Friday, June 29, 2012

Vouchers are not Cheaper

Many education reformers often talk about how distributing vouchers will lower the cost of education in addition to their belief that vouchers will enhance the quality of education. They say that many private and charter schools, particularly in places like Washington, D.C. and New York City, cost less than public schools. Private school parents still help fund schools through taxes, so they cite unfairness as well. Reformers see vouchers as a great way to reduce the cost of education. They hope that by giving each kid a voucher and then giving the parents the power to choose a different school, then they can reduce the education budget. 

The idea behind vouchers is that school tax money should be attached to the student instead of going straight to the "zoned" school. That way, the student can enroll in the school that best suits his needs. Well, that is exactly how things operate with students currently enrolled in public and charter schools. If a student moves from X Public Elementary School to Y Public Elementary School over the summer, then Y Public Elementary School will receive the tax dollars designated for that student. If that student moves to a charter school, then that charter school will receive the money. While vouchers cannot be used at private schools in many places, most areas already have a quasi-voucher program in place. 

This idea of vouchers saving money does not take into account the thousands of students who are currently enrolled in private schools or who are being home schooled. Those students are not a financial burden to the states. If state spending on education is $6,600, which is approximately what Florida spends per student, the state saves $6,600 for every private school or home-schooled student. If we go to a full voucher system, then the school districts and states would have to spend multitudes of money providing vouchers to students who are not in the "system."

Here's an example. Let's assume there is a K-12 private school within a school district that has 1,000 students. Let's forget about the fact that tuition there is $15,000 per year while public school spending is $6,600 per year. If we institute a voucher system, that school district would have to produce an additional $6.6 million so that these currently enrolled private school students can receive a voucher. Remember, that's just one private school. If we add home schooling students into the mix, that's even more money. How could such a system be economically feasible when there isn't enough money to sustain the public school system in its current state?

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