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.