October 12, 2003

Depressing News About Vouchers

Chang-Tai Hsieh and Miguel Urquiola are unable to find any signs that vouchers made a positive difference for education in Chile:

When Schools Compete, How Do They Compete? An Assessment of Chile's Nationwide School Voucher Program: In 1981, Chile introduced nationwide school choice by providing vouchers to any student wishing to attend private school. As a result, more than 1,000 private schools entered the market, and the private enrollment rate increased by 20 percentage points, with greater impacts in larger, more urban, and wealthier communities. We use this differential impact to measure the effects of unrestricted choice on educational outcomes. Using panel data for about 150 municipalities, we find no evidence that choice improved average educational outcomes as measured by test scores, repetition rates, and years of schooling. However, we find evidence that the voucher program led to increased sorting, as the best public school students left for the private sector.

Posted by DeLong at October 12, 2003 03:53 PM | TrackBack

Comments

Odd that you would use the word "depressing" in the title of the post.

It suggests to me that, as an economist, you would like a market-oriented system to work, and so are disappointed when it doesn't.

I do hope it is not a requirement for economists that you be predisposed to market-based solutions in areas such as schooling; it sounds very unscientific.

Posted by: Tom Slee on October 12, 2003 04:41 PM

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You assume that we are value-neutral social scientists rather than the prophets of St. Adam Smith...

It is certainly true that people (like me) who are by nature inclined to... like and approve of social organization, shall we say... benefit enormously from formal training in neoclassical economics.

Conversely, people who are by nature inclined to... like and approve of social disorganization, shall we say... are driven mad by formal training in neoclassical economics, and should have gone into some discipline (like sociology) with opposed biases instead...


Brad DeLong

Posted by: Brad DeLong on October 12, 2003 04:51 PM

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Touche

Posted by: Tom Slee on October 12, 2003 05:37 PM

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I don't understand the previous comment. Markets are a conspicuous force for social organization, whereas attention to the workings of non-market social institutions and informal social organization such as communities is indicative of a taste for disorder?

Posted by: john c. halasz on October 12, 2003 05:43 PM

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If you introduce vouchers you're introducing social choice for sure, but not necessarily educational choice. (Much as introducing vouchers for restaurant meals in a place with only fast food hamburger joints doesn't really add to choice of food.)


To introduce educational choice, you'd have to introduce different sets of metrics for educational results, and different kinds of eduational task breakdown, too. Anyone know if they did that in Chile?

Posted by: Graydon on October 12, 2003 06:13 PM

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Is this really surprising? In education you have an industry with very high entry costs, very high fixed costs and near zero marginal costs, hardly the model to lead to a competitive outcome. Add to this that even with vouchers, people are still in effect limited since they still have to purchase the same amount of education services and so they can't meet the private optimal bundle (social optimal is another question).

Posted by: Rob on October 12, 2003 06:20 PM

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If test scores and other existing metrics were adequate to measure school value, then school choice would be pointless. We could simply reorganize the state school system to deliver the metrics we desire.

But choice is necessary because there is no objective measure of a good school and only rough measures of good outcome for particular students. Subjective decisions by market participants are therefore the plausible route to beneficial innovation in the schools.

If we merely try to improve metrics, the metrics will simply be cheated to produce good results. That's what has happened to every school testing initiative in America.

It is plausible that a European style apprenticeship system would satisfy more Americans than the current system. Consider the result for the people and for the metrics. The people would be (by hypothesis) more satisfied. The drop-out rate would rise to about 75% because europeans take apprenticeships at earlier ages than Americans graduate. Leaving test scores would presumably drop as young people learned new skills rather than practising vocabulary lists and punctuation rules, though it is likely that the students would really know more things.

That is just one possible outcome that would be objectively better while metrics would deprecate the result. This is a commonly understood result in business. If you measure only one thing, that thing will improve to the detriment of all other factors.

Posted by: Newt on October 12, 2003 07:12 PM

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At would be nice if we could read this paper without paying 5 bucks.

Posted by: A. Zarkov on October 12, 2003 07:14 PM

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What about a headline like: "Chilean kids aren't getting a detectably better education because of new policies. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaay!"

Just kidding, of course.

I'm a bit confused by Rob's comments. Education has low marginal costs and high fixed costs? It seems to me that the cost of education is just about directly proportional to the number of students, except in VERY low numbers.

Posted by: Julian Elson on October 12, 2003 07:31 PM

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At would be nice if we could read this paper without paying 5 bucks.
Posted by A. Zarkov at October 12, 2003 07:14 PM

Ya, and the other one too from a couple of days ago. We're on the bus but we have to sit in the back.

Posted by: Russell L. Carter on October 12, 2003 07:50 PM

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I'm with A. Zarkov, it is a pain for those of us who have to pay up $5 or make comments based on an abstract.

Anyway, I do agree with Rob that the outcome (more sorting, but not a better average) is not surprising -- though I also don't understand his "high fixed costs, low marginal costs" comment.

The best choice for parents of a bright kid with a strong "home curriculum" is to place that kid with other bright kids with strong home curricula. So it is not surprising that a few schools attract those who are both smart and well provided for. Hence "increased sorting" as the best public school students.

Posted by: Tom Slee on October 12, 2003 07:59 PM

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Brad,

Thanks for your description of economics as (to you) a profession with "opposed biases." It's a simple expression of something i have, for some reason, previously found difficult to explain.

Posted by: Atrios on October 12, 2003 08:05 PM

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In the case of American voucher advocates, "increased sorting" may well be the point of the exercise, and not some unfortunate and unintended consequence.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on October 12, 2003 08:31 PM

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This obsession with what this does or does not say about economics and schools strikes me as bizarre.
Surely what this outcome shows is something that is obvious to almost anyone: there is a (smallish in South American societies) population of children/parents that cares a lot about their education and a much larger population that may pay lip service to the idea when it comes to ranting and mouthing off, but really isn't prepared to do pretty much anything that requires any effort on their part in order to improve the education of the children. And so it comes down to culture---something about some societies, (East Asia of course) seems to encourage even humble families to take their childrens' education seriously, while in other societies this is not the case. I'm no Republican loonie here, but the position of many on the left that wants to blame this all on failures of anyone but the parents and their values strikes me as misguided and doomed to failure.

Now I'm prepared to eat my words if people want to show me evidence that I'm wrong, but the abstract seems to present evidence consistent with my hypothesis.

Posted by: Maynard Handley on October 12, 2003 08:57 PM

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One of the arguments used against vouchers in the US says the private schools will cherry pick the best students and the public schools will suffer as a result. Does the abstract refute this argument?

Posted by: A. Zarkov on October 12, 2003 09:23 PM

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People, if you are really dying to get the paper, google is a wonderul thing:

http://elsa.berkeley.edu/~chsieh/c10.pdf

While you may not get the exact version, you will usually find a version. And for this one, the Cal Econ department can blame Brad for the higher bandwith usuage.

