Mike, As I tried to make clear in my earlier post, my doubts about vouchers were from the practical point of view of solving the parents' problem of obtaining a good education for their children, not from the point of view of maintaining the present system (such as Panini’s or my own children’s now with their children). As for Sowell, his credentials come from the temples of privatization (Stanford, the Hoover Institute). I would hope my observations are practical rather than ideological. If I thought privatization and vouchers would work, I'd be delighted to see them universal. I was educated on the public dime until college. Unfortunately when the time came for my children to go to school, it was spend lots of money for private school or move to the suburbs.
Using the pilot programs as a guide to the future:
First the voucher system will not help people making more than about 30K for a family of four. Second, so far they have limited children to private schools within the same municipal districts as their public schools. Third, the funding from the vouchers has so far been about 75-90% of tuition (depending upon how close to the poverty line the family is) to a maximum of 1800-2300 in Cleveland and a little more than 4000 in Milwaukee. To date even among those financially eligible, only those chosen in a lottery could in fact participate. It seems unlikely there would be sufficient places for all those eligible financially otherwise if the system were universal.
Then there arises the question of what happens to the children of parents making, say, 35K/family of four. Public school for them unless they can ante up the full tuition?
I do not suggest parents "sacrifice" their children on the ideal of public education. That said, I think that policy decisions of government should be to give ALL children a good education. And I believe the voucher system is a cynical attempt to SEEM like doing something to correct the inadequacies of urban schools without actually having to do it.
There are logistical issues Sowell ignores. So many bodies are so many bodies. If they are removed from the “bad” public schools, then that might even make “bad” schools better by improving the teacher:student ratio there, which would be a benefit. But conversely, the influx of the urban poor (even were it to happen, which I doubt) into what are now selective and economically self-selecting schools may simply redistribute the problems of the “bad” schools into the “good” schools. Gresham’s law. We may find ourselves spending more money for less result.
First there are a limited number of schools where vouchers will be enough to pay the way among private schools unless they are subsidized by some (usually) religious institution (occasionally universities will have a school that they run). In Cleveland the need was met by a couple religious schools opening to meet the voucher system needs. There the maximum voucher was less than 2300.
Second the best of the private and suburban public schools will not take on the problems that will come with many of the urban poor. The people funding and sending their children to these schools have long ago decided to remove themselves from precisely those problems that come with poverty. Be sure they will find a way to keep themselves insulated. -- To date this consideration is mostly made mute by the fact that so far, vouchers must be used within the same municipal unit (i.e., vouchers for students from Cleveland public schools for example can only be used in Cleveland private schools, not suburban private schools, much less suburban public schools).
Last, and not in these early stages yet an issue: from the point of view of the religious school, there may ultimately be conditions to accepting voucher students with what is, after all, public money, that some of these schools may not wish to accede to. There are within the religious community some voices questioning the wisdom of accepting government money for this or for the “faith based initiative” approach to other social problems. For example, will religious schools be permitted to require their teachers be “of” that particular faith? Will they be able to exclude gays or particular racial or ethnic people from their teachers? Muslims will have a “right” to teach in Catholic or Jewish schools, etc.? I can see the law suits now.
My opinion is that our education system is currently based on the class system. Those who have money for the best can always get the best, those without money for a quality private education are in the position of taking what is available (which depends upon where they live). I do not say it is right. Only that it is.
And I repeat my earlier remark that as long as those with money and/or power can separate their children from those whose families have neither, we will have a tiered system of education in which some children get the best and some get none. It know it will not happen in this country, but I believe the only real solution to the problem is a TRUE universal system in which children from families of money and power can only get a good education if ALL children do. Under those circumstances the people who could make it happen would make it happen. (The US Senator from my state lives in our very urban city. His children went to the same private school mine did, not the local public schools. If the children of our politicians and the wealthy had to go to public school, then perhaps our public schools would be better today.)
Though for the sake of argument I have assumed that a voucher program might actually help students’s performance, there is the question of whether these programs have in fact worked. The studies so far, do not seem conclusive that there is a significant improvement in the students’ performance. For an appraisal to what really happens to vouchers check the link (google will give many more from advocates of both points of view):http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d01914.pdf
seems to be the most impartial of the sites I visited
(Edited a couple typos)