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In isolated argument the idea of school vouchers has appeal. If you can’t get the education you need, you go somewhere else to get it. The idea is that this forces those losing students to change in order to attract them back.
Everyone gets a better education.
There is a huge problem with that argument. I will use Hurricane Sandy to point it out.
Before Hurricane Sandy struck, everyone went shopping the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday before. By Sunday night, there was no bread in New Castle County. In every store, the shelves were empty.
At first it was the cheap bread that went. The dollar loaves which are the first pick of most bread eaters. As those were gone, then the basic bread of private bakers went, the brand names. Soon all the white bread was gone, and the wheat began disappearing. After the wheat was gone, the gourmet breads began disappearing, the 5 grains, the 7 grains, the 12 grains, the hearty grains… Then went the ryes, the Jewish ryes, the pumpernickels. Many people who came for white bread, who’d never paid $4 dollars a short loaf before, were snapping it up. When all the bread was sold out, hamburger buns went, hot dog buns went, dinner rolls went, starting from cheap all the way up to Arnold’s and Pepperidge Farms… The last person coming in to pick up a loaf of bread, got gourmet pumpernickel hot dog buns with oatmeal sprinkled on top…
You walked in Sunday night, October 28th, 2012… the shelves were bare…. from one end to the other….
How does this correspond to vouchers?
If everyone has the option of taking a voucher to improve their child’s education, you’ve created a crises and a lack of supply.
The best schools are snapped up first, then the 2nd best, then the 3rd, the 4th, the 5th, and at last the inner city schools being the last to go… So those shopping first get the good deal. Those say out of town, arriving late and picking out a school before the deadline, are stuck… And some, because of a shortage of schools, go without.
There was bread on the shelves the next day. But a school system that mis-allocates a student deals with that problem for a full year, seriously setting back the development of that child and possibly the room he is in….
The problem with school vouchers, is as a system, it doesn’t work. Oh it works for one individual. But it only helps the first in line. After that, it is all downhill.
For if you gave every bread shopper a number based on whether their purchase matched their expectation, those getting the store brand for a dollar would rate a +1, then if one settled for their second choice they’d get -1. Third choice would equal -2. Fourth choice a -3 and so on down the line. The total of the negative numbers would quickly balance the positive ones, making the total value of all zero, and then continue bringing the entire total further into the negative with every new purchase…. In the same way, school vouchers after the good schools were full, would increase the negatives to a point so big, they would soon swallow up any positive advantage the voucher program had every given…..
So as we approach the teaching crises. we must ask ourselves how we wish to be judged. Do we want to mandate that we will always have bread on our shelves, with plenty of choices for all? Or do we want to let anarchy or random chance decided who gets ahead, and who gets left behind?
So, why has no one looked at voucher’s impact on an entire school system before?