Posted by: Rob on October 12, 2003 09:23 PM

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One of the arguments used against vouchers in the US says the private schools will cherry pick the best students and the public schools will suffer as a result. Does the abstract refute this argument?

Posted by: A. Zarkov on October 12, 2003 09:28 PM

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Go down the list of blog links on the Delong blog and find the one labeled "Philosophy & Literature: Arts, Ideas, Debate"- it's the Arts and Letters Daily. Click on the article on the right-hand column entitled "That Damn Bird"- it's a good read. I don't know exactly what it has to do with the education reform debate, except that perhaps it lends a sense of perspective.

Posted by: john c. halasz on October 12, 2003 10:11 PM

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Maynard Handley:

So it all comes down to choosing the right parents? No doubt, this would solve a good many social and public problems. God damn, that Adam and Eve!

Posted by: john c. halasz on October 12, 2003 10:29 PM

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Oh come on, John Halasz. That's the sort of stupid comment made by someone who is interested in scoring points, not in learning the honest truth.

I would say a better paraphrasal along those lines is that it boils down to changing the culture of a society so as to value eduction more highly. Now how does one change the deeply-held values of a society? Well there's the rub. I don't know, and, for a subject that would appear to be so important, no-one else seems to know either, or at least doesn't seem to be investigating the subject, or at least doesn't seem to be publishing the results of their investigations.

Posted by: Maynard Handley on October 13, 2003 12:52 AM

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Hmmm... I think you're probably right, Maynard, that the values of parents and culture at large are probably more important than the public policies of education.

However, there are two reasons why it's still relevant to talk about vouchers and whether or not they work:

1) Even if social engineering to make intellectual learning a more highly valued belief IS possible, I think many people are uncomfortable with the idea that the government should try to adapt society and culture to serve its aims, rather than the other way around. That's not to say that it can't be done: the government in the U.S., for example, has been engaged in a long-term campaign to create/reinforce a cultural bias against illegal narcotics, but the fact that actual possession/use of such drugs is illegal, whereas being somewhat indifferent to ones child's education is not, lends the former more legitimacy.

2) Even if direct public policy is less important than cultural issues, I don't think any sane person would claim that public policy is *irrelevant.* Hence, in the case of vouchers -- a program which COULD lead to the promise of improving education without increasing cost -- it's enticing, because while culture may be the big story, any improvement is welcome. In short, vouchers wouldn't be hard to implement, even if they won't lead to big changes. Cultural changes would be hard (and unseemly to many) to implement, though they might carry larger rewards.

It's sorta like how institutions (if I'm keeping the latest developmental fads straight) tend to account for most of the difference between countries, while when analyses are conducted of things like protective tariffs, they might account for something like depressing growth by 2% over ten years. Still, why not go for the benefits of getting rid of the tariffs, since institution change is so *difficult,* if one knows how to do it at all.

Posted by: Julian Elson on October 13, 2003 01:13 AM

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Maynard Handley:

Changing culture? Yes, 'tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. But does it depend on putatively empirical studies to know that it is possible? Perhaps, part of the problem is that the "culture" tends to regard education as an extrinsic rather than intrinsic good. This lends economistic proposals a superficial appeal. But, if you had bothered to attend to my previous comment but one, perhaps the moral to be drawn therefrom is that the "problem" is more widely distributed than policy makers care to conceive or imagine.

Posted by: john c. halasz on October 13, 2003 01:45 AM

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Use Google, people! You can often find a paper on a professor's web site. You Google the professor, then look for the paper. Hence:

http://elsa.berkeley.edu/~chsieh/c10.pdf

Posted by: Arnold Kling on October 13, 2003 06:20 AM

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I don't see why private schools cherry-picking the best students is necessarily a bad thing. Smart kids should be schooled with other smart kids. In public schools, above average intelligence is an uncool social liability.

Posted by: rps on October 13, 2003 07:10 AM

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rps- to understand why removing all the smartest kids from a school and leaving behind only poor and mediocre students is a bad idea, look at this article that makes a big case for educational environment.

http://brook.edu/views/articles/dickens/2001_psychreview.htm

Posted by: bakho on October 13, 2003 07:32 AM

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Interesting article bakho.

The question is, do schools exist to support the students or do students exist to support the schools? Using the premise of your article, a gifted student is much better off being at an advanced school due to the suggested environmental multiplier. So are you suggesting that such students have an obligation to raise the intellectual environment of their present school rather than take the opportunity to attend more advanced schools?

Posted by: james on October 13, 2003 08:29 AM

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"It is certainly true that people (like me) who are by nature inclined to... like and approve of social organization, shall we say... benefit enormously from formal training in neoclassical economics.

Conversely, people who are by nature inclined to... like and approve of social disorganization, shall we say... are driven mad by formal training in neoclassical economics, and should have gone into some discipline (like sociology) with opposed biases instead..."


Hm. And so people like me, who are fond of the massacres of women and children, should study the early history of the Mongol Empire. Never thought of it quite that way before.


Posted by: Zizka on October 13, 2003 09:19 AM

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Seems to me proponents of vouchers in the US advocate them because they think public schools are dismal, and in many cases they are probably right (I speak with the experience of someone who grew up going to schools in a different country, and whose kids now go to a public school in the US). Were the schools in Chile also dismal? Because if they were good to begin with, one shouldn't expect much improvement. So in my view, this weakens the argument of those who would like to use this study to claim that there would be no improvement in the US.

Posted by: maciej on October 13, 2003 09:20 AM

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Seems to me proponents of vouchers in the US advocate them because they think public schools are dismal, and in many cases they are probably right (I speak with the experience of someone who grew up going to schools in a different country, and whose kids now go to a public school in the US). Were the schools in Chile also dismal? Because if they were good to begin with, one shouldn't expect much improvement. So in my view, this weakens the argument of those who would like to use this study to claim that there would be no improvement in the US.

Posted by: maciej on October 13, 2003 09:22 AM

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"It is certainly true that people (like me) who are by nature inclined to... like and approve of social organization, shall we say... benefit enormously from formal training in neoclassical economics.

Conversely, people who are by nature inclined to... like and approve of social disorganization, shall we say... are driven mad by formal training in neoclassical economics, and should have gone into some discipline (like sociology) with opposed biases instead..."


Hm. And so people like me, who are fond of the massacres of women and children, should study the early history of the Mongol Empire. Never thought of it quite that way before.


Posted by: Zizka on October 13, 2003 09:24 AM

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A non-voucher system which offers more parental choice is simply free school choice within the public school system, regardless of the parents' recidence. Minnesota has put something like this into effect, and in Portland Oregon partially so.

