Education voucher

From Academic Kids

An education voucher, commonly called a school voucher, is a certificate by which parents are given the ability to pay for the education of their children at a school of their choice, rather than the public school to which they were assigned. These vouchers would be paid for using tax revenues.

Those in favor of school choice argue that they should be permitted to spend their tax dollars at the educational facility of their choosing, allowing parents to be able to choose which school they want their children to attend. In addition, it is promised that this will allow competition between schools, improving the quality of schools overall. Some studies support the hypothesis of reduced racial and economic segregation through the abolishment of territorial-based school allocation in the public monopoly system (where students are assigned to schools according to territory, thus dividing students between richer and poorer neighborhoods), as well as greater free choice and quality improvement by forcing schools to compete among themselves by offering more diverse and interesting programs.

Some critics of the voucher system note that it is possible to have choice between schools without vouchers within the public school system, as in Los Angeles, California, and other places.

American detractors state that such choice often results in the selection of a religious school, so that public funds are given to a religious institution, thus violating the separation of church and state (although a United States Supreme Court decision in 2003 invalidated this claim). Further, many argue that given the limited budget for schools, a voucher system weakens public schools while at the same time not necessarily providing enough money for people to attend private schools (the tendency of the costs of tuition to rise along with its demand further compounds the problem). This weakens the educational possibilities for many. Since vouchers typically pay much less than the tuition charged by the private schools, only the richer students and those given scholarships will be able to attend them. Opponents also claim that the vouchers are tantamount to providing taxpayer-subsidized white flight from urban public schools, whose student bodies are predominantly non-white in most large cities.

A minority of voucher opponents in the U.S. object on radically different grounds. These opponents believe that granting government money, even indirectly, to private and religious schools will inevitably lead to increased governmental control over non-government education. Individuals who oppose vouchers on these grounds are often libertarian; a few of them go so far as to call for the abolition of all government sponsorship of education in the U.S. The Alliance for the Separation of School & State opposes education vouchers on the grounds that "if vouchers become commonplace, private and religious schools will become more and more like public schools"[1] (

In addition, economists point to the problem of "cream skimming," a variety of adverse selection in the "educational market." With a presumably greater pool of applicants, the private schools will be more selective over which students to admit, possibly excluding those who belong to the "wrong" religion or ethnicity, those with disabilities such as autism or multiple sclerosis, and those with disciplinary problems. On the other hand, by law the public schools have to educate everyone, so that they become a "dumping ground" for those students unwanted by the private schools. This further undermines the reputation of the public schools, leading to a vicious circle that tends toward the total abolition of the public schools and the end of universal education.

Often, the low costs of the private schools benefiting from voucher funds arises from the non-union status of their staffs and their limited overhead because of their exemption from laws protecting those with disabilities and the like. Government regulations aimed at making the private schools act like "good citizens" threaten to make them be exactly like the public schools.

In Chile, there is a voucher system in which the State pays directly to private schools based on recruitment. The schools show consistently better results in standarized testing than state schools (municipal), with 35% of children studying in such schools. School choice also exists in the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, the United Kingdom, Poland and a few other countries, generally supported by political parties from around the political spectrum (except for Communist parties), and where notably introduced by the Left (notably in the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom). It should be stressed that not all voucher programs are alike, so that those introduced by the Left may differ in many ways from those of the Right. As usual, the "devil" may be "in the details" of a voucher plan, so that there are bad voucher plans along with the good. Since the context in which the plan is introduced affects outcomes, it can be hard to generalize from either successes or failures.

According to the National Education Association, "Voters, for the last 30 years, have rejected vouchers every time they've been proposed"[2] (

See also: School choice


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