Why do conservatives like school vouchers?

Mallard Fillmore today ran a comic strip talking about school vouchers. The idea of school vouchers is pretty much a conservative item. But why do conservatives like the concept? On the surface it seems like the kind of thing conservatives usually hate - the government collecting taxes from everybody and then handing it out to parents to spend on their children’s education. If it was “health vouchers” and the government was writing checks for people to spend on health care, conservatives would surely be up in arms denouncing this as a liberal giveaway. Especially if, like the school voucher proposals, people were free to choose whatever health care they wanted and could use their check for anything from plastic surgery to acupucture. So why this conservative love for school vouchers?

Because it gives them the opportunity to abdicate for an even more liberal ideal, public schools.

Because it gives them the opportunity to abdicate [responsibility] for an even more liberal ideal, public schools.

Fairly uninformed person here: it’s essentially a way to apply the free market to education. As things are, most families don’t choose what school their children attend. If they’re unfortunate enough to live in a bad school district, they’re pretty much stuck with a bad school, unless they can afford private school. If, however, they can exercise more choice over which school their child attends, and even get help going to private schools, then individuals will be better served and the lower-quality public schools will be forced to work on their problems (or if not, at least they won’t be overcrowded). The money goes to education anyway; this way, the families get to decide which school gets the money.

That’s my sketchy impression of the idea, anyway. Competition and free enterprise, parental control over a child’s education. All solid conservative values. :slight_smile:

I am going to go ahead and paint with a very large brush here but I say (1) Rich Republicans like it becuase they send their kids to private schools. (2) Religious conservatives like anything that brings money to religions. (3) Religious conservatives have been screaming about the SCOTUS removing God from school. Since private schools are overwhelmingly religious its a way for God to get back into schools. (4) Small Government conservatives typically like anything that gets money out of government and into private businesses.

Education has been established as a governmental function for a century now. Some extremists, like me, would just as soon see government schools gone permanently, but most do not share that goal, or else just realistically admit government schools are here to stay. For these people, vouchers are a way to reform something the government already does.

Historically, health care has not been something the state took a role in; any sort of national health care program would represent a large expansion of the government.

Having said that, if we were to posit that there was inevitably going to be nationalized health care, I think many consevatives would be in favor of a voucher-type system.

Well, first off it allows government funding of religious schools. Never underestimate the power of those that think that if they can just make the government say “Jesus” enough times they will win.

Secondly, it appeals to libertarians who see this as an intermediate step towards going entirely private. They think it will help prove that the private sector is better and make the eventual scaling away of all public education more palatable.

Finally, conservatives in general have a lot of contempt for education. People who would never say “let’s do away with med school!” think “let’s get rid of the education major and hire stockbrokers to teach our kids” is a great idea. Maybe it is that they consider the teachers’ union to strong. Maybe it is because education is by nature progressive. Maybe it goes against the general “kids as property” ideal. Whatever it is, conservatives are more likely to consider educaiton to be an overated, poorly done, and overall bad scene.

Because it allows them to both divert funds from “underperforming” schools, **and ** leave those schools with all the kids that are, in one way or another, “undesirable”, futher accelerating the collapse of the public school system, which will lead to either a fully privatized educational system, and/or a perpetual underclass of disadvantaged, inadequately educated people? I think either result is fine with them.

dangermom, if they really want to apply solid conservative values, then they should work hard and save up and pay for private school out of their pockets. Pull up those bootstraps, people! There’s also the issue of tax dollars being funneled into schools with religious affiliations.

Unlike most of my bretheren, I assume that the primary goal of a voucher systems to be purely shelfish. You get a win on both ends, if youre already spending money on a private school, you suddenly get a voucher to pay for some of it. You also get to claim the the tax monney you spend on education is really benifitting your childs education. Secondly as a conservative you get to sap money from public schools.

There is a reasom that vouchers fail consistently among poor people, poor people would be unable to afford the cost of a prvate education under every voucher condition so far suggested. Its pretty easy to get behind a program that cost you nothimg an potentiallly saves you money.

It’s simple. You pay for schools anyway (through taxes), vouchers just allow parents to decide which schools they will support and which schools are right for their kids. I like the idea. The big bugaboo from those who oppose vouchers is the religious one, while I pretty much hate all religions, I strongly support the right of parents to send their kids to a religious school if those are the values they want to instill in their kids.

Look at it this way: My parents sent me to a private school, yet at the same time they also had to pay (again, through taxes) for me to be educated at a public school. They paid twice for the same service. How is that fair? The other plus to vouchers is that small schools would spring up to educate children with special needs. Special needs kids are often lost in the crowd in public schools that are trying to be all things to all people.

It’s all about choice, really, and a fundamental question: Do parents have the right to control the education of their kids, or should they be forced to send their kids to a school that will “educate” (or indoctrinate, if you prefer) their kids according to the wishes of a bureaucracy that has it’s own agenda, one that may be contrary to what the parents believe? I think the former is vastly preferable.

You mean liberal arts education.

If teachers actually taught a liberal arts education, I don’t think there would be any problems. The problem is that the original goal of “getting kids to think” has been lost because trying to do so requires that a teacher does more–both in trying to think of ways to get his students’ brain cells firing and then in critically analyzing their progress to submit a grade. But instead, we lecture about history and give a grade based on their retention of what exactly the teacher said during the course. A school system based on the ability to retain knowledge is of no practical use.

As such, at current the Republican alternative of swapping in career training at least has value. Personally, I would vote for giving the school system a kick in the pants and start turning out teachers who don’t challenge their students (plus probably some career training.) But that’s not going to happen because the two parties choose platforms based on a dice roll.