Why is this system so seldom proposed? Well, first, it would nullify some of the major effects of class (and defacto racial) segregation. And this is an M-type argument, but voucher advocates include many who have doubts about integration of any kind. (After desegregation private academies sprang up all over the South). Second, vouchers for religious schools is the goal of another large chunk of the movement, and public-school open-enrollment wouldn't get that.

The use of inner-city kids as the main argument for vouchers is a tremendous cliche, and mostly dishonest in my humble opinion. The vast majority of voucher advocates are NOT doing it so that their kids can sit in class alongside black kids who have escaped from the failing inner city schools. (Yes, I am aware that some strong voucher advocates are black parents. And my bet is that a lot of them would be interested in the open-enrollment plan I just mentioned).

Posted by: Zizka on October 13, 2003 09:32 AM

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rps said:
"In public schools, above average intelligence is an uncool social liability."

I think that in most private schools the socially cool do not suffer if they show intelligence, but if they are not socially cool already, a smart kid is just as out of luck in either school setting. Most communities lack the environment to support a local public or private school where this is not the case. I would appreciate any counter-examples. The only one I can think of is an article of two or three years ago about a state that established several boarding high-schools for high scholastic achievers. Don't remember either the state nor the article source, unfortunately. (I know that it wasn't California!) What I do remember is that it was recognized that the state couldn't begin to fund enough such schools, and the students themselves has concerns about isolating themselves and about using so much money when the entire state system was suffering.

Posted by: J Edgar on October 13, 2003 09:55 AM

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And here is something about school choice from the "No Child Left Behind" What a surprise: a parents overwhelming choice is to have their children go to the nearest school.

This article should remain available a few more days.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/10/09/MN198701.DTL

"[San Francisco] Bay Area school districts told tens of thousands of parents recently that their children have a legal right to transfer immediately from their low-achieving school to a better one.

Surprisingly, very few accepted.

Most parents apparently chose to keep their children in underperforming schools because the schools are close to home."

Posted by: J Edgar on October 13, 2003 10:05 AM

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And here is something about school choice from the "No Child Left Behind" What a surprise: a parents overwhelming choice is to have their children go to the nearest school.

This article should remain available a few more days.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/10/09/MN198701.DTL

"[San Francisco] Bay Area school districts told tens of thousands of parents recently that their children have a legal right to transfer immediately from their low-achieving school to a better one.

Surprisingly, very few accepted.

Most parents apparently chose to keep their children in underperforming schools because the schools are close to home."

Posted by: J Edgar on October 13, 2003 10:10 AM

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And here is something about school choice from the "No Child Left Behind" What a surprise: a parents overwhelming choice is to have their children go to the nearest school.

This article should remain available a few more days.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/10/09/MN198701.DTL

"[San Francisco] Bay Area school districts told tens of thousands of parents recently that their children have a legal right to transfer immediately from their low-achieving school to a better one.

Surprisingly, very few accepted.

Most parents apparently chose to keep their children in underperforming schools because the schools are close to home."

Posted by: J Edgar on October 13, 2003 10:15 AM

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"If we merely try to improve metrics, the metrics will simply be cheated to produce good results." --Newt.

I prefer the term "managed to" to "cheated to." Everyone understands that you can't manage unless you measure and everyone equally understands as soon as you choose a metric to manage to people will act to maximise that metric no matter what the ultimate effect on the organization.

The task of senior management in any organization, perhaps their second most important task (after personnel choices) is to set metrics for middle management that if managed to will achieve the desired results for the overall organization.

The problem schools have is there's no agreed on desired overall result (at least not an achievable one) and the people that set metrics are (these days at least) ideologically driven.

Posted by: jam on October 13, 2003 10:22 AM

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As someone who favors vouchers, but has no kids (at least now), let me share my motivation.

I think a lot of schools, especially in the inner city are terrible. I think the main reason is that the schools have been "captured" by the special interests of those paid by public school funding. I think the introduction of vouchers would improve schooling for many students, but not all students. OTOH, I don't see any other reform that strikes me as plausible to improve things. Lot of the "throw more money at the current schools" ideas seem likely to make things worse (where "things" include costs as well as benefits). I also suspect that vouchers, by making school survival more dependant on serving the direct desires of parents, will make the schools more responsive to parents, which will also make parents more intrested in their student's schooling, since they can more easily have an influence. I expect parental interest in their children's schooling to generally improve their children's education.

Zizka says "The use of inner-city kids as the main argument for vouchers is a tremendous cliche, and mostly dishonest in my humble opinion." Well (and here's a problem with M-type arguments), I feel insulted by this. If I'm right about vouchers (although maybe I'm wrong), then I would expect the biggest bulk of benefits to accrue to inner-city kids, where the schools appear to be most deficient. That is intrinsic in my belief for vouchers, and would be true even if they never went to school with my [hypothetical future] children. OTOH, I'm not a saint who devotes his entire life in charity to others by campaigning against powerful political opponents for something that won't really do me much good (although I would vote for a voucher initiative). By the same token, I tend to interpet opposition to vouchers as a sign that the person is likely less concerned about real improvements in the education of children than they are about things like higher pay and lower accountability for public school employeers, and things like political benefits that accrue from this.

Davis X. Machina wrote "In the case of American voucher advocates, "increased sorting" may well be the point of the exercise, and not some unfortunate and unintended consequence."

I also think that many students have many different dispositions for learning, and a plethora of schools funded by vouchers will allow students to sort somewhat into schools with complementary approaches. Also, I find that schools seem to work better when they have a "mission" that everyone buys into, and that the specialization plausible with voucher schools makes it easier for these schools to have missions, and for students go to schools where the mission matches. So, "increased sorting" (on things like common interests and compatible learning styles) is a good thing.

I remember being a visting presenter at a local High School (this was a "good works" effort funded by my employer). I remember being astounded by the teacher saying they never assign homework (in high school) because the students never do it, no matter what, so they can't flunk students for not doing it. If I had a secondary-school child, I would want that child in the sort of fast-learning classroom that is only possible if significant homework is required to keep up. In my high school, this was "accelerated track" classes in a public high school, which seemed to work for me.


Finally, I have not yet read the cited paper. I could be wrong about vouchers, and other approaches (e.g., Charter Schools with no ceiling on their number) might be nearly as good or better, while being politicaly easier to implement. An argument that vouchers will not work on their merits I will listen to, but most arguments about vouchers I hear are seem indistinguishable from "it would threaten my and my friend/allies funding, power, status, political goals, etc, and thus we can't have vouchers because, if they work, that would be even worse."

Posted by: Tom on October 13, 2003 10:50 AM

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Interesting article.

My wife is Chilean and attended private school in Chile so I asked her what she thought.

What I found is that while the Chilean experience is interesting, it's not very comparable to the United States.

