Tuesday, February 22, 2011

More on vouchers ...

One thing to look for when you write an opinion piece - which arguments don't your opponents challenge.  When your opponents can't find a good counter-critique on an issue, a neutral observer should feel pretty comfortable with it.  Here are two points I made in my editorial that haven't been challenged in posted comments or emails I received:

1.  That a voucher system will eliminate the need for mandatory testing.

Given all the negative comments on the No Child Left Behind Testing, it seems that even opponents of vouchers concede a well-designed voucher plan will save millions in administrative costs and millions of hours of educational time.

2. That our colleges/universities aren't the world's best while our primary/secondary schools are not the world's best. 

Opponents of vouchers seem to have no explanation for this.  I have a simple one: There is competition across colleges and universities but without vouchers there is not among K-12 schools.  The intriguing issue is that competition among K-12 schools would be more fierce than colleges, since there are so many more K-12 schools in any given 20-mile radius.  

I keep getting comments that indicate I must have a hidden agenda for school systems.  I don't.  I send my children to my local public school, and I attended public schools growing up too.  I guess I am just pro-choice on this issue, while the left isn't.  Kind of ironic ...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Criticisms on my vouchers article with my responses

I have received a couple emails on my op ed on vouchers and also read through some of the comments on the Patriot News website.  I would like to address some of the comments.  I will address some now and some later this week.

1. Do your kids go to private schools?  (Actually, one reader asked:  "Do your children go to parochial school, for instance? Are you Catholic or do you have strong evangelical leanings that made the prayer angle so prominent?")

Two emailers have asked if I have a hidden agenda . No, my kids go to the Selinsgrove Area School District.  My wife and I are happy with our district.  However, there are many districts near us where I may feel different if we had to send our kids there.  I go go to the local Methodist church, whatever that may be worth to my skeptics.  I don't see why parent's preferences would be so irrelevant to the skeptics, however.

2.  Your writing was very general and there was no new analysis.  Did the Patriot News edit your editorial? 

No.  Any shortcomings in writing style are my own.  I had about 600 words, so I tried to lay out the general arguments economists might make for vouchers.  Many books have been written on the topic, so I thought it unwise to attempt to jam in anything more than a few general arguments in my article.'p[]

3. Can you actually name any economic or measurable benefit to vouchers? 

Opponents of vouchers seem to think a parent's preference doesn't count.  Imagine a country where the only pants are Levi's jeans.  If, suddenly, khaki's are invented, there might be no measurable output that one could point to that shows an increase in output, educational attainment, etc.  However, if some people are happier wearing khaki's, then there are economic benefits!  Economists refer to a person's happiness as utility, and if they prefer one school over another, there would be increased utility.  This is certainly an economic benefit. 

While almost every public administrator will say that test scores shouldn't maintain such a focus in today's school system - it is odd that so many would want to point to test scores as proof that a private school does better/worse than a public school.  I am not sure whether test scores would increase under a voucher system - only time would tell.  But the quality of schooling, based on the parents perspective, would be better.

Further, under a voucher system, however, some schools could choose different tactics to keep costs down or improve quality that public schools are not attempting.  What, exactly, are these tactics?  Well, frankly, I have no idea!  Ten years ago, though, I would have had no idea how a 40+ inch HDTV could sell for under $600, how we could have higher-quality cars for lower prices, or how I could have received internet access on my phone. These new inventions were created by real market competition, something that is missing in our K-12 school systems.

I will write more on a couple other questions: with the most interesting one involving the costs of vouchers to public schools. I will also point out which parts of my article seemed to get no criticism, which I take as points on which the opposition agrees (or can't find a good counterargument).

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My op ed ran in the Harrisburg Patriot News

Here is the link

Other than the title, it is the same as before.  I received a ten paragraph (yes, ten) email criticizing the article yesterday.  I will post some of the comments along with my responses over the next couple of days.