What are school vouchers and what is the big deal about them?
The basic idea is that a local government or school district will calculate some average per-student amount of money to be spent and provide a voucher for that amount to each family which can be spent on private-school tuition or homeschooling supplies. The idea is that people who benefit from the public education system would have a choice in how the money is spent for their children.
They are controversial for a number of reasons:
- Teacher’s unions don’t like them since some public money would be going to (usually non-unionized) private schools.
- There are potential religious-freedom problems with spending public money on parochial school tuition.
- Private schools can choose to accept whatever students they want, but public schools have to serve everybody. A voucher program might therefore cause a struggling public school to become worse.
Voucher systems which have been implemented in a few different places are all over the map in terms of rules and eligibility, so it’s difficult to make direct comparisons between them. Some only offer vouchers to public school students in poorly-performing schools, some have family income requirements, etc.
Of course, if you have a physical school building suited for 1000 students, with an annual cost to keep running of $X, and you send the portion of that for 10 students as part of their vouchers ($X/1000 each), you still have to spend the whole $X to keep the building running for the 990 kids left there…
Many of the other portions of annual spending have similar economies of scale problems.
Also, imagine a school district with two schools, 1 public spending $10000/student, and 1 private with $8000/student tuition.
Suppose you give a voucher of $5000.
All the rich people who would pay the $8000 out of pocket anyway for private school take the $5000 voucher. The poor people who can’t scrape up the difference can’t take advantage of the vouchers. You end up just subsidizing the rich people.
Now the private school charges an entry fee that means they fill their class rooms.
The people have $5000 MORE to spend ? So they can AFFORD $8000 they spend now, plus the free $5000 from the gov… so they can spend $13000 !
Because of the price increase in private schooling, the gov is under pressure to raise the (upper) amount covered by the vouchers…
Now 50% of the students have left public schools and it would cost more per student at public schools, if they had the budget for that. Either they reduce standards or they get more money… IF they lower standards, then more students get sent to private schooling.
Vouchers raise the cost of public education (in total, or per students) … or its effectively a shutdown of public schooling. And anyway, it starts off a spiral of voucher dependency in the private schools…
Its the same with private health insurance. Even public hospitals seem to be able to gouge private health insurance… “Do you have private health insurance ?They charge it the $2500, and here’s your out of pocket bill for $800. If you didn’t have private health insurance, then they put it on the government tab (Australia… ) your out of pocket ? $0.”. Clearly gouging and discrimination. Why should the out of pocket vary depending on who is doing the insuring ?