School Vouchers

School Vouchers

By : Robert Scott

All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views  and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser. 

January was so filled with national news that this year’s state legislative issues were hidden from sight. One such issue is school vouchers. Should public education funds (i.e., tax dollars) support only public education, or should public education funds be allowed to follow students to schools of their parents’ choice, by means of school vouchers?

Not a new issue, the arguments for school vouchers are these. Public education funds exist to enable our children to become educated citizens. If a private school education or home schooling can educate that student for a year at the same or at a lower price than public education and still meet or exceed all the educational standards, should we not allow that? Shouldn’t parents be able to choose the best school for their child using education funds at or below the average cost for public schools? School vouchers would even save money, if the private education / home schooling cost less than that average cost per student at public schools. And it’s not just the money, it’s also the principle involved: a parent’s responsibility for their children. Shouldn’t parents be given that choice?

The arguments for opposing such vouchers are more subtle. Withdrawing one child from public schools only saves the marginal cost per student, not the average cost. The “fixed cost” in buildings, in support staff, and even in teachers is reduced when students leave, but not reduced that much. When those “average student” funds disappear, we taxpayers have less money going to our local school districts to help all our children. We have less money for teacher pay and we end up losing teachers which, somewhat counter-intuitively, often means larger class sizes rather than smaller ones. We have less money to buy textbooks and other support for our neediest students, and less funding for their transportation to and from school.

Private schooling usually ends up costing the parents beyond those subsidized school vouchers. What that means is that many less affluent parents cannot afford the cost of private schools, even with vouchers. Saying that a different way, what school vouchers do is to provide public tax dollars to the wealthier families; we end up subsidizing those families who need such help the least, taking funds away from the education of those who need it most.

On top of all that, private schools can be selective, and public schools generally cannot. As one state Senator was quoted as saying, “Do you think an expensive, for profit school is going to take an at risk child, who comes from a poor family who might fall short for tuition money, has a struggle with academics, or has a learning disability? Or do you think they’ll take the child from the affluent family with good grades? The answer is pretty obvious.” 

Also obvious is that the state Senator in question was not our Sen. Shane Massey. Shane favors “school choice legislation.” How about you, do you favor school vouchers?