I think this is correct. It gives the conservatives an opportunity to choose the type of education given that they are already paying taxes for education.

I would consider myself a middle-of-the-road type of person, generally I like the idea of small govt., but I think we need an economic safety net for individuals, etc.

So I’m not exactly a conservative, but I’m all for the voucher system for the one simple reason that it would seem to create competition, with the ultimate goal of increasing the quality of education. I have 3 kids in one of the better school districts in my area (Northshore School District, Wa State), and I am appalled at the level of incompetence of some of the teachers my kids have had. Some of the teachers have been absolutely great, but the fact that the poor performers continue to have a job is stunning. In a system where there is competition and/or accountability, I can’t see these people continuing to teach.

If you eliminate public schools, how do you propose that poor kids get an education? The current system is far from perfect, but at least most kids get some level of education.

Another factor in the school voucher argument is that it’s intended to allow families or parents to actually punish schools that are screwing up. I spent half my eduction in public schools, and suffered under what I’d consider educational malpractice. In order to preserve my sanity (what there is of it, these days) I had to be taken out of that school system. And, yes, I do think that there are times that public school systems should be punished.

Why should my parents then have to continue to pay for the salaries of the teachers who either through action or inaction made my life Hell, and also pay for my schooling?

Having said that - I’ve yet to hear of a school voucher program that’s actually planning to take the actual per student cost of education from the public school system and give it to parents to choose which school uses that money. And unless that happens, I agree with all the posters who’ve said that poor families won’t be able to use them. And, if they can’t use them, it’s not exactly a system that will work in the long run.

I’d like all of you to consider something.

We already have a voucher system in this country. When a student of college age qualifies for a student grant, or a Stafford loan, or the G.I. Bill, the money is his. He can take that eligibility and use it at a breathtaking array of schools. Some will be private, like, say, Harvard. Some will be public, like my alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh. Some will be religious, like Baylor or Notre Dame. Some cater to special skills, like aeronautical training, truck driving classes, and culinary schools. My brother used his G.I. Bill money to help fund his trade apprenticeship.

This has helped tremendously in making post-secondary American education the finest in the world. Restricting the money narrowly would not have ensured this success.

Now, while post-secondary education has been doing well, primary and secondary education has been doing less well. Increasingly, colleges are taking up the slack for underperforming high schools, with a sharp rise in remedial classes. Additionally, there are vast inequalities in public education. The rich can afford to opt out entirely or move to wealthy and well-performing districts. The poor do not have this option.

Merely increasing funding for poor districts also isn’t the answer, as many of their problems are structural. My local district spends far less per pupil than the District of Columbia does, but turns out lots of good students. D.C. lead the nation in per pupil spending, but also has a terrible infrastructure problem and some of the worst pupil performance in the country, by any measure.

Flexibility has served post-secondary education well, so there is reason to believe that similar flexibility would benefit primary and secondary education as well. Now, you may disagree, but it is hardly a radical notion to propose, given the performance of this other model.

For those of you with church-state concerns, I have a question. Do you have a problem with students using their federal grants to attend colleges affiliated with the Baptist and Catholic churches?

They didn’t pay twice for the same service. They paid once ,privately, for the education they chose for you and through taxes for public education for everybody. If they were paying twice for the same service, then people with two children would pay double the portion of tax that goes to public schooling, and those with no children in school would be exempt. I don’t get a refund for the portion of my taxes that pays for public hospitals and Medicaid simply because I also pay for my own health insurance- why should I get it because I pay my kid’s tuition?

The whole post is a perfect illustration of the conservative “in it for myself” mentality. It comprehends no universal benefit from the education of all American children. It spares no moment to consider the morality of leaving busloads of other children behind.

People like this fail to understand what makes America great.

Mr. Moto, there are limits on federal funding for religiously-owned colleges and universities. For example, I can take my Stafford loans and veteran’s grants and attend McMurry University, which is owned by the United Methodist Church, and major in English or, heck, even religion. What I can’t do with that money is become a minister. (See Locke v. Davey.)

That said, I have no personal issues with vouchers, but I do have a problem with using education dollars to finance religion classes. If parents want to use vouchers to send their kids to Catholic school, fine; it’s their choice. But I have HUGE problems with that voucher being used to fund a course in Catholic religious education. Perhaps the parents could pony up for that. (And, FTR, I have a problem with government money funding any sort of religious education, and that includes Judaism.)

I do have a question for voucher proponents, though. If you have a failing school and parents are siphoning money off to send their kids to private schools, how can you fund the public school and encourage improvement? Or do you just write the public school off as a lost cause?


A combination of the affluent using rivate schools extensively, “white flight”, and a later flight of the black middle class to the suburbs have left the D.C. public schools overwhelmed with the problems of the urban underclass.

These children have been left behind. Ignoring their plight is, IMO, immoral. Please consider that.

At the moment, there’s no incentive for school districts to get rid of problem teachers. In my case there were two teachers who were known to be a problem with many students (belittling, encouraging other students to belittle the student, misuse of authority, etc…) not just me, but because of tenure, they couldn’t be touched.

There was literally nothing that could be done to address this problem. Just try to pull students in trouble with them out of the teacher’s class. So the system as it’s set up now protects these scum, with no way for the families to do a bloody thing to cost the system anything.

I have problems believing that the current system is fixing the problem schools as it is. There is no reason, in their pocketbooks, where it hurts, to change.

And I admit I’m not particularly reasonable on this topic. I have an incredible hatred of the public school system I endured. I’m just trying to give you my thinking. I don’t mean to convince anyone my reasons are the best reasons. If I do convince you, fine. But I don’t expect it.