School vouchers are one of the many proposed solutions to the myriad of problems facing American public school
s. The idea is this:
Public schools have budgets and end up spending x dollars per pupil. The value of x differs wildly from school district to school district, from around 5 grand in Mississippi and Utah, to over $10,000 in the northeastern United States. School vouchers would take a portion of this amount (half is what I have seen most often) and issue a voucher for each child to his parent. The parent would then use the voucher as payment for whatever school he wishes to send his child. This plan is heralded by many conservatives and libertarians as a method of improving education. It is castigated by liberals just as vehemently as the destroyer of public education and the crumbling of the wall separating church and state. There is certainly a potential benefit in allowing market forces to work on the product of education, but this potential benefit may be overshadowed by some serious potential problems. I've listed my most serious concerns below:
- The government never writes a check without entangling itself in the internal workings of those to whom the check is written. Is there anyone here who really believes the government, which in the past has used its power to regulate interstate commerce to perform such tasks as disallowing the growth of crops for ones own consumption and forcibly desegregating private businesses, would actually pay someone directly who didn't do pretty much exactly what they wanted them to do? Implementing vouchers would indeed mix government and religion, and the government always winds up as the dominant partner in such an arrangement. It would only be a matter of time before the government would decide which practices are permitted within schools and which ones are not. Even though it would be states and localities actually administering the funds, the federal government would usurp control over the process in due time, even as they now basically control the operation of public schools, despite only picking up about 10% of the tab. School vouchers would effectively be a death knell for meaningful religion, as well as one for limited government. The libertarian proponents of this policy have no idea of the horror they will unleash by inviting the government into parochial schools and other private schools. The solution to failing public schools is not to make all the private ones public as well.
- Vouchers are a form of welfare. This is much less of a concern than the issue above, but it does merit mention that vouchers are another type of government entitlement. By issuing the vouchers to parents in equal amounts, vouchers are effectively (forced) payments to the poor from the wealthy, who pay far more property taxes. Many people receiving vouchers would probably not have paid any taxes into the pool from which they are drawn at all. Even more insidious, vouchers are a forced transfer of capital from people who have no children to those who do, irrespective of income. How can anyone justify taking money from a young married couple with no children and a starter home to a wealthy couple with a million dollar home and a kid or two? This is the reality of voucher programs. Of course, this transfer occurs already, with public school funding, but, the wealthy couple may decide on private schools, so that at least some of them do not benefit from the plunder of their neighbors. With vouchers, this distinction is rendered meaningless. Also, vouchers virtually guarantee this sort of redistribution of wealth by pooling the taxes of a larger area than the current setup.
- Vouchers reward failure. As has been stated elsewhere, vouchers would not result in all the taxes paid by someone being disbursed to the school of his/her choice, rather a percentage of those taxes. The rest presumably would go back to the public schools. This would give public schools an actual incentive to get rid of students. While ridding themselves of students would cause the loss of some teachers, the ones who remained, along with the administrators, would have more money per student to play with. If there were, say 10,000 students in a district, and $5,000 were being spent per student (lower than average, but an easy number to work with), 50 million dollars would be spent on schools. Let's say that half of this would automatically be given to public schools. The other half would go to both private schools and public shools. If the public schools lost 1000 students, 10 percent of the student population, they would only lose 5% of funding. If they lost half, they would only lose 25% of funding. Any business would downsize if cutting 2 dollars in expenses resulted in only a 1 dollar loss in revenue. An already wasteful government program would only get more wasteful, and would be rewarded handsomely for it.