First a couple of things about Chile. Chile is one of the most class-stratified societies in the world, and the school system is one of the primary ways that class distinctions are maintained. The way that you make sure that your kids marry into the "right" families is to send them to private schools where they will only associate with kids from the "right" families. The elite private schools (which are NOT part of the voucher program) are very exclusive, and there is intense competition from the upper-middle class and those who are not the very elite to get their children into the best private schools. In some ways it sounds a lot like Manhattan in that the best pre-schools have long waiting lists and there is cutthroat competition to get your kids into the best preschools so that they can mix with the "right" kids and move on into the best elementary schools and so on. "Marrying Up" is one of the main ways to advance in Chilean society. So for parents with some money, getting your kid into the right private school is really more about giving your kid the chance to associate with the "right" families than getting a good education. This is ESPECIALLY true for girls. The elite private schools would never in a million years take vouchers or voucher students because it would defeat their whole purpose of exclusivity to bring in middle and lower class students.

Second, Chile is perhaps the most conservative Catholic country in Latin America. This is a country where divorce is still illegal. There isn't the same concept of separation of Church and State and most of the country is nominally Catholic. Many of the subsidized private schools are Catholic, and the voucher program is an easy way for Catholic politicians to funnel government money to the Catholic church.

Finally, with respect to the paper itself. I asked my wife about the subsidized private schools. She laughed and said they are mostly horrible. That there are probably not more than three good subsidized schools in the entire country and those would be good regardless of whether they had vouchers or not. She said the subsidized schools (as they are called in Chile) are known for having huge class sizes and little resources. They rarely turn students away because each additional student brings in more money. The article suggests that they are more selective. My wife says that what really happens is they take anyone they can get but then flush out the bad apples later. The kids with dicipline problems and the poor learners are simply not asked to come back the next year.

Remember, Chile is very much about class. What the subsidized schools do for lower-middle class parents is give them the ability to *SAY* that they are sending their kids to private school, which is a status thing. If you admit to sending your kid to public school it is the same as admitting that you are low class. Many of the subsidized schools pick names that are very close to elite private schools and they have uniforms that look like those of the best private schools. It would be as if a bunch of new fly-by-night private schools popped up in the California with names like West Harvard Prep, West Princeton Prep, Berkeley Prep, etc. And, for the Catholic schools, the allow parents to give their kids a Catholic education. The subsidized schools give parents the outward appearance of upward mobility without really providing it.

In any event, my wife says that it's not surprising that the vouchers haven't really improved educational outcome. Because she says that frankly almost all of the public and subsidized private schools are considered pretty bad. Bad in the sense that they all are plagued by excessively high class sizes and limited resources. Many of the teachers are dedicated and talented individuals who just make the best of a bad situation. Chile just doesn't have the resources to provide all children with a top quality education. Although it doesn't do a bad job compared to the rest of Latin America.

As for what kind of lessons the Chilean system has for the US. There probably aren't any in the sense that none of the voucher programs proposed in the US would remotely resemble the Chilean system where vouchers can only be used at subsidized private schools that cannot charge tuition.

Posted by: Kent Lind on October 13, 2003 10:55 AM

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Tom: Well, I that's why I said "mostly" dishonest. The voucher movement is a well-organized, well-funded movement. It's not a bunch of individuals like yourself who have come to the conclusion that vouchers are a solution.

In the same way that parents given the choice of open-enrollment will keep their kids in the neighborhood school, most of them will probably also keep their kids in the neighborhood school if they have the option of using vouchers. And here in Portland there are plenty kids who are equidistant from two or three schools, but who are forced to go to one of them. One of the Portland schools, Benson Tech, has always been open to kids from all over town, and kids do come from all over. It's not really an elite school either, but it has programs other schools don't. My guess is that a significant bunch of kids from the poorer Portland schools (Jefferson, Madison, Roosevelt, and Marshall) would go to (adjacent) Cleveland or Grant if they wanted better education. SOme kids would go across the river to Wilson or Lincoln, the best schools.

Not all kids or all families want better education. That's part of the problem.

Posted by: Zizka on October 13, 2003 11:17 AM

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Tom: Well, I that's why I said "mostly" dishonest. The voucher movement is a well-organized, well-funded movement. It's not a bunch of individuals like yourself who have come to the conclusion that vouchers are a solution.

In the same way that parents given the choice of open-enrollment will keep their kids in the neighborhood school, most of them will probably also keep their kids in the neighborhood school if they have the option of using vouchers. And here in Portland there are plenty kids who are equidistant from two or three schools, but who are forced to go to one of them. One of the Portland schools, Benson Tech, has always been open to kids from all over town, and kids do come from all over. It's not really an elite school either, but it has programs other schools don't. My guess is that a significant bunch of kids from the poorer Portland schools (Jefferson, Madison, Roosevelt, and Marshall) would go to (adjacent) Cleveland or Grant if they wanted better education. SOme kids would go across the river to Wilson or Lincoln, the best schools.

Not all kids or all families want better education. That's part of the problem.

Posted by: Zizka on October 13, 2003 11:22 AM

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If you really think that "vouchers" are anything other than an attempt to get rid of public schools might want to look at this report: http://www.pfaw.org/pfaw/general/default.aspx?oid=11371

Posted by: Dave Johnson on October 13, 2003 01:09 PM

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Another commenter had put this link :

http://www.irs.princeton.edu/pubs/pdfs/470_h.pdf

Which end the text at page 30 with :

"[...]
Combined with our finding that the effect of vouchers for African American students is more fragile than previous analyses of the data have suggested, we would counsel caution in concluding that vouchers raised achievement for African American students in New York City. The safest conclusion is probably that the provision of vouchers did not lower the scores of African American students."

I shall conclude that on the whole vouchers are not worth the trouble.

DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on October 13, 2003 01:52 PM

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Addendum:

from a comment Posted by David at October 11, 2003 11:54 AM


Correction of errata:

"which ends at page 38 with :"

instead of

"Which end the text at page 30 with :"

DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on October 13, 2003 02:38 PM

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"'...caution in concluding that vouchers raised achievement for African American students in New York City.'

