In response to the 8/22/12 post, “A Thought Experiment With Vouchers and Charters,” a reader writes:

SC,

Well done! I agree!

But I find the most troubling immediate detail on the topic is that the students attending private, parochial or home schools, currently, are not receiving direct tax support. Extending such support to those students waters down the available funding by that percentage of students.

SC Response You bring up an excellent point.  And one that I have yet to hear addressed.  There are two ways your concern could be addressed and either way paints the voucher proponents into corner.

Let’s say (as most assume) that if we fund vouchers, the money simply follows the student, but the pool of public education money remains constant.  Now the number of publicly funded students increases, meaning that the amount funded per student must decrease.  The effect is a significant net minus for public schools (fewer dollars per student) and a significant net windfall for private, parochial and home schools (more dollars per students).  In this case, it is exceedingly difficult to argue that you are not favoring the affluent (who opt out of the system at a far greater percentage) over the less affluent.

But what if the general funding assumption is incorrect?  Instead of keeping education funds constant, the legislature agrees to keep per student funding stable and simply add to the money pool an amount equal to the cost of providing a voucher to every student currently attending private, parochial or home schools. Now one could argue that the net fiscal effect to public schools is essentially neutral.  However, there still remains the significant net windfall for private, parochial and home schools.  Meaning we are still favoring the affluent over the less affluent.  But now our legislators have to explain why they are willing and able to find funding for the affluent, when they were militant against doing the same for public schools in years past.

I have nothing against private, parochial and home schools.  Just like I have nothing against use of private security, private clinics and private transportation. All of these represent a personal choice that based on one’s means, one is willing to pay for. I’m just not willing to use public money to subsidize one’s personal choice to opt out of the public system.         

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