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).

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