"I shall conclude that on the whole vouchers are not worth the trouble."
~~~

Well, one might remember the fact that the voucher schools in NYC spent $3,000 per student compared to $11,000 for the public schools.

So let's stipulate for argument's sake that the $3,000-per-student private schools produce no better educational results than do $11,000-per- student public ones (ignoring all the many studies over the last 20 years that have concluded those NYC private schools do better with the same students). Let's just admit that they don't do worse -- and nobody seriously makes that claim.

It's remarkable that in a economics discussion evidence of 70% waste -- overpayment for a service in excess of 200%, totaling literally several billion dollars a year in just one city -- is deemed "not worth the trouble".

And another thought. When the Children's Scholarship Fund offered its partial scholarships to poor families -- requiring them to put up $1,000 of their own money towards the cost of the school they got in to if they won the lottery -- it received 1.2 *million* applications for 40,000 scholarships, 30 for every seat.

Now when 1.2 million poor families offer to pay $1,000 a year to have their children escape from "free" public schools, THEY certainly seem to think the change of schools is "worth the trouble".

So it also seems remarkable that in an economics forum, where consumer preferences are supposedly recognized as being meaningful, the strongly revealed preferences of 1.2 million families would be so blithely disregarded as being meaningless.

And even more remarkable that in a *liberal* economics forum, where everybody claims to be *so* especially concerned for the poor, such strongly revealed prefereneces of 1.2 million *poor* families should be so blithely disregarded.

Well, it's for their own good, of course! No doubt the People for the American Way are much better informed about what's good for the welfare of the children in those 1.2 million families than the families themselves are. Which is why the poor need groups like People for the American Way to make their important decisions for them.

Those 1.2 million poor families probably were just duped into joining the conspiracy of the rich to destroy public education ... so their simpleminded wishes should be ignored for their own good, lest they spread. ;-)

Posted by: Jim Glass on October 13, 2003 03:00 PM

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(Dismounts hobbyhorse and turns to address the real subject)

School choice means, at scale, desirable schools choose their students. Pilot programs don't show this effect, of course, but once you scale up, it becomes inevitable.

In the UK, the current Government has issued regulations designed to ensure that the choice schools exercise is not made on academic grounds (!). In Chile, absent such regulation, desirable schools will choose academically desirable students. Thus the observed sortition.

In the US, we see this effect at the tertiary level. You may wish to go to Harvard, but it will be Harvard's decision who actually attends and Harvard makes that decision on academic grounds. We don't mind sortition at this level, probably because college is not compulsory. But at the levels of education where attendance is compulsory, sortition leads to bad effects. By the pigeon-hole principle, if the slots in the desirable schools are taken up by the desirable students, then the slots in the undesirable schools will be filled by undesirable students, compelled to be there: the sink schools get the rejects. This makes the undesirable schools more undesirable; they enter a negative feedback loop.

I repeat, this is a consequence of scaling. The effect doesn't appear until there are more kids want to go to a school than the school can take. Pilot programs, or the current effect of No Child Left Behind, where 20 or 30 kids in a district get to move, don't exhibit it.

Which is why it's a bad idea to argue from the success of educational pilots.

Posted by: jam on October 13, 2003 03:13 PM

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So far, the comments indicate to me that the only way to find out if vouchers work (in the US), is to implement a program rigorously and then conduct a study. (I have no direct experience with the US education system, other than tv series and books by Gatto and M. Friedman. From those p.o.v.'s, vouchers seem like a pretty good idea.)
And if you really want to compare yourself with someone, I'd look at countries which are somewhat like you or not that different, say, like Great Britain or the Netherlands...

Posted by: Rik on October 13, 2003 03:18 PM

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So far, the comments indicate to me that the only way to find out if vouchers work (in the US), is to implement a program rigorously and then conduct a study. (I have no direct experience with the US education system, other than tv series and books by Gatto and M. Friedman. From those p.o.v.'s, vouchers seem like a pretty good idea.)
And if you really want to compare yourself with someone, I'd look at countries which are somewhat like you or not that different, say, like Great Britain or the Netherlands...

Posted by: Rik on October 13, 2003 03:19 PM

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Jim, could you source those 1.2 million poor families asking for help with tuition? That's an enormous proportion of all poor families. There are only about 50 million school-age children in all, most of them are not poor, and there is often more than one child per household.

Posted by: Zizka on October 13, 2003 07:52 PM

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I ask: if I gave you $330,000 could you hire the teacher, rent the space, and buy the supplies to educate 30 students? Something doesn’t compute. The good folks at 110 Livingston Street (might be out of date here) seem to spend money like the Pentagon. For example, according to a WSJ article, NYC built a school in Queens at a per square foot cost equal to that of Class A office space in Manhattan. What gives? I remember back in the sixties a NYC social worker checked a welfare client into the Waldorf Astoria hotel and came in under the figure allocated for slum hotels. Naturally they fired the social worker for saving the city money.

Posted by: A. Zarkov on October 13, 2003 09:06 PM

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Zizka, Jim: 1.2 million applications does not necessarily mean 1.2 million families if one assumes that one application per child is needed. It is also not exactly impossible that some of those applications were on behalf of children who were more or less fictional characters who were the result of benefits fraud.

More generally, how do schools compete? I've never really understood how there could be a meaningful analogy between schools and businesses, chiefly because I don't think that schools are interested in maximising the number of students they control.

Posted by: dsquared on October 13, 2003 11:36 PM

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Frankly I'm no expert on vouchers here in the US, but from everything I've read and understand about the current voucher movement, I think it's largely a farce that would not improve public education.

I don't disagree with those who argue that public education is a disaster in many large urban areas such as Washington DC or Los Angeles. But nothing I've seen or read tells me that hundreds of thousands of empty slots are waiting in private schools for these students, if only vouchers are approved.

At best, private schools could only absorb a very small fraction of the public school students in these big urban areas. And I've never seen a voucher program proposal that is generous enough to stimulate new private school construction.

Frankly, what vouchers really look like are a way for politicians to subsidize the private school educations of students who are mostly already attending private schools. Even more disturbing, it's a back-door way to use public funds to support religious education.

As a middle-class father of two young children, I've looked out for the education of my girls the old fashioned way. My wife and I chose to move into the best school district in our region, even though it means a longer commute for my wife. That's frankly how must Americans do it these days, as a conversation with a real estate agent will tell you.

What the voucher debate is really about is whether public policy should favor a a few individuals over the group. My own point of view is that government should not be in the business of creating programs to benefit a select few to the detriment of the whole. Where schools are broken I would be happy to support the most wholesale reform possible. But reform that benefits all students, not just a few.

This society is already the most highly mobile in history. Parents who are truly dedicated to providing the best for their children already have a wealth of options at their disposal including the most obvious one--moving on to a community with better schools. But I don't think it's necessarily the role of government to subsidize that sort of activity to the detriment of the whole. Even poor families can move on. Millions of them do it every year in this country. Here in Texas (where the schools aren't bad) I've seen a steady incoming stream of low-income migrants from other parts of the country as well as Mexico. Due to the general lack of zoning, cheap housing is fairly available, even in the best school districts. If a family from El Salvador or Guatemala can make it all the way here to improve their condition and their children's future, then a family from the Bronx, Anacostia, or South Central LA can certainly do the same.

All that said, I'm always up for new ideas and I would have no problem supporting a voucher program that contained all of the following necessary elements:

1. It's supported by NEW money, such as an increase in the corporate income tax or something like that. So that already strapped public schools would be competing for supplemental funding rather than their own (already deficient) funds.

2. That any private school accepting voucher payments meets ALL of the standards required of public schools such as testing, teacher certification, non-descrimination in hiring and student acceptance etc etc.

3. That no public money goes to support religious education of any kind.

4. That any private school accepting voucher students be required to accept disabled and other "special needs" students at least up to the same percentage that they exist in the general population. Parents of disabled students should have the same opportunity to get their kids out of public schools as parents of gifted students.

I've yet to see a single voucher program proposal that comes remotely close to meeting all of these criteria.

Posted by: Kent Lind on October 13, 2003 11:37 PM

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>>This society is already the most highly mobile in history.

Urban myth, btw; income mobility for the USA is about average for developed countries.

Posted by: dsquared on October 14, 2003 06:00 AM

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"Jim, could you source those 1.2 million poor families asking for help with tuition? That's an enormous proportion of all poor families...."

Yes, indeed it is. Especially for a program that was offered in only limited areas and received so little publicity that most people -- including near everybody here, it seems -- have never heard of it.

I'd think that people who profess to be so concerned about the poor and so informed about their education would *of course* be aware of it -- and be mightily impressed by so many of the poor being willing to fork over at least $1,000 per child to get out of free public schools. Revealed preferences and all. After all, how many of us *rich* people are willing to pay for something we can get for free?

I'd surmise that something else is being revealed by self-proclaimed advocates of the poor who are blind to such things.

Anyhow, http://www.scholarshipfund.org/index.asp

And I was wrong, it wasn't 1.2 million applications, it was 1.25 million.

Posted by: Jim Glass on October 14, 2003 07:02 AM

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The new day brings another happy example of the priorities of our public school educators...
~~~

