What are the arguments for and against school vouchers

What are the arguments for and against school vouchers? I got nine pages worth of threads about this when I searched the boards, but I didn’t see any in GQ. I would like this discussion to remain abstract if possible. I ask a lot of people about this, and no one really convinces me one way or the other.

Thanks for your help,

I don’t see how we can state the arguments for and against school vouchers without tipping into debate. If I state that a common argument against vouchers is that they will destroy public schools, it is a certainty that others will take issue with that, and offer reasons why that is not a valid argument. And that is a debate. Perhaps you should ask the mods to move this so we can give it a proper airing out.

For: They will foster competition and increase the quality of almost all schools including the public ones. They will enable the creation of more charter schools and more innovative teaching environments for kids of all needs. Kids that really need a special learning environment will have money to help them pay for it.

Against They will depopulate public schools leaving only a group of students whose parents don’t value their education much or who are still too poor to pay anything in addition to the voucher to go elsewhere. They are a complete sham whose purpose is just to subsidize the swanky private school tuition for the kids that already attend them.

**None of these are my views in particular.

Moving this one to Great Debates.

You can still get factual answers in GD. REALLY you can.

That’s the only way this one will work.
samclem GQ moderator

I’m studying to be a teacher, so this issue is of no small concern for me. From my point of view (and I realize this is seguing away from the OP) those supporting school vouchers tend to break down into two camps. they are A) people so fed up with how bad their local schools are they want to give up on them. In a lot of big cities there is little responsiveness, will, or even concern for what the community really wants. It’s a real failure of government; B) What Shagnasty said above, but with a twist. Often this group wants to completely control what goes into little Johnny’s mind, down to the curriculum. Putting them into a private school is the best way to do this.

I would also add there is no particular reason to think that competing for students will make schools better. Has competing for athletes helped the overall state of college athletics, or just devolved it into a seedy exercise in secretive palm-greasing? Does competition help all businesses get better, or just shut down a bunch of them? After all, schools don’t exist to make a profit, but if they have to compete in an environment where students = money, you can bet the money will come to matter more than anything else.

In fact, the more I understand how schools work, the more I think vouchers are a stupid idea. Let’s say a school is at capacity with 800 students. All of a sudden vouchers are approved, and because this is a nice, good school, 1,500 students apply to go there. Who decides, and how, which students can attend? Should there be an admissions process like colleges have? Who will pay for that, and for the inevitable lawsuits when someone’s kid is left out?

I think vouchers are being pushed in some corners by people who think free markets are a panacea. But there are some things made worse, not better, by being sold on the open market, to say nothing of how such trade degrades society. That’s why we can’t legally buy and sell human organs, slaves, sex, or drugs. School vouchers aren’t quite to the level of those things, but ultimately they will force school administrators to compete for kids like pieces of meat, the same way college athletic coaches do. This runs contrary to the democratic ethic the public school system was founded on.

There are several schools here that are “magnet” schools for different educational specialities. Students have to apply and be accepted into this school, even if they live next door to it. So the “magnet” schools get the superior students, and pass all the NCLB criteria, and the other schools are left with the students that don’t really excell in anything, and fail the criteria.

I honestly don’t know how to fix it. My mother sent me to a private boarding school starting in the 9th grade because I was becoming a truant problem in the new school I was assigned to. Why was I a truant? The school was teaching things in the 8th grade I had learned in the 6th grade at my former school. I was bored shitless, and suddenly exposed to :gasp: pot. I could still make straight A’s going to school two days a week, so why bother?

I wish I knew a solution. I know people who wanted to teach since they were kids who have left because of the school system. I know of kids who passed all the graduation exams with flying colors but make C’s and D’s, or are put in remedial classes in college.

Can we seperate out the kids who want to learn from the kids that are there because they have to be? I know we can’t as the law stands now, but I’m starting to wonder why not. When 10% of a class can prevent the other 90% from learning anything, something is wrong.

Let me say up front that this is anecdotal and it does not represent the whole debate.

I’ve asked several school voucher advocates about their rational, and after two or three questions, you get past the lack of faith in the public school system. Then the answers boil down to this: They don’t want their kids around other kids with different beliefs, values, religions, skin color, languages, etc.

They wish to choose who their children spend their time with and school vouchers are a way to financially subsidize their choice.

Little separates public, private schools – report
Study finds worst performance in conservative Christian schools

You’ve summed up exactly why I don’t like the voucher idea.

Vouchers don’t not solve the problem of broken schools. In fact, I believe they make broken schools worse. Whether vouchers are granted on a lottery system or by some kind of means-test, they will always select for the best students–those children with involved parents, stable homes, and the highest potential. What results is a skimming off of the cream of the crop and a school left to deal with the worst performing, most at-risk students. A mediocre school turns into a horrible school–one that students and teachers alike try to escape from.

