More Newark Vouchers…And, All Those Voucher Supporters Don’t Look Alike…

Matt Yglesias posts a response to his voucher query of the other day. But while it’s an interesting theoretical argument, it misses the reality of today’s voucher debate. Hardly anyone besides the hard core Milton Friedman types are arguing for universal vouchers along the lines of what Yglesias’ correspondent is describing. The serious proposals are for means-tested vouchers, targeted at the poor, and they generally do not allow private schools to charge tuition or fees in excess of the voucher.* For the most part the urban reform theory is that the competitive pressure from vouchers will force the public schools to improve thereby making them more attractive to middle and upper-class families, the idea is not to just give those families vouchers. Rick Hess shows some of the problems with that in practice in this book, punchline here. And, all that said, as I said I still think that at best they’re a marginal reform (and they do have the potential to create a parallel publicly funded system besides the one, which we can barely afford, that we have now). *The last proposal for a universal voucher plan (2000), the brainchild of .commer Tim Draper in CA was soundly defeated and opposed by many traditional voucher supporters precisely because it wasn’t targeted to the poor. In fact, though not well known, that caused a public rift between Friedman and Stanford’s Terry Moe.

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