Detroit Schools Pushed Away $200M Gift

October 12, 2003 -- Thanks to the poisonous atmosphere created by a hostile Detroit public school establishment, philanthropist Robert Thompson has decided, with deep regret, that it is impossible for him to donate a $200 million gift to the city's schoolchildren.

The gift would have come in the form of 15 new charter high schools ....

After seeking legislative authorization for his schools for almost a year, Thompson threw in the towel after the Detroit teachers union threw what can only be described as a tantrum at the prospect of having to compete with charter schools.

On hearing that Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm had made a deal with the Republican Legislature on a comprehensive charter school expansion package that would have included the Thompson academies, Detroit teachers shut down the schools with a one-day walkout Sept. 25. Instead of teaching on that school day, 3,000 of these primary beneficiaries of the government school status quo held a mass demonstration at the state Capitol.

In response to this pressure from the public school establishment, both the governor and Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick walked away from the Thompson gift ....

Would the Thompson academies have helped? ... Mackinac Center research shows that, despite efforts of the public school establishment to undercut them, performance of students in Michigan's charter schools on the state's MEAP achievement test is improving at a rate dramatically faster than in traditional schools.

By their actions, the defenders of this failed system could not have made their scale of priorities more clear. Low on that scale are the prospects and well-being of the children forced to attend this tragic monument to failure and hopelessness.

