Wednesday, April 25, 2012

School Choice? Thoughts on School Vouchers

Here's a quick summary of what a school voucher is, just to provide a bit of context for those who may not know.

From Wikipedia:

"A school voucher, also called an education voucher, is a certificate issued by the government, which parents can apply toward tuition at a private school (or, by extension, to reimburse home schooling expenses), rather than at the state school to which their child is assigned.

Under non-voucher education systems, people who currently pay for private schooling are still taxed for public schools; therefore, they fund both public and private schools simultaneously. Via offsetting the cost of private school tuition, vouchers [or tax credits] are intended to allow students and families to choose the school that best fits their needs. Opponents of school vouchers say allowing families the option of both public and private schools undermines the public education system through threatening its funding and enrollment."

What are the basic assumptions for the concept of vouchers? Why was the concept developed? Its the idea that "I shouldn't pay taxes for something I don't use." One of the definitions of a tax is that it applies to everyone, not a select group of people; otherwise its just a fee. This certainly ought to be true with public education. Another assumption is that "I don't have the choice because I don't have the money."

First, as a side note, for those who want less government, it would seem vouchers is not the way to go. Why allow the government to pay for people to go to a non-public school? Its just more government involvement and spending in the private sector.

Secondly, the "choice" is a false dilemma. Parents already have the choice. There is no law saying they can't send their children to another school. No one is coercing them. One could then argue that in effect they don't have a choice because they can't afford to go to a private school. If that's the case, then I don't have the choice to buy a Ferrari. Instead, I'm stuck with public transportation! Well, I do have the choice. I have the liberty, but not the right. But voucher supporters are demanding choice, not rights. To make a more sound argument, I would suggest they modify their rhetoric.

It comes down to an interpretation of the role of public agencies. If I don't like my city's police department, can I get a voucher to help me offset the cost of hiring a personal body guard? I can hire a body guard, but I can't expect the government to foot the bill for me. Again, I have the liberty to do so, but not the right to expect the government to help.

I'm part of a community, and that community has a shared interest in the police force as well as the public schools, whether I use these services directly or not. We can take our kids out of public schools, but we can't exempt ourselves from the community we live in.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting ideas and lots of food for thought- mostly because I don't live in your state, so it's not a personal issue yet...but I'll get back to you when it is :)