The Case for Small Government

A Libertarian Perspective on Economic and Social Policy

April 06, 2006

Democrats and Vouchers

Democratic politicians tend to oppose education vouchers. One reason is that Democrats obtain substantial support from teachers’ unions, which see vouchers as a serious threat.

Yet one constituency Democrats claim to represent—the economically disadvantaged, especially minorities—is the one with the most to gain from vouchers. This group has the worst public schools and the least ability to choose better ones.

Apparently some Democratic politicians and low-income, minority parents are beginning to realize vouchers might be worth a try. Read more about it here.


At 5:36 AM, Blogger Mike Huben said...

Ah, the voucher talking point. Starting off, per usual, with poisoning the well by claiming teachers should be disregarded because of self-interest. Never mind the fact that teachers have a pretty good idea of what's needed to improve education. Never mind that voucher-funded schools wouldn't be teaching the 3 R's any differently or better: they're a trojan horse to introduce a 4rth R, religion. Never mind the self-interest of the folks funding the voucher astroturf movement. Never mind that actual voucher experiments show opportunity for fraud, but no clear-cut improvement.

At 9:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Government vouchers will addict private schools to government money, which will erode the very freedoms that allow private schools to be better than government schools.

Society needs to move away from distarous government control of education.
tax-funded vouchers will move us closer to 100% government control.

Say no to Big-Government Republican vouchers.

At 9:30 AM, Blogger Chris said...

I am not sure if I agree with Huben statements about teachers or curriculum improvements, but I think his overall point is correct.

The voucher system probably won't work.

Now, getting back to disagreement, I think we have to go further, rather then less!

At 10:39 AM, Blogger Tom C said...

Well, this is hardly the blog to praise regulated monopolies, but they work pretty well in general, especially the US version. Whenever Americans want a core level of access or quality for everyone on a completely egalitarian basis, we wind up with a regulated monopoly. Why should education be any different?

And, fact is, that the burden of proof for change is on the people who want change. The education system that is so constantly attacked has produced the magnificent economic results we've achieved over the last 50 years. You'd have to go a long way to convince me to dismantle it for reasons of philosophical purity.

Are things perfect? Of course not. We continue to put pressure on educators by forcing ourselves to educate "everybody" (NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND! REALLY! NONE! EVEN CRIMINALS, THE PROFOUDNLY RETARDED, AND DRUG DEALERS!) in a setting originally created for the middle 80% of kids. With even less help from parents than 30 years ago. But instead of tearing the whole foundation down, how about just fixing the really bad problems first?

At 2:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike, what is the self interest of the folks funding the voucher movement? How are they making money off it?

Vouchers create an opportunity for fraud? Like there isn't any fraud in any government programs ever. Oh thats right its only republican government programs that have fraud.

Where do you get your drinking water?

I sympathize with Rich. It would great to see vouchers with no strings attached. But that will never happen. Still I think its important that schools compete so that there is innovation and the bad ones get shut down. Poor children are trapped in their bad public schools.

I think it would be good to decentralize education and make it a local/state thing rather than a federal thing. That would help assuage Rich's worries.

Most importantly we need a way to break the power of the teacher's union. Until that happens implementing changes that benefit education consumers instead of just teachers will be difficult.

My sister is a teacher. A few years ago they had a decrease in budget increases. The school administration gave themselves raises. So the teachers threatened to strike if they didn't get raises too. In the end they cut the buses for elementary school kids. So the government beaurocrats got theirs and the unions got theirs, but the kids get the short end. In private industry this would never happen -- prices are set by the market. Consumers and producers of education would get together and agree on a price thats acceptable to both parties. Instead of having prices set by bribing a congressman in DC.

At 4:00 PM, Blogger James said...

Is there any position huben won't go along with if he thinks it undermines libertarianism?

From the post above, "Starting off, per usual, with poisoning the well by claiming teachers should be disregarded because of self-interest."

Ok, I get it. Don't worry about the motives of those making an argument. Fine.

From the same post, "Never mind that voucher-funded schools wouldn't be teaching the 3 R's any differently or better: they're a trojan horse to introduce a 4rth R, religion. Never mind the self-interest of the folks funding the voucher astroturf movement."

Ah, if the party making an argument is pro-voucher, then examine their motives.

At 5:32 PM, Blogger Mike Huben said...

Eric said: "Mike, what is the self interest of the folks funding the voucher movement? How are they making money off it?"

Here's how to find out. Search Sourcewatch for vouchers. Look at who is bankrolling the voucher proponents: conservative, right-wing, Christian foundations such as this list.

James: my complaint about Miron isn't simply that he refers to the motives of the arguers, but that he doesn't address the argument in any way EXCEPT the motives. The voucher opponents are much better in this respect, providing real arguments and rebuttals.

My primary objection is not to libertarianism per se, but rather to the egregious nature of the propaganda methods which are generally abused by libertarians. I like to expose the nature of the propaganda.

At 7:46 PM, Blogger Chris said...

I hate to break it to you Mike, but there is substantial evidence that vouchers work. Milwaukee and Cleveland specifically are seeking to expand their programs because not only have the students participating in the voucher programs improving, but public schools themselves have improved because they are competing for funding.

You fall into the same trap as Miron by accusing supporters of vouchers of having an ulterior motive which - you must know - doesn't refute the legitimacy of vouchers. Actually, it's important to note that you motive accusation is pretty far off the mark. Many libertarians are also athiest, yet oddly still support vouchers as a legitimate compromise on the issue of education.

Lastly, what is this magic bullet that teachers have for improving education? Let me guess. More money. I'd like to point out that a) funding in education has increased 3 fold in the last 50 years, yet achievement is flat
b) private schools are generally underfunded when compared to public schools yet outperform them handily.
c) there have been NO studies conducted that show a correlation between per-pupil funding and achievment (nor class size)

At 10:43 PM, Blogger James said...

huben says, "my complaint about Miron isn't simply that he refers to the motives of the arguers, but that he doesn't address the argument in any way EXCEPT the motives."

Well for one, this is false. Miron's post is rather short so I don't see how you could have missed the third and fourth sentences (out of 6!) which points out that the economically disadvantaged would gain from the increased ability to to choose alternatives if they find the government schools unsatisfactory.

For two, what do you expect in six sentences that don't even purport to be making a pro-voucher case? Miron's post is just a pointer to a news story that he found interesting.

For three, do motives matter or not? Or does it depend on whether the person examining motives is a libertarian? Do motives matter if a voucher proponent is motivated by religion? Do motives matter if a voucher opponent is motivated by the greed of teachers' unions?

"The voucher opponents are much better in this respect, providing real arguments and rebuttals."

I see mostly attacks on motives. From the article Miron links to:

National critics of school choice like Reg Weaver, president of the country's largest teachers' union, the National Education Association, accused voucher supporters of "exploiting the frustration of these minority parents to push for a political agenda" intended to undermine public schools.

At 9:41 AM, Blogger Chris said...

MH, nice ad hominem

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