Wow! Megan McArdle on Vouchers

I won't even bother to try to excerpt the post.  Just read it if you are interested in vouchers.  Or Education.  Or just read it anyway.

OK, I lied, one excerpt.  She is refuting anti-voucher arguments.  Here is #11:

11)  There's no way to assure the quality of private schools
Ha. Ha. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Seriously? The problem with
private schools is that they can't match the same level of quality
we've come to expect from our urban public school system? And what else
have you learned in your visit to our planet?


  1. Bearster:

    The problem with vouchers is that they're based on the idea of taking money from everyone and then giving out grants to parents. Why not just abolish the school tax? Private education, not privatIZED!

  2. Josh:

    Yeah, and next thing you'll want people to be responsible for feeding and clothing their kids.

  3. TC:

    You have got to be kidding. The local public schools here in my area get about $11k/student per year. I pay for my kids to go to a Catholic school where they receive a high quality education for about half that.
    It's all about the parents and their commitment to getting their child educated. We are flushing our tax $'s down the toilet called the public schools.

  4. Samael de Nosmirc:

    Hrm.. given an 18-week school year (9 per semester), that's _approximately_ 90 full days.

    Now, most schools I know of (in Texas, at least) are paid per student, per day of that student's attendance (which is why in Texas some school systems very, very aggressively enforce their truancy laws).

    So for TC's figures... that school is paid approximately $122 per day, per student.

    Someone making $25 an hour, working 8 hours a day, makes $200 a day if their lunch is paid. At 40 hour weeks, they get $2000 per two-week paycheck. $1222 of that would be going toward one student's education, leaving about $777 per two weeks to deal with everything else. Minus other taxes. Hm...

    I don't know about the rest of you, but any school that requires you to spend 60% of your workday covering the education of a single child had better have some pretty damn exemplary results. State failed.

    You know my problem with the voucher program? It introduces two levels of criteria - the first, it introduces the same problem colleges have ("oh, well, we decided that if you want to keep accepting state money, you have to do this, this, and this, and accept this many number of students this race and color"). Of course, the schools aren't required to accept the money.

    The other is that, and I realize this is impractical and merely cynical, it lowers the incentive for a private school to compete.

    Great. We're going to dumb down the private schools now, too.

    I'm adamantly anti-religious (not just an atheist - I've hit that point where I get the "anti" prefix), but I would put my own children through a catholic or christian private school at the drop of a hat. The difference in education is amazing, and for some reason these schools don't seem to try and push their views on the student body (either because they assume the student body already shares them or because they have better things to do [like compete for the parents' money]).

  5. Moron Pundit:

    Yeah, I couldn't help but post about this after I read it either! She just sums up the ridiculous nature of the anti-voucher argument so clearly; stupidity.

    Now I wish she'd use the same logic against those people that want Social Security to stay the same forever.

  6. tim:

    I read the comments over at her blog and it makes me so sad. If you can get that many strangers to have so many problems with a concept like vouchers I am disheartened that vouchers will ever be a reality. What it would take is a state, like Utah, to put them in place and then kick ass with them. That would give us the example that we need to see how great school competition would be.

    I live 27 miles west of Chicago, the Catholic school in town costs $2300 per year in tuition, the public school spends $7000. The parents would say that there is probably no difference in the quality of the education. But the private school costs almost 5K less. The optimist says the glass is half full, the pessimist says it is half empty, the engineer says the glass is twice as big as it needs to be. I say education costs 5,000$ more than it needs to cost.

    Imagine a world where you got a voucher for 7K$ were the government promised that whatever money you saved from that voucher would be waiting for you upon graduation from High School. You would get either 25% in cash as a thank you for graduating or 75% as a no strings attached grant for college or trade school. The balance would be returned to the taxpayer. This plan would keep the students, the parents and the tax payers enlightened self interest in line with each other. It would keep a lid on tuition inflation as students and parents searched for quality alternatives at lower costs. This is straight out of game theory economics. It would be exactly what we need.

  7. mimsk:

    I've been torn about vouchers. Our kids went to private school in lower grades and then to a public high school. Fortunately, the schools in our town are quite good. We live in a relatively small town and we tried to stay active and involved in their experience at the school. It wasn't perfect, and our children weren't stellar students, but they had their strengths and the school did provide a variety of studies that they could excel in.

    If I lived in an urban area, no way would I send my children to a public school. I probably would want vouchers desperately, so this is probably unfair to say.

    Vouchers will require the government's involvement. Any time the government has a hand in something, it generally turns into a mess. Yes, vouchers would allow more children to attend private school, but those schools will be forced, more and more over time, to function by the same formula that public schools have failed by.

    Part of the success a private school is the sacrifice the parents are making for their children's education. It is a priority, and they pay attention to their academic performance.

    Government vouchers for private school will turn private school into the disaster of a public education, and destroy the best thing about a private education.

  8. Al Fin:

    Government schools do not provide value for the cost. Everybody pays for government schools. Taxpayers (including parents), and students for a lifetime.

    The commenters at Megan's site cannot imagine any other way of doing things than what they have always known. This society-wide failure of imagination is called "academic lobotomy." Combined with almost universal "psychological neoteny" there is very little in the way of constructive change that will get widespread whole hearted support.