3
   

Dismantling the DC voucher program

 
 
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 03:59 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:

FreeDuck wrote:
Private schools have the ability to stop taking students when their classrooms are full. Public schools can't do that. Even if we allowed public schools to do it, then we have the problem of how to provide an education for the children who wouldn't fit.

1) I agree this is a problem -- but it's a problem made worse, not better, by terminating initiatives like the Washington DC voucher programs. If overfull public schools are a problem, sending some students to private schools is still part of the solution, not part of the problem. Even if the solution is imperfect because you're sending only some of them, not all of them or even all of the excess, that shouldn't stop policy makers from making a start.

I guess it depends on whether private schools have enough excess capacity to alleviate overcrowding and whether people affected by overcrowded schools would have the means to take advantage of the vouchers. Remember that with public schooling comes public school buses -- something that private schools don't provide. I'd be interested to see how many people of limited means could take advantage of a voucher program if they did not live near an alternative private school.

As for the DC program, based on the article you linked to it doesn't look like a voucher program at all but a scholarship program. I'm all for those too, but I'm not sure you can use those findings to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of vouchers. Presumably the scholarships were not offered to everyone. Also, in the article they say:
Quote:
Overall, the study found that students who used the vouchers received reading scores that placed them nearly four months ahead of peers who remained in public school. However, as a group, students who had been in the lowest-performing public schools did not show those gains. There was no difference in math performance between the groups.

That doesn't sound as conclusive as the headline. I'd be interested to read more about the findings.

Thomas wrote:
2) Although I think regulations can help solve the cherry-picking part, I don't think they are necessary or sufficient for solving the problem of limited resources. From the schools' point of view, full classrooms will not be a problem as long as students come with voucher endowments that are generous enough to build or rent extra class rooms. So the solution to your problem isn't regulation, it's sufficient funding, no matter if the funding is for vouchers or public schools.

I agree.
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 04:06 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:

FreeDuck wrote:
I see public education much the same as universal health care and think that the systemic challenges will be very much the same in a general sense.

The parallel with universal health care (like under the Roberts, H. Clinton, and Obama plans) implies public funding for education. I agree there's a compelling case for that, and so do many libertarians from Milton Friedman on down. But the parallel does not imply public production of schooling. If you like how food stamps work for the poor, and if you like how the Democratic candidates' plans would implement universal healthcare, you ought to like school vouchers too. The analogy is exact.

I think it's the universality which implies at least some public production of schooling and health care as there will always be some markets that cannot be profitable for private enterprise, regardless of who pays for it. (Food stamps aren't quite fitting in for me, but I'll think that one over.)
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 04:12 pm
@FreeDuck,
FreeDuck wrote:
I guess it depends on whether private schools have enough excess capacity to alleviate overrowding

I see what you're seeing in principle. I just don't see it as a problem in practice as long as students are sufficiently funded. In principle, private grocery stores have the same problem as public schools: if they're out of groceries, they can, and will, reject your demand for groceries. But in practice, this problem is hardly ever relevant, because market prices guarantee that supply matches demand. The same is true for private schools in a sufficiently endowed voucher system. Unless, of course, the public votes to underfund its school system -- in which case you're in trouble, whatever system the schools are financed under.

FreeDuck wrote:
Remember that with public schooling comes public school buses -- something that private schools don't provide.

This may happen to be where things stand right now, but it's certainly not a law of nature. Why wouldn't cities and townships be able to have their school buses make stops at private schools?
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 04:16 pm
@FreeDuck,
FreeDuck wrote:
I think it's the universality which implies at least some public production of schooling and health care as there will always be some markets that cannot be profitable for private enterprise, regardless of who pays for it.

Maybe, maybe not. The intriguing thing about Edwards's health care plan and its decendants is that they decide this question experimentally. If the government plan works better for everyone, you end up in a completely socialized system like France and England. If the private plans make everyone happy, things stay like they are now. If the outcome is somewhere in between, you end up somewhere in between, say in a system like Germany's and Switzerland's.

A properly implemented school voucher system, in which public and private schools compete on a level playing field, is intriguing in exactly the same way.
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 04:33 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:

FreeDuck wrote:
Remember that with public schooling comes public school buses -- something that private schools don't provide.

This may happen to be where things stand right now, but it's certainly not a law of nature. Why wouldn't cities and townships be able to have their school buses make stops at private schools?

I think it would be a logistical nightmare. Kids in one neighborhood could go to several different schools, with several different start times, many of which would not be on the normal public school route. It might be straight forward in smaller towns but not in major metro areas.
0 Replies
 
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 04:34 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:

FreeDuck wrote:
I think it's the universality which implies at least some public production of schooling and health care as there will always be some markets that cannot be profitable for private enterprise, regardless of who pays for it.

Maybe, maybe not. The intriguing thing about Edwards's health care plan and its decendants is that they decide this question experimentally. If the government plan works better for everyone, you end up in a completely socialized system like France and England. If the private plans make everyone happy, things stay like they are now. If the outcome is somewhere in between, you end up somewhere in between, say in a system like Germany's and Switzerland's.

A properly implemented school voucher system, in which public and private schools compete on a level playing field, is intriguing in exactly the same way.

Sounds reasonable to me.
0 Replies
 
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 04:44 pm
One problem I see with vouchers is that private schools (at least in Texas) are allowed to hire teachers with fewer qualifications.

Since taxpayers are footing the bill, there should be some sort of performance guarantee. And I don't just mean standardized testing. (Standardized testing has its place, but IMO it should not be the only measure of a school's performance.)
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 04:48 pm
@DrewDad,
You don't have a performance guarantee in any system right now. Just because a teacher has a license, that doesn't guarantee he or she will perform. Conversely, just because a teacher doesn't have a license, that's no reason to expect that he or she will not perform. The two persons in my life who taught me the most were my mother and my grandmother -- neither of whom was a licensed teacher.
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 05:00 pm
@Thomas,
Add to that the performance guarantee that you'll lose students (money) if parents aren't happy with what their children are learning. Of course, there must be sufficient alternatives available for that to occur.
0 Replies
 
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 05:04 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:
just because a teacher doesn't have a license, that's no reason to expect that he or she will not perform.

My expectation is that a trained professional generally performs better than an amateur.

edit: Ask LittleK if she thinks her training is worth something.
roger
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 05:26 pm
@DrewDad,
Hah! I think Littlek would have been an outstanding teacher without the training and license. That was just the price of admission.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 05:43 pm
@DrewDad,
That's not the relevant test, for several reasons.

1) I shouldn't ask littlek, I should ask her students -- preferably students who can make a "before" and "after" comparison.

2) I shouldn't just ask if her training is worth something. I should ask --

a) how much more it is worth than getting on the job two years earlier, and having two more years of on-the-job experience -- which would have been her alternative in Texas.

b) how her extra qualification compares to her increase in salary. From the taxpayers' point of view, one advantage of less qualified teachers is that they're cheaper, so their tax dollars can hire more of them -- which may or may not a good tradeoff.

3) One major promise of a free-ish market in schooling is that it makes it easier to experiment with radically different pedagogical approaches to schooling. By contrast, government licenses for teachers inevitably tend to enshrine the pedagogic presumtions of public schools, where the licensed teachers are expected to teach in. Hence, even if a license certifies qualifications that are valuable in a typical public school, it isn't clear at all that they are worth much in a school modeled on, say, Summerfield or Sudbury Valley. (Which happens to be my favorite pet model of schooling.)
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 05:44 pm
@roger,
Quote:
Hah! I think Littlek would have been an outstanding teacher without the training and license. That was just the price of admission.

Ditto.
0 Replies
 
 

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