“In fact, the more highly one rates the power that education can have over men’s minds, the more convinced one should be of the danger of placing this power in the hands of any single authority.”
F. A. von Hayek
School Vouchers are one of the main discussion themes, which we face in our days. The main argument which favours the school voucher system says that this system gives people the ability to choose the school (either private, either public) for their children, this implies that there will be more competition between schools, this competition will lead to a cost reduction and to a more efficient use of factors. Schools in a better shape will benefit and “bad schools” will probably close. Other important aspect related to this, it is that it provides parents the possibility to choose the school which better fits on their “taste”.
There could also be a social argument standing for the vouchers system, with vouchers low-income students have an opportunity for climbing the economic ladder, since this system can favour the best students, and vouchers can put a low-income student in the same choice position of a high-income student.
It is a general accepted empirical fact that, in average, private schools spend less per student than public schools. However, we must have in account that private schools select their own students, so public schools have more propensity to have students with special needs, who require more expenditure. Despite this, private schools have in fact less propensity to waste money, than public schools, because of profit making incentives (which public schools do not have).
We have strong empirical data providing information about benefits on grades, coming from using vouchers. For example one CATO Institute U.S. Census Bureau study shows that spending per student in Phoenix, Los Angeles, D.C., Chicago, New York City, and Houston in public schools is 93% higher than estimated median private schools. In a study by U.S. Department of Education, there was a 21 percentage point difference between the graduation rates of those in the voucher program (91%) and those who had applied to the same program, but failed to win the placement done by lottery (70%). A study by the University of Arkansas’ School Choice Demonstration Project showed an analogous behaviour in Milwaukee, where who had vouchers in the 9th grade graduating (77%) was eight percentage points above who was in public schools (69%). Finally there is a powerful report by the Foundation for Educational Choice, which revealed that in 18 out of 19 studies on vouchers, public schools had better results after the introduction of the program.
Concluding, if vouchers are available below the average that the State spends per student in public schools, and if they are provided also beneficiating students with special needs: I think that, (under the enunciated circumstances), we may possibly have a Pareto movement introducing this policy. And at the same time enjoy from better social results, as in Pakistan, where the vouchers’ program was directed especially to favour poor families.
The question of Freedom is also essential for my stand regarding vouchers, first because it generates more efficiency (because people know their own utilities and tastes better than anyone) and second because it is a fundamental moral value.
Yes, well applied vouchers may stand for efficiency, freedom and equality too!
António Capela nº739