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It’s simple. When they inevitably do not work, I most definitely do not want that albatross hanging around the neck of voluntary exchange and free-markets. Not at all. And why would I say such a thing? Because instituting school vouchers to me is no different that giving people insurance subsidies in the health care sector today, and then watching to see what happens to outcomes 10 years from now and condemning markets for failing when that inevitably doesn’t work. We still have the AMA. We still have strange tax treatment of different insurance plans. We still have the influence of Medicare price controls. And so on.

And in the K12 education sector, the way current voucher experiments work is that they must typically be used at schools that meet the approval of some central committee. And a universal voucher system, while instituting a much needed dose of competition among schools, will inevitably be grafted onto the teacher union system, the grip of the ed schools, the accreditation system, the standardized content and curriculum and so forth. It would be nothing resembling what a reasonably free education system would look like, and reform at the payment side would not in my view do much to improve outcomes. In fact, the evidence on school vouchers (while not negative) does not suggest that moving to that system alone is going to massively improve educational outcomes for most students.

It is in this area of policy where I am perhaps most rigid in my views, contrary to other areas (such as how to do safety net programs). If there is ever a sector where 100% abolition of government were necessary, and of all competition choking institutions, it is this one. We’ll never see it of course. If pressed publicly if I supported the concept of school vouchers in theory I suppose I’d have to say yes. But that is no different than me saying that in theory I could support the building of an airplane that is immune from the laws of gravity.

4 Responses to “Why I Do Not Support School Vouchers”

  1. Speedmaster says:

    I am quite convinced that while they would help many kids, vouchers would inevitably drag private schools way down and mire them in ever more rules and govt. tangles.

  2. Harry says:

    Good points, Speedmaster and WC.

    I remember we threw a small party in 1981 for some of my wife’s fellow teachers, and I brought up Milton Friedman and the voucher idea he espoused, and did that go over like a lead balloon.

    The very idea is hardly discussable without having the discussion deteriorate into whether one has an interest in the welfare of children, their children, but around here some parents wish they had a $12,000 voucher to send their kids to Perkiomen, or the Hill, or Moravian Academy. Say the school district forked over $8,000, and kept $4,000 or more. It is complete gravy for them.

    My daughter has graduated, went to a good college, and now has a fairly big interesting job, and whether we ever get vouchers, or free Obama college education is beyond my interest. Everything so far has turned out fine, in spite of and because of teachers she had.

    I wish young parents like WC and everybody would have freer choices under socialized government-run education, and if they were able to spend the money on the nuns or the local private school, or government-run school should be their choice.
    Quick Quiz: who is the present Secretary of Education?

    Beats me, and I am not going to Google it.

    Right now the talking heads are talking about what Obama could do about energy prices. My suggestion: release some gas.

  3. Rod says:

    Alfred E. Neumann is the Secretary of Education, Harry.

  4. RIT_Rich says:

    As you yourself admit, we will never see government getting out of education. So leaving theory aside then, realistically and politically, what is the next step in moving the field towards more beneficial outcomes? I think this was Milton’s point as well.

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