Why Johnny Shouldn’t Vouch

For some time now, the panacea offered by conservatives and libertarians for improving the education of American youth has been vouchers.  There is no question that government schools are failing miserably.  There is plenty of teaching about the wonders of diversity and multiculturalism, but not enough instruction in the basic skills required for work or college.  The need for reform of the public educational system is trumpeted by both parties at election time, while the fact of private education’s superiority in every respect (except, perhaps, in sports programs and sex education) is tacitly acknowledged.

The idea behind the voucher plan is that the federal government should provide a voucher sufficient to fund an education for each school-age child.  Parents could choose the school on which to expend the voucher.  The school would then redeem the voucher for payment from the federal government.  In other words, vouchers are an income-transfer program, as well as a subsidy to private industry, courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer.

It is not that vouchers are a bad idea per se.  There are, in fact, many private voucher programs.  Even in the case of a complete separation of school and state, vouchers would still be a viable alternative to the existing scheme for educational funding.  Truth be told, however, all parents have “school choice” right now—just...

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