http://theoaklandpress.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=10307607&BRD=982&PAG=461&dept_id=511388&
~~~~

Not to feel bad though. As this is an economics discussion group we can all start with the working assumption that competition does nothing to improve the quality of services, and gross rent seeking by monoplistic service providers does nothing to harm the price/quality-of-service ratio. Until proven otherwise.

At regarding public education -- even if we'd believe it as to nothing else in the world.


Posted by: Jim Glass on October 14, 2003 07:22 AM

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>>This society is already the most highly mobile in history.

>Urban myth, btw; income mobility for the USA is about average for developed countries.

I meant GEOGRAPHICALLY mobile, not economically mobile. A poor parent moving to a better district will probably still be poor, but their children will have a better future.

Of course the reasons why people stay poor (inertia etc.) are also the reasons why they don't move.

If any of you participating in this discussion suddenly found yourself living in Detroit with a crummy job and kids, I'm willing to bet that the FIRST thing any of us would do is pull out the atlas and some place better to move to where both the economic and educational opportunities are better.

Point being, we already do have freedom of choice in this country. People can vote with their feet. I would argue that the school mess in Detroit cited above is just a symptom of a larger overall failure by that community to provide for its citizens. This country was founded on and built on the notion of finding opportunities in new places.

Posted by: Kent Lind on October 14, 2003 07:58 AM

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%%%%As this is an economics discussion group we can all start with the working assumption that competition does nothing to improve the quality of services, and gross rent seeking by monoplistic service providers does nothing to harm the price/quality-of-service ratio. Until proven otherwise.At regarding public education -- even if we'd believe it as to nothing else in the world.%%%%

I thought the discussion in this group began with the FACT that existing voucher schemes don't seem to have any measurable empirical impact in solving the problem of gross rent seeking by monopoly service providers. But I guess strawmen burn brighter.

Posted by: strawman on October 14, 2003 08:13 AM

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" More generally, how do schools compete? I've never really understood how there could be a meaningful analogy between schools and businesses, chiefly because I don't think that schools are interested in maximising the number of students they control."

They're interested in the money each student represents. In fact, where there is competition for students, as in Milwaukee from voucher schools, or in Arizona from charter schools the public schools vigorously compete. They advertise on the radio, they telemarket, they make personal appeals to parents. Quite amusing, and consistent with economic theory about incentives. For details see the work of Caroline Minter Hoxby:

http://post.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/hoxby/papers.html

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on October 14, 2003 08:34 AM

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Is there any "proof" that private colleges provide better educations than "public" colleges?
If so, why don't we end subsidies to public colleges?
If not, why do we allow private college students access to government loan programs?
The fact is, some public colleges serve some students, in some ways, better than private schools and vice versa.
As a conservative, I don't have a big problem with private college students getting government loan subsidies. I think it is good that they have the freedom to choose what is best for them.

So what is the problem with giving parents some kind of similar subsidy with their children?
Would someone on the left please explain why freedom of choice is fine for an 18 year old going to college, fine for a pregnant woman but some kind of abomination when it comes to a concientious parent of a grammer school kid?
Why is subsidized "public" schooling something sacrosanct for kids below 18 but utterly unnecessary for kids over 18?

Posted by: JAG on October 14, 2003 09:01 AM

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I live in the Bronx. It has exactly three good public primary schools, all in the "better" neighborhoods. If all the schoolkids in the Bronx could go to whatever public school they wanted, and were motivated to do so, these three good schools could not take more than a tiny fraction of them and remain good. They are "good" mainly because they are the natural repository of the already successful, which makes them a more desirable job assignment, which leads to more experienced teachers wanting to go there, etc, in a virtuous cycle.
By what mechanism is the choice of schools supposed to improve the educational lot of a significant number of schoolkids in the Bronx? Not that it might not be worth doing anyway -- maybe the parents at P.S. 24 would support measures to improve schools elsewhere just to keep the "unwashed" from wanting to invade their turf. Or is that the mechanism?

Posted by: C.J.Colucci on October 14, 2003 09:36 AM

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dsquared might want to subscribe to this Milwaukee newspaper to keep up on the latest economic thinking:

http://www.jsonline.com/news/wauk/oct03/177023.asp

---------quote-------------
the Elmbrook School District had 228 more students enroll in its schools than went to outside schools. The Menomonee Falls School District, which has engaged in a concerted school choice recruitment effort for the past two years, had the second-highest gain behind Elmbrook with 97 more students enrolling in its schools than attending school outside the district.

The Kettle Moraine School District, which made more open enrollment seats available this year and opened its elementary schools to outside students for the first time, also picked up pupils.

Kettle Moraine Superintendent Sarah Jerome said that shows the district's schools are attractive to outsiders, although she was unable to pinpoint the exact reason for the transfers.

"Some people are coming to us because we have full-day kindergarten," she said. "Some because we have art, music and Spanish in the elementary schools. Some are coming because they live right next door. There's no one guiding reason.

"But I do also think that they think that our schools are good schools or they wouldn't be making the changes or even considering us," Jerome said.

Kettle Moraine's gain meant losses elsewhere, however, most noticeably in the Mukwonago School District, which suffered its first open enrollment losses after years of coming out ahead because of public school choice.

Mukwonago Superintendent Paul Strobel pinned the district's reversed open enrollment trend on two factors - student proximity to schools in the Kettle Moraine and Muskego-Norway districts, and the Palmyra-Eagle School District's caps on outgoing open enrollment transfers. He said the new numbers concern him.

"In the past, that was a revenue source for us," Strobel said. "At our peak, I think we were bringing in $250,000 in open enrollment. That $250,000 is now gone. So that's a revenue concern."

Open enrollment also poses a revenue concern for the Oconomowoc School District, where the number of outgoing students surged to 114 this year from 78 in 2002-'03.

"It's killing us," Howard Kallio, Oconomowoc's director of human resources and student services, said of the open enrollment losses.

The experience has alarmed school officials enough that they're planning a research project to dig into the roots of why students leave.

"We're also going to take a good hard look at why individuals choose to come to our schools rather than just why they try to leave," so the school can do more of the same, Kallio said.

------------endquote---------

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on October 14, 2003 01:41 PM

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JAG wrote:

>>So what is the problem with giving parents some kind of similar subsidy with their children?
>>Would someone on the left please explain why freedom of choice is fine for an 18 year old going to college, fine for a pregnant woman but some kind of abomination when it comes to a concientious parent of a grammer school kid?
>>Why is subsidized "public" schooling something sacrosanct for kids below 18 but utterly unnecessary for kids over 18?

Nothing is wrong with it. In fact, parents already have a variety of subsidy options available. Tax-exempt education IRAs can be used for primary and secondary school tuition and fees. I believe it's also possible to borrow out of 401(k) plans to pay for educational costs. And a lot of private schools offer a variety of financial aid and loan packages for parents. Private schools are also subsidized to the extent that the schools themselves are tax-exempt non profit institutions that don't pay local property taxes or federal income taxes. So in effect, the public has already chosen to provide substantial subsidies to private education in this country.

The problem comes when voucher programs are used as a means to fund religious institutions, and when they are used to deliberately undermine funding and support for public schools.

Why don't we take your freedom to chose argument a bit farther?

My brother choses not to drive. Can he also have the freedom to chose how to spend his share of public transportation dollars? Can he get a voucher to spend on public transportation and bike paths instead of freeways? Given how many freeways that he choses NOT to use, he ought to get tens of thousands of dollars annually to spend on alternate transporation options.

Perhaps I chose to decline police protection and instead want to use my freedom of choice to arm myself and secure my own property without the help of the police. Can I get a voucher to spend on firearms and alarm systems?

Maybe I don't need the National Weather Service to provide my weather forcasts because I don't need them. Can I get a voucher to spend on my own rain gauge and barometer instead?

I don't need the public library because I prefer to buy my own books on amazon.com. Can I exchange my library card for an amazon.com book voucher?

Or better yet, why don't we really give parents the freedom to chose and let them decide to put their kids to work instead of school? We could be like Bangladesh. If some parent would rather have their kid working 60 hours/wk sewing Nikes intead of in school, why not give them that option?

Public education is sacrosanct for kids below 18 because as a society we have chosen not to be like Bangladesh. We have chosen to require education for all children in this country, instead of just those children who's parents have the money for private education. That is because we have chosen as a society to overrule the rights on parents in this area.

College education, however, is entirely voluntary. And it is for adults over 18 for the most part, who have the freedom to chose what they want to do with their lives.


Posted by: Kent Lind on October 14, 2003 02:13 PM

