The Argument Against School Vouchers

Today’s Orange County Register has an editorial calling for “increased school choice” for parents while making the argument for a school voucher program.  The Register has a long standing editorial/opinion viewpoint that public schools are government schools and they argue that by providing students with taxpayer dollars assigned for public school education, they increase school choice options for private schools and thereby make public schools more competitive.

The Register editorial states:

School choice first was advanced in 1955 by one of our favorite economists, the late Milton Friedman, a Nobel laureate who long was associated with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His work now is carried forward by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice in Indianapolis.

It its purest form, school choice involves providing a “voucher” or “tax credit scholarship” to parents, who then can “spend” it at any school, public or private

The fundamental problem here is that since the passage of Prop 13, public school districts in California often face huge budget shortfalls.  Taking money away via a voucher  is taking funds away from schools who already have a hard time paying their bills which enriching private schools.  The reality is school choice already exists — those who can afford it can send their kids to a private high school.  Is your student an awesome athlete but the family can’t afford the tuition?  Some private schools offer “scholarships” to help defray the cost.  There have been a couple of attempts to place school vouchers on the ballot in the past 20 years and they’ve failed miserably by margins of 70 to 30 percent.

Other problems with using tax dollars for “opportunity scholarships” as vouchers are sometimes called is that they’d apply to private religious schools, so using government vouchers to pay for this education is a violation of the First Amendment separation of church and state.  Since private schools aren’t subject to rigorous oversight that public schools are, there’s always the chance they won’t act responsibly.  Lastly and most important, a public school has to accept everyone regardless of disabilities, test scores, race, creed or color; a private school can be exclusive in the types of students it accepts.  And if a student uses a voucher for a private school and gets expelled, the private institution has no obligation to return the voucher dollars back to the student, who then seeks access to the local public school which has to accept them without a dime of funds to cover the expenses of educating this student for the remainder of the year.

Want to make schools better?  Our state representatives need to pressure our elected officials in Washington to fully fund special education and “No Child Left Behind” so the burden of unfunded federal mandates stop continuing to be a huge burden on a districts cost structure.  Offer teachers better pay packages and make it more attractive for someone to be able to pursue education as a career; today’s teachers spend hundreds to thousands of dollars of their own money for school supplies for their students.  Lastly, state legislators should lower the threshold for local school districts to be able to pass a parcel tax to make up for under-funded districts like so many of those in Orange County.  Most communities can pass a parcel tax at 55 percent but its nigh impossible at 67 percent.

But the lesson of this editorial is that Californians have spoken — clearly — on the issue of school vouchers.  They are against them in overwhelming majorities.  But the Register’s editorial editors continue to push for this issue which is another example of how out of step the editorial writers are on this issue.

  4 comments for “The Argument Against School Vouchers

  1. Howard Be My Name
    January 30, 2013 at 10:48 am

    I’ve heard that the paper’s management is considering a name change to The Orange County Out of Step Register.

  2. January 30, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    The argument for school vouchers fails also because of the proliferation of charter schools in the public school system for children that excel. As parents of public school children demand more and are willing to put extra effort (and money) toward their children’s education, these schools are an answer to the substandard education many kids now receive.

    I would argue that throwing money at already well-paid teachers who are left largely unaccountable is not a wise way of improving the system. It is also the primary argument for school vouchers. A total revamp of the public education system is called for with a review of how education is managed. School teachers who have little fear of being held accountable are not going to do any better of a job, no matter how much you pay them. Now, adequate funding for school supplies? Certainly.

    There is no doubt public education is necessary and a public benefit. But, the system is warped and could use a good slap upside the head, don’t you think?

    • Dan Chmielewski
      January 30, 2013 at 1:27 pm

      I don’t think teachers are paid enough.

  3. January 30, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    Abolishing the unconstitutional U.S. Department of Education will improve education and get more tax dollars into the classroom. Since the creation of the Department of Education in 1979 the, per-pupil spending has nearly doubled, while SAT scores have dropped by 35 points, a third more college freshmen require remedial classes, and literacy rates have dropped by more than 6%.[4]
    http://www.conservapedia.com/United_States_Department_of_Education

    If there is no Education Department, ED, then we will be rid of Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Obama’s Race To The Top. Obama is well on his way to creating a National Education System by granting, waivers from NCLB and RTTT, and federal grants to cash strapped schools. In order to be eligible for the grants and waivers the States must accept the National Curriculum of Obama’s “Common Core”.
    http://nocompromisepac.ning.com/profiles/blogs/states-beginning-to-rebel-against-common-core-standards-from?xg_source=msg_appr_blogpost

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