The Mean Spirited Motive behind Education Vouchers

In a response to an NRO article slamming President Obama for cutting an experimental voucher program in favor if increased funding for public schools, I wrote,

If I’m wrong, I’m open to someone explaining why. But I don’t see how it’s surprising that taking a sample of low income students out of their local public schools and putting them into private schools can provide any useful information. Of course they’ll do better. But if we expand a voucher program to all students then private schools will simply raise their prices, and the vouchers won’t be enough to cover the new tuitions. Rich kids will still go to the best schools and poor kids will still go to the worst, except that we will have defunded public schools to such a point that those students who can’t get into private schools will be even worse off than they are now. So the only effect I can image vouchers having is increasing education inequality.

My contrite opening is my way of admitting that I haven’t studied this issue. I haven’t yet seen the replies from NRO readers, which I imagine will include insults to my intelligence, morality, and sexual prowess, but as things stand now I don’t see how my logic can be flawed.

I don’t even know how this can be researched since, as I said, the results of any test program won’t reflect the results of handing vouchers to the public on a larger scale.

I also don’t understand any mechanism which makes private schools better than our constantly derided public schools other than the fact that private schools have more money. Free market principles still apply when government competes with private institutions. If two similar jobs offer similar benefits than they will each attract similar applicants. Right wing rhetoric suggests that public school teachers are overcompensated, but if that were true, then the best teachers would all be at public schools and the worst would be forced to settle for jobs at private schools.

The only factor left out of the above dynamic is that some very good teachers take jobs at public schools because they want to make a difference for students who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance at a decent education. Those wonderful teachers help compensate for the disparity between public and private education, but they can’t completely overcome the difference or else nobody would ever pay for private school.

I don’t how it’s possible that public school teachers are overcompensated or, if they are, that they’re not the best teachers on earth. And I don’t see how attacking public schools can be anything other than a mean spirited effort to prevent income mobility and to ensure that children of wealthy families don’t have to worry about children of poor families coming up from behind and changing the generational dynamic of inequality.

Books.  (this picture is illustrative, not informative)

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