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October 23, 2003


Yglesias is covering vouchers.

I wrote some ideas on the subject in 1998:

busing was always a second rate idea, but it acknowledged two facts
which were cast in stone at the time, and one that remains today.

#1. you cannot get white taxpayers to directly subsidize non-whites in
what appears to be a zero-sum racial game.

#2. separate but equal is a bad idea.

the second idea has been losing currency, but the first is just about
as rigid today as it ever was. the clearest indication of that to me
is white support of vouchers, as contrasted to the summary dismissal
of geographic restrictions on public school enrollment. vouchers will
always privilege those who are smarter with money, and those who can
organize. in other words, them whose got, gets. vouchers = liquidity
which means it will accellerate the desires of everyone involved. i am
convinced that the desire to abandon rather than renovate ghetto
schools will not change with the advent of vouchers, and that the
liquidity vouchers provide will accellerate their destruction.

the second clearest indication of that is the willingness of suburban
schools to accept bussed children concurrent with their refusal to
allow circulation of highly qualified teachers. magnet schools are
proof positive that putting the best materials and best teachers in
the worst ghettoes results in drastically improved students.

So these are my essential talking points on vouchers. Overall Opinion, Thumbs Down

Religious Right Overproduction
At the bottom of some of the original thinking on vouchers was the absolutist point on tax abatement. Citizens hiding behind the mask of 'taxpayer' decided selfishly to defund the public school system which was racially separate, unequal, mediocre in suburbs and pathetic in racial ghettos.

Soccer Momism
Overfocus on test scores tend to falsely objectify the value of schools. What is defective in poor schools is not simply measured in grades. A school which is not a community center fails as well. The difference an active PTA makes is critical. Vouchers do not create soccer moms. Single parents will not suddenly be able to dedicate more time to making the school a better institution.

Supply Side Failure
Development of new schools is very expensive. Capital improvements are required for older schools. Capital is required for the purchase of land for new schools. Vouchers don't address these issues. If overcrowding is a problem in any school district or any argument is made about class size or dumbing down better schools that will not be diminished until new high quality schools appear.

Liquidity vs Equality
Smart families will do better with money directed at them. Vouchers will simply create a new kind of flight. The problem is not mobility. Improvement in schools should not be directed to individual families but to reform of the system.

Management Not Money
Most school districts are administratively incapable of executing quickly. This is a function of management, not of privatization. School districts should be reformed, not revolutionized. Firing incompetents does not create leadership, and overpaying high profile 'education executives' will not improve the education of children.

Open Bussing
You can provide school choice without adding vouchers. Boundaryless public school districts work on the same principle. Tracking students by geography into particular schools can be unfair. Vouchers don't help children who don't have private schools nearby. Transportation is a big issue.

Posted by mbowen at October 23, 2003 11:39 PM

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Tracked on November 1, 2003 01:16 PM


There are major voucher programs in place already in several parts of the country. They are being used mostly by black and latino kids, but are fully supported by the white majorities in those areas.

Every one of those programs has been shown to work, and is massively popular among the families already using them--very, very few of whom are rich.

Spend some time here: School Choice Facts.

You've bought into some bilge here, Cobb.

Posted by: Dean Esmay at October 28, 2003 07:57 AM

Spend some time here:

School Choice Facts.

A) "White majorities" already do support these programs.

B) They are used disproportionatesly by black and latino kids, and the white majorities still support it.

C) They work, and work well, and are very popular!

Posted by: Dean Esmay at October 28, 2003 07:59 AM

Californians voted them down.

It is clear that the Milwaukee system is means tested for income, whereas there is no indication that is the case in Florida's A+OSP.

There is a wide variety of voucher progams at this site. Clearly what matters to voters in each area differs. I'll read more. The Milwaukee system is very interesting and expanding each year.

Posted by: Cobb at October 28, 2003 08:21 AM

Vouchers are a political scheme by some so-called conservatives WHO are ACTUALLY liberals. Many of the same arguments are used that are used by the "pro-choice" abortionists, the gay marriage crowd, those who want to legalize illegal drugs, etc. That's what makes the voucher liberals dangerous. I wish it was about educating children, but it's more of several political schemes put forth by them. I have seen numbers on both sides of the issue and using the same figures to validate either point of view. Thus, you can't really go by what either figures say. I do go by the stated underlying objectives of the voucher liberals.
That's why I can't and won't support them.

Note that I could make this a lot longer, but won't at this time.

Posted by: moog at September 14, 2004 04:36 AM