Four Ways Vouchers Harm Education

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by Marshall Fritz
Last updated June 21, 2007


Vouchers will harm education in four ways:


1.    Vouchers come with “strings attached.” These soon become chains.


2.    Vouchers expand dependency to self-reliant families now paying for private schooling. The new recipients of OPM (Other People’s Money) will be weakened like all welfare recipients.


3.    Vouchers blindfold the private school admissions office, resulting in increasing the number of troublemakers to unmanageable proportions.


4.    Vouchers prevent cost breakthroughs. Who is going to invent a high quality $2000/year school if the voucher is $4000?


These four factors will change the culture of the private school to be more like today’s government school. In other words, when the “Choice” advocates succeed, they won’t enjoy the choice they are left with because the private schools will have become merely government schools run by private operators.


But there’s another dynamic underlying vouches that I missed until Dwight Lee stated it so clearly in The Freeman in July, 1986, p. 247:


If the move to purely private schools begins to accelerate, the public school lobby can, and surely will, protect its privileged position by embracing educational vouchers. As strange as it will sound to advocates of educational vouchers, if the voucher approach to education ever becomes a serious political possibility, it will be as a means of reducing competition in education, not increasing it.


In blunt-speak, the Left is going to implement the voucher, not the Right. Prof. Lee’s insight was confirmed by Marshall Smith, then dean of the Stanford Graduate School of Education, now Undersecretary of Education. He wrote—in educationese—the game plan for the Left in the Politics of Education Association Yearbook in 1990, page 25:


…we do suggest that this strategy could provide a structured environment to help control many of the negative aspects, and even enhance the positive aspects, of a full choice model. The state curriculum frameworks would establish a protective structure that would help ensure that all schools were attempting to provide a challenging and progressive curriculum. The teacher training reforms and the stimulations of curriculum materials by the state would help make high quality resources available to all the schools. Perhaps of most importance, the state examinations based on the curriculum frameworks would provide valid data about student outcomes to help parents and students make their choice among schools.

Some friends ask me if tax-credits are better than vouchers. At first glance, they appear safer because they might avoid some legal battles and postpone govt. controls, but ultimately they will cause the same damage to schools and families.


All tax-credit systems proposed to-date are camouflaged vouchers that effect a wealth transfer from the haves to the have-nots. The “Arizona Plan” of a tax-credit for money “given” to private scholarship foundations is particularly pernicious because of its deceit: It’s merely a money laundering scheme to make edu-welfare look like voluntary contributions.


Charter schools are just public schools on a slightly longer leash. A dog on a long leash is still a dog on a leash.


In summary, vouchers, tax-credits, and charter schools all include the essence of socialism, coercive wealth transfer from the haves to the have-nots.


There’s no way to get good education based on coercion. Let’s stop trying. 

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