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What about Tax-funded Vouchers, Tax Credits, and Charter Schools?

While tax-funded vouchers, education/scholarship tax credits, and charter schools introduce sorely-needed competition into schooling, they have at least four serious flaws which suggest they are more of a curse than a blessing.

(The following critique speaks to vouchers, but when all the camouflage is removed, the drawbacks of vouchers are also inherent in universal tax credits, refundable tax credits, scholarship tax credits, and charter schools.)

1.    Vouchers spread the dependency attitude to independent families currently paying for their children's education.

2.    Vouchers obscure the difference between parents who are willing to sacrifice to send their children to a private school and those who are unwilling to sacrifice. This means private schools will lower their standards of who gets in.

3.    By creating a flow of money from the state to private schools, vouchers pave a wide road for additional regulations and controls. "When you reach for the money is when they slip on the handcuffs."

Just as bad, the Zellman decision by the Supreme Court means voucher legislation will include "admission lottery" clauses. This will hurt private schools by restricting their choice of admission standards.

A common control is to require voucher-redeeming schools to administer standardized tests. These tests, in effect, dictate the curriculum, as the private schools do not wish to have lower test scores than the public schools.

4.    Other than expensive prep schools, private and religious schools that refuse to accept the voucher will lose a significant number of their students to voucher-redeeming schools. Many will face the choice of accepting the voucher and its controls or going out of business.

The net result of these flaws is that if vouchers become commonplace, private and religious schools will become more and more like public schools. In effect, vouchers and other plans for continuing to use tax revenue for schools will kill the goose that is laying the golden eggs of private education.

We propose interim steps that don't bring families into dependency, nor have the high risk of converting private schools into public school look-alikes.

Here are some ideas that actually roll back government involvement rather than increase it:

         Increase private voucher programs

         Repeal compulsory attendance laws

         Repeal government mandated graduation standards and testing

         Repeal government involvement in tenure

         Repeal government teacher credentialing

The links on our Vouchers page point to some of the best articles written about vouchers thus far.

There are also links to two beautiful stories that illustrate the risk of vouchers, one about hogs in Georgia and the other about Davy Crockett.



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Updated May 20, 2010