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Day 9 - Vouchers and Childless Taxpayers

Opponents of meaningful parental choice have used several arguments against vouchers. We address two of those today, and we’ll address the others in the next couple of weeks, especially the opponents’ favorite objection, so-called fixed costs.

Vouchers and childless families and individuals
The anti-voucher argument du jour claims that vouchers are unfair because childless families and individuals will not receive vouchers. The argument has logical problems.

- Taxpayers, including childless individuals, are currently (FY05) paying $6,309 per year to educate other people’s children in public schools (figure includes capital, debt service, and school lunch which are normally excluded in official government statistics on education spending). A voucher, on the other hand, would cost taxpayers, including childless taxpayers, less. The average voucher amount will be less than $3,000, which provides a savings for all taxpayers, including childless taxpayers. Keep in mind that the voucher will be means-tested which means that the vast majority of voucher recipients are currently attending public schools or would be attending public schools if they were old enough.

-If vouchers are unfair because childless taxpayers don’t receive a voucher because they have no children to send to private school, should childless taxpayers be exempt from paying for public education because they don’t have any children in public schools? Of course, the answer is no. All taxpayers – including childless individuals -- benefit from other people’s children being educated, whether that includes public or private education.

Vouchers, competition, and fire departments
Voucher opponents have argued against pro-voucher assertions that competition improves the product. Opponents argue that competition between fire departments and sewer districts is impractical therefore competition between schools would be impractical.

OK, so competing fire departments and sewer districts may not be practical, but does that mean competition is universally impractical? Competition and choice work very well in higher education. Operationally, K-12 schools are more like colleges than they are like sewers?

Competition works well in the private sector, but even in the private sector there are exceptions, particularly natural gas and electricity distribution. Should the entire private sector be monopolized because certain segments need to be monopolized?

Vouchers and subsidies for private schools
We’ve addressed this issue previously. Please click [here] to read more.

Can someone help me understand how a means test, based on income, gurantees that a "vast majority of voucher recipients are currently attending public schools or would be attending public schools if they were old enough"? It seems more reasonable to assume that a vast majority of those who would be attending a private school if they were old enough will qualify for and use a voucher.

Also, I understand the math that leads to the conclusion that vouchers would cost taxpayers less. However, there is one factors that is missing from this equation - how many new students will receive a voucher that were not in the public educaiton system previously. $3,000 for 10 students currently in public education and 15 students currently in private schools ($3,000 X 25 = $75,000) is not less than $6,309 for 10 students currently in public schools ($6,309 X 10 = $63,090). Without knowing how many students will leave the public system and use a voucher to enter the private system, we do not know if it will cost less or more.

Would you please address the "spending lobby's" argument that vouchers would create tax funded redundant services?

Also, how do we factor in the social costs of families abandoning their community schools and not dismiss this concern as emotional rhetoric? The families in our school district are relentless in their demand for excellence in their children's education and this includes all socioeconomic levels. This level of involvement is expected and encouraged by our educators. Our families are deeply committed to the well-being of their children and it shows in the results of our students.

Our district depends upon the support of all of our parents. Vouchers are an easy out and a divestment in our communities.

--correction, I meant divestiture. I'm trying to expand my vocabulary, not reinvent it.

-previous Anon.

Anon #1,

Voucher opponents have *always* maintained that private schools are primarily attended by students from rich families because they are the only ones who could afford to pay the tuition. Therefore, if current private school attendees come from rich families, they won't qualify for the voucher (although they may qualify for a very small amount, depending on what version of the bill is eventually passed.)

Regarding the question in the second paragraph, the answer is basically the same. While undoubtedly some current private school students will qualify for a voucher, the biggest voucher amounts will go to the poorest students, very few of whom are currently attending private schools.

Let's also remember that the poorest students are generally the most difficult and expensive to educate which means the average $6,309 amount is probably less than what we are currently spending on low income students.

Anon #2,

Tax-funded redundant services? That's an interesting argument. I guess that depends on your definition of a redundant service.

If a school district builds an additional school and hired new teachers, would that be a "redundant" service? Would reducing class sizes -- which requires hiring additional teachers and building additional buildings -- be a tax funded redundant service?

I could see how paying someone to plow the streets would be a redundant service if the street had already been plowed, but that's not the case with vouchers. Taxpayers are paying once (and less) not twice for voucher students.

On your second point, concerns about social breakdown are not warranted. Other parts of the county have 10% or more of their children in private schools, but residents of those cities are still involved in their communities.

Re: redundant services.

What you call redundant services, everyone else call competition. Would a second grocery store in a neighborhood be a redundancy or would it be competition?

Yes, yes, we know that competition doesn't work with sewer districts and police departments, but it will work in K-12, just as it has in higher education.

To your reply to anonymous #1 -

Would you contend that private schools are attended by "poor families"?

Although only parenthetically, I am glad that you *almost* acknowledge that rich families will receive a voucher. As per H.B. 340 from 2006 - that is $500. Would you support a cap with no voucher for the rich? Where woudl you place such a cap?

Again, as per 2006 H.B. 340, eventually *all* (not some as you state) will private school students will qualify for a voucher.

I would be interested to know how many of the "poorest students" you believe will access a vouchers. How do you calculate that number?

If private schools are mainly patronized by the rich, as voucher opponents maintain, how can there also be a lot of poor students in private schools at the same time? It's one or the other, but not both. Are there some poor students now? Yes, but the majority are not poor. That's probably the only thing voucher opponents and proponents can agree on.

Depending on the final version of the bill, all high income families will eventually be eligible for a $500 voucher, but not the full amount. The full amount will be only available to low income.

As far as calculating the number of poor students that will use a voucher, no one can say for certain, just like no one will predict how much test scores will rise if the state spends millions of dollars on various education programs. Even though no one predicts how much test scores will rise if more money is spent, that has never stopped Utah or any other state from dramatically increasing inflation-adjusted per student spending over the past couple of decades.

Please explain how taking money out of a public school helps? I understand your theory but if you look at current voucher systems in other states there is no data to back that claim up. In New York city (30+years) and Milwaukee (13 years)there is no evidence that public schools are better off. In Florida SAT scores have increased by 1% since beginning their voucher program.

It sounds good in theory but in reality the data is not there.

If you really wanted a voucher system that worked you would cap the income at $50,000 instead of $100,000. This way a voucher can fund the total cost of private school tuition including school uniforms and supplies.


We have a list of several studies that show

- school choice improves students' academic performance

- school choice makes public schools better

- school choice improves public school funding

We will post these here in a couple of days.

Competition and choice work very well in higher education.

Oh it has?

How much has higher education tuition gone up in the last couple of years?

Expect the same dynamic with vouchers.


Tuition has increased because the state has shifted general fund revenues from higher education to transportation. To make up the difference, universities have had to increase tuition.

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