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If one wants to address the reform/improvement of the public education system in the U.S.A. realistically, let's start with the first step: we need to abolish the dependency of public education financing on local property taxes. This mode of financing increasingly guarantees that public education will be chronically underfinanced and politicized, with endless conflicts between different goals- e.g. special education vs. arts education-, and that there will be severe inequities in funding between localities.

Point 2: Education is not a panacea for curing all of societies ills; to the contrary, much of what ails public education is a displacement of social problems onto a public education system that is ill-equiped to handle them, from endemic poverty, familial disintegration, declining employment prospects for significant sectors of the population to the pervasiveness of a degraded mass-mediatized culture. Significant improvements in the general level of public education can not be divorced from a more general program of public welfare, (though I am not specifically restricting this term to the modality of government bureaucratic action.) Unless and until it is admitted that a higher level of public education, on average and in particular, is a benefit to all members of the population- citizens- and to the well-being of the society as a whole, not just economically, but politically and culturally, as well, any general reform and improvement is unlikely, as it will merely serve as the pretext for politicization by extrinsic interests. Honest debate and constructive proposals on the various issues are to be welcomed. But so long as education is regarded as an extrinsic good subject to competition- and a positional good, at that- by the public at large and by the policy specialists, little by way of improvement is to be expected. Competition in education is and ought to be agonal, focused on standards of excellence. It is not a matter of increasing the efficiency and maximizing the utility of education, but of raising and meeting the standards of general educational expectation so as to increase the general distributed stock of knowledge and the understanding of principles of validity, as well as realizing the talents and abilities of each and all to the fullest extent possible. Education is not a commodity that can be produced like manufactures and subjected to precise quantitative measures and controls. It has an irreducibly qualitative dimension, which is one reason why it is such a perennial bone of contention, and is primarily a matter of educing, stimulating and developing the motivation to learn, rather than simply reproducing some pre-given received content. How to best and most equitably provide the resources necessary to such processes should be the primary concern of debates on the topic, not whether it is all simply a waste of resources, since it is a matter of not letting our best resources, for each and all, going to waste-( and by "resources" I do not mean simply "money".)

Posted by: john c. halasz on October 14, 2003 02:14 PM

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Kent,

You brother can't get a voucher for not using the public transportation system any more than I, a driver can. Silly argument.
The fact that someone doesn't "use" various public services like the weather service or police or even public transportation doesn't mean they don't benefit from their existence.
But what how is the service of educating individuals even remotely similar to police, public transportation and public safety?
Really, can you possibly argue that, overnight, if everyone got a voucher and went to private schools there would be some kind of societal disaster? Of course you couldn't because individuals can get educated without big government holding their hand, without America becoming like "Bangladesh". Really, you must have unbelievable contempt for the average American parent to believe they couldn't fend for themselves without big brother public schools bailing them out.
And as to the point about vouchers being used to support religion; apparently you haven't run into many parochial school graduates.....I assure you the "indoctrination" you fear (of crazed Christians run amok no doubt) is pretty hysterical. If parochial schools were even modestly successful of some kind of mindless religious obedience the Catholic Church (for one) wouldn't be suffering from a long term continous decline in participation.
Lets face it, liberals don't support this kind of "choice", this kind of "freedom" because it empowers individuals and makes them less dependent on government. How you ever going to get to the socialist utopia unless you control as much of the lives of the ignorant masses as possible? Social Security, universal healthcare, education.....can't possibly let the dopes have choice lest they find out they can make it on their own.

Posted by: JAG on October 14, 2003 03:09 PM

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JAG,

As long as public schools are strong, private schools must abide to law, that explain the fact that Catholic schools are no particularly brainwashing, unless you go to the most private ones (Opus Dei). School is not, was never, a business like any other. Individuals cannot set arbitrarily their own school, unless they are very rich, then a voucher would be a joke. So do not try to pretend that it is about choice, because private schools are foremost conspicuous consumption.

If you want to empower individuals, suppress inheritance, let's see if these people can do something really on their own. Otherwise you are saying that slavery is right.

DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on October 14, 2003 03:33 PM

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Jim Glass's Children's Scholarship Fund link was the fund's own promo link, which gave rather sketchy information.

The only third-party report I got said that the CSF amounts to a free lottery, and it seems that the effort required to sign up was minimal. I still wonder how the outreach to the parents was made; the offer was limited to kids K-8 eligible for school lunch. Low income families are notoriously hard to recruit, so this result is could be very impressive if I knew more about it.

As always, I will remind Jim and the rest that I there are 11 kids in my family who went to non-failing schools (and most american schools are not failing) and one of my concerns is that this particular ideological crusade doesn't make the good schools worse.

Posted by: Zizka on October 14, 2003 03:59 PM

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JAG

you make my point for me.

"The fact that someone doesn't "use" various public services like the weather service or police or public transportation OR EVEN PUBLIC SCHOOLS doesn't mean they don't benefit from their existence."

If vouchers were universally available, only a very small percentage of parents would be able to get their kids into private schools because there just isn't the available space. Millions of children will always be dependent on public schools because they have no other options, vouchers or no vouchers.

And no, I don't have contempt for the AVERAGE parent, but I am certain that if education was voluntary, hundreds of thousands of parents would never bother to put their kids in schools. Many immigrant families would keep their kids working in the fields or family busineses out of financial desperation. And frankly thousands of completely irresponsible drug addicted and alcoholic parents would just let their kids run wild without giving a shit. My wife works in a public health clinic and the numbers of completely irresponsible parents out there is overwhelming. If the government doesn't ensure that these kids stay in school, no one else will.

And no, I don't fear religious indoctrination. I've been to Catholic school myself. I object to public money being used to subsidize religious institutions because it violates the separation of church and state.

Get a grip. Liberals aren't trying to control you. You have the perfect freedom of choice to send your kids to any school you want to right now. Just like you can move to any community that you want to. I couldn't care less. That's your choice. I just object to being forced to subsidize your own personal choices.

Posted by: Kent Lind on October 14, 2003 05:02 PM

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JAG

you make my point for me.

"The fact that someone doesn't "use" various public services like the weather service or police or public transportation OR EVEN PUBLIC SCHOOLS doesn't mean they don't benefit from their existence."

If vouchers were universally available, only a very small percentage of parents would be able to get their kids into private schools because there just isn't the available space. Millions of children will always be dependent on public schools because they have no other options, vouchers or no vouchers.

And no, I don't have contempt for the AVERAGE parent, but I am certain that if education was voluntary, hundreds of thousands of parents would never bother to put their kids in schools. Many immigrant families would keep their kids working in the fields or family busineses out of financial desperation. And frankly thousands of completely irresponsible drug addicted and alcoholic parents would just let their kids run wild without giving a shit. My wife works in a public health clinic and the numbers of completely irresponsible parents out there is overwhelming. If the government doesn't ensure that these kids stay in school, no one else will.

And no, I don't fear religious indoctrination. I've been to Catholic school myself. I object to public money being used to subsidize religious institutions because it violates the separation of church and state.

Get a grip. Liberals aren't trying to control you. You have the perfect freedom of choice to send your kids to any school you want to right now. Just like you can move to any community that you want to. I couldn't care less. That's your choice. I just object to being forced to subsidize your own personal choices.

Posted by: Kent Lind on October 14, 2003 05:03 PM

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Jim, 1.25 million applications is unlikely to mean 1.25 million families, unless you assume that poor families have an average of one child each?

Posted by: dsquared on October 15, 2003 01:04 AM

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Dave Johnson:

Come on Dave, you're citing a PFAW info sheet as evidence? They are a left-wing propaganda outfit that pretends to be a first amendment rights outfit. Are we supposed to take seriously PFAW’s mix of here say, conjecture and anecdotal evidence?

Look man, we’ve got an issue. We’ve got policy options. We’ve got some empirical studies. Let’s make the decision based on the evidence. Why waist time talking about right-wing conspiracy theories. I don’t care why person X proposes policy Y. I only care about the expected net benefit policy Y will provide relative to other polices.

http://www.techcentralstation.com/100703B.html

Posted by: Chris Janak on October 15, 2003 12:19 PM

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Here's a study in Columbia that did find benefit from vouchers. (Link from www.marginalrevolution.com) Also, Alex Tabarrok has some interesting comments at the marginalrev website.

http://econ-www.mit.edu/faculty/download_pdf.php?id=737

Posted by: Chris Janak on October 15, 2003 12:44 PM

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Only when we have nothing to say do we say anything at all.

Posted by: Tenzer Heather on December 10, 2003 12:28 PM

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A room without books is like a body without a soul.

Posted by: Dougherty Terence on December 20, 2003 05:01 PM

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