What do vouchers do for students that the free market can’t handle? If Johnny the Juvenile Delinquient gets expelled from the alternative school, can his parents use a voucher to send him to a residential boot-camp kind of school, if that’s the only program that will take him? If I’m home-schooling my child, am I eligible for voucher money? Why shouldn’t I get it? If I have a severely mentally handicapped child and I feel that the local school isn’t teaching him effectively, even though administrators say otherwise, am I eligible for voucher money to send him to a fancy day school? What if my child is an uber-genius who’s suffering in a boring classroom? Where’s my money??

Vouchers may sound like a good idea, but the logistics of carrying out a fair, reasonable program seem unsurmountable to me.

If I understand it correctly, vouchers enable parents to send their kids to the private school of their choice, paid for by the district?

But districts are given funds to educate kids based an average daily attendance (ADA). If there are fewer kids in the classrooms, there is less money available to the district.

So where is this money supposed to come from?

Not to mention it easily permits a legal label to be applied to an ethnic group for discriminatory purposes.

Graduated from XXX School, XXX school being a private school with a fundamentalist christian teaching spin. So of course only good christians go there. :rolleyes:

Thus allowing things like employment discrimination based on not religion but the “excellent reputation of school XXX” since alma mater is not a protected class.

Actually, yes, you may be, right now. If you have an IEP with your district, and you feel that the FAPE offer the district has made is not the least-restrictive and/or appropriate placement for your child, you can go to a hearing. If the administrative judge feels that you are right and the district’s placement was incorrect, you may be eligible for district payment for your placement, wherever it may be.

IEP = Individualized Education Plan, the basic plan for a special education student.

FAPE = Free and Appropriate Public Education.

A bloom of charter schools could also brutally crush the power of teachers unions. That could be a for or against depending on POV.

If a voucher is used to send a student to a private religious school, it could be seen as taxpayers’ money being used to fund a religious institution. Perhaps not the most egregious violation of the Constitution, but arguably a violation nonetheless.

As EJsGirl points out, you may be able to do so. Conversely, if you have an MR child and desire for said child to attend the local private school, well, best of luck with that. The exclusivity of private schools is one of the reasons that I could never support vouchers.

In the interests of full disclosure, I have a child with Down Syndrome and am a member of the school board of her district. However, I came down on the idea of vouchers long before I got on the board.

Too, if your kid has been expelled from public school, then you’ll be hard pressed to get him or her placed in any school that isn’t some sort of boot camp arrangement. And I don’t know what it’s like anywhere else, but around here, most of those are out of town if not out of state. It seems that this would lead to several Dantean circles of fun and hijinx what with money coming from different districts/states.

Then there’s always the issue of religious schools and tax dollars supporting same.


Eaxactly. It’s bad enough now that a good porttion of my Taxes (as a childless man) goes to support schools, but I look upon it as an investment in the future. However, when I am asked to support schools that think Evolution is false, then I really balk.

Next, at any level- I can have a LOT on imput as to how my school tax dolalrs are spend- I can run for the School district, or more likely- support canditates who mirrors my views. The Civil Grand Jury investigates waste, fraud and corruption in public shools also.

Although I cheerfully concede that at many private schools the kids may get a better education, I’d have no say at all in how my tax dollars would be spent.

For example, in some corner of Utah, some wierd offshoot of the Mormon Chruch could spend their voucher $$ on training the girls to be virtual sex slaves.

For parents, on the other hand, vouchers are a way of giving more control to the taxpayer. As it is, they must pay for public schools. Vouchers are a way of voting with their tax money, supporting the better institutions as well as giving their kids what they believe to be a better education.

I guess I’ll tackle the pro voucher position here, since no one else seems to be on that side. The fundamental idea of vouchers is the same as the idea behind food stamps and medicare. If the government wants to redistribute wealth for the public good, it doesn’t build its own hospitals and grocery stores, but rather gives people credit which they can then use at the private institution of their choice.

I support the idea that parents, rather than government, should be able to make important decisions about their children’s lives, including what school they attend. Beside the ideological basis, I support vouchers on an economic basis. It should be apparent that competition is what drives progress–the fact that some people see no reason why a competitively produced school would be better than one without incentive or selection pressures acting on it seems to indicate just how poor of a job our schools are doing at educating people.

Here is an interesting article on just how the voucher system is working in San Francisco. I’d like to see the anti-voucher people comment on it before going much further in the debate. I think it answers most of the objections to vouchers. As to the objection that seems most prevalent here–that school choice could allow parents to put their kids in fundamentalist Christian or neo-Nazi schools or what have you–my reply is twofold:

  1. A simple certification procedure would suffice–schools must teach basic subjects like math, reading, etc. (e.g., no madrasas), and no religious/ racist/ other wacko indoctrination or else you can’t use your vouchers to attend.
  2. Parents already have the right to send their children to such schools, albeit not with taxpaid dollars. If the objection is to the use of taxpayer money for such a purpose, (1) should suffice. If the objection is to the existence of such schools at all (or even the ability of parents to instill unpopular beliefs in their children outside of school), that’s a whole nother can of worms outside the scope of this debate.