breach the wall that separates church and state by allowing taxdollars to flow into church schools.

But my better idea is to end mandatory attendance law after the fifth grade; then the ones that don't want to be in school don't have to and won't interfere with those who choose to take advantage of education. This is a big problem in places that have the biggest problems with trying to educate the masses. Eliminating mandatory attendance will allow criminals to avoid attending school ( and causing trouble in school.) Any parent wanting their children to continue school after the fifth grade can; they can use the public system or private. Ending mandatory attendence will cut the costs of the public system and improve it. It may encourage more private start-ups.

Is it utopian, and unrealistic, to want to end public education ?

Government has no business in educating the masses, but teachng the youngest to read, write and do simple math is functional.

Vouchers, and faith based initiatives, are the typical 'good ideas' that encourage citizens to use government to do things the government should not do. They are the reasons our government is the opposite of what it should be: a strictly limited, small and weak government; that is what the framers intended it to be: a constitutional republic that only exists to protect our civil rights, protects us from outsiders and provides other limited services.

The Chicago political machine is an example of what results when we use government to do things it was never intended to do: elected dictatorship. Chicago spends millions of tax dollars trying, and failing, to educate the masses.

The public system prevents the private system from competing.

7/19/2006 6:23 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Beyond the church/state issues perhaps the biggest problem with vouchers is the sheer cost of providing facilities. Building even a medium sized school is so expensive that few private concerns could afford it without tuition costs that would far outstrip what vouchers could provide. And if vouchers were increased to deal with this issue, the money taken from the public schools would essentially bankrupt them.

There just aren't enough private schools available for every student in America and there are significant consequences if a much touted private school is found to be a fraud. Competion with laundry soap is just fine as the free market works without substantial consequence to the individual, but if a child loses a year due to incompetent teaching, that's not something that can be replaced or refunded.

Even today, many homeschoolers and private schoolers do their best to convince public schools to allow them to participate in programs like sports, music, etc. that private schools can't afford. On a larger scale, this would be impossible.

The mechanisms necessary to fix failing public districts are in place. It begins with voters.

7/19/2006 7:44 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

To saturdaynightspecial:
1) I have no problem ending mandatory attendance rules, but I believe that if you actually had schools that were productively using kids' time, many fewer would want to leave school early.
2) Tax credits are fine, though I am not sure logically that there is really any difference between the two. Both tax credits and vouchers help the same people and accomplish the exact same ends and can be set up to operate identically.
3) I think that public education has actually reduced what people are learning relative to what they otherwise would have learned.
To Mike:
4) I don't see any problem in setting up private schools. First government schooling did not get started overnight naitonally, though in some states that did occur. In many states, subsidies to private school gradually turned into complete government control, but that took place over 40 some years. If you want to phase in the change to complete privitaztion over a couple or a few years, that is fine. But this voucher program is only talking about a small number of students.
5) Homeschoolers participate in some public school activities because of the large tax payments that homeschooler are being forced to give public schools even though they are bearing all the costs of teaching their children themselves.
6) The point about incompetent teaching is probably not a strong justification that you really want to make for public schooling. If people are spending their own money, they are going to have a lot more control over the quality of the product that they are getting. If a private school does a bad job teaching, it will go out of business. There is a very good reason why people in urban areas support vouchers so strongly and it has to do with the horribly low quality of education that their children are getting.

7/20/2006 12:23 AM  
Blogger saturdaynightspecial said...

My worst fear is home schooling; I could never provide schooling to my kid. But many believe children need to be taught art, music and physical education - this is not true - Lincoln was self taught, and never bothered with any of that. You don't need large swimming pools or football fields and running tracks to educate; these things are high cost distractions to more important subjects while some children fail to learn to read (and articulate). Some of my son's classmates rarely appear in class - one attends figure skating lessons most of the time while the taxpayer pays for her education of which she never utilizes. Like any other government program the result is massive waste (and fraud) and an oversized bullying government that fosters dependence by it's ignorant masses.

The first step to eliminate public education is to end mandatory attendance or mandatory education. Eliminating public education will help to remove our dependence on government and will make us once again more free. And doing everything to encourage private education will improve, and cut the costs of, the education every child receives.

We have much to gain by eliminating mandatory attendance laws.

7/20/2006 6:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dictating what people 'need' to learn is part of what I see as key evidence government should have no role in education.

How on earth can a bureaucracy make *any* decision about what specific children 'need' to be taught? Parents, individual aspirations and localized economic factors play a bewilderingly complex part in this decision-making process...an information flow that government *cannot possibly* cope with at all.

Viewing government as an arbiter of 'need' is as insane in matters of education as it is in matters of arms.

7/21/2006 2:38 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Dear saturdaynightspecial:

Lincoln was home schooled, not just self taught. For that matter, George Washington, Ben Franklin, and a whole string of others were home schooled. If people didn't have to pay the high property taxes to support the public schools, they could send their kids to private schools if they didn't want to do home schooling.

7/21/2006 7:29 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home