So it looks like Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s education plan is to move towards vouchers, according to the New York Times.
Vouchers for schools means that each kid will have a voucher attached to them, say $12, 000 a year. And the theory is that with this $12,000 a year, your kids and my kids can choose whichever school we want them to go to. The idea is that families can “vote with their feet” and each local school will be forced to compete in the free market of schools.
What’s actually going to happen:
1. Schooling will be a perpetual scramble for parents, always comparing and looking for the “better” school;
2. Parents have no time to sit and research each school, so…
3. Evaluating schools will fall to the lowest common denominators:
(a) how schools do on tests;
(b) where middle class and upper middle class kids go to school;
(c) hearsay, e.g. “I hear that this school has better computers …”
4. Kids with parents “in the know” will be able to make better choices than others;
5. Families will see themselves as “shopping” for a school, with little reason to commit to building the schools in their communities;
6. “Choice” isn’t really choice, as parents in poor school districts’ choice would be to send little kids commuting long hours to schools outside their neighborhoods;
7. “Choice” isn’t really choice, as desirable schools will have limited places anyway, and the elite private schools will still cost too much money for the vouchers to cover;
8. “Choice” isn’t really choice, as for-profit organizations will start providing cheap to free education as the companies with the deepest pockets can stay operating at a loss as they consolidate, until consumers really have no more choice. Think about a Facebook school, a Google school, a Murdoch school.
9. Money will flow towards schools which manage their P.R. better, not necessarily better schools.
10. Schools with families who don’t get their first few choices (because of cost, admissions criteria, distance, and number of seats) will generally have much lower morale as these schools have the “rejected” students.
11. New businesses that will boom:
(a) school P.R. and marketing;
(b) magazines, web sites that rank schools;
(c) new prep/ tutoring centers for taking the admissions tests of schools of choice
(d) for-profit schools and institutions, especially online schools, as those are the cheapest to run.
“Vouchers” is not a model of public education that has been tested to show school and educational improvements, and none of the top countries in the world in education uses this model widely. Completely opening the public coffers for education to any private organization will be a crazy bonanza for corporations as they would not only have access to public money, but the hearts and minds of young people (to an even more profound degree than they do now).