Vouchers to Pay Private School Tuition
Two conditions that justify government intervention in a market are the presence of external benefits and equity concerns. Both of these issues are present in the case of primary and secondary education in the United States. Think about what education without government education would look like. In the absence of government intervention, all primary and secondary education in the US would be private. Public school districts would not exist. Parents would need to pay private firms (schools) to educate their children.
If all education were private, its likely that people would buy too little education, from societys point of view. External benefits are one reason. When a child is educated, he or she benefits and we expect his or her parents to take those benefits into account when they purchase education. But there are additional benefits to society which parents may ignore. As people become more educated, they are less likely to be unemployed or be criminals and are more likely to volunteer and vote. The presence of these external benefits is an example in support for the government getting involved in education.
Many families in the United States have low incomes. Among all children in first through twelfth grades in 2001, 46% were from families with incomes below $40,000. Since the cost of private education would be an important share of these families incomes, most Americans would be concerned about the fairness of relying on markets to decide how much education children receive. Current spending by these families on private education provides some support for this concern. Of all children in private school in 2001, only 25% were from families with incomes below $40,000. Therefore, equity concerns are another example in support for government getting involved in education.
Providing vs. producing education
Most economists think external benefits and equity concerns justify government intervention in education. But it is important to distinguish between government production of education and other forms of government intervention. At the level of elementary and secondary education, K12 education, government intervention today mostly means production of education by local school districts. To benefit, children must attend public schools. But this is not the only form intervention could take.
Unit 2 Assignment: Vocher Viability
There are other markets where government intervention takes the form of subsidizing peoples access to productsthink of financial aid to college students, for example. Many people in the US think that government should move from producing education to subsidizing access.
One form that subsidy could take is government providing vouchers to parents. Parents would use the voucher to help pay for their childs education in a private school. After it receives the voucher, the school would turn it in and be paid by a local or state government.
Today there is a lively debate between people who think K-12 education should be delivered publicly and people who think quality and efficiency would be higher if government provided vouchers and the education was delivered by private schools. Some of these quality and efficiency arguments can be based on material we covered this week. Price competition between private schools will pressure each one to produce efficiently. Competition for students will lead private schools to offer programs of interest to parents and their children.
Answer the questions below and make use of the sources supplied. Be sure to cite you sources in your answers.
1. Explain whether a potential exit by students with vouchers will lead to the improvement of public schools. 2. Discuss whether the implementation of vouchers will lead the best students to leave public school, which could lead to a decline in education for the students left behind in the public schools. 3. Consider what might happen to the students who use vouchers to leave public schools in order to attend private schools. How might their academic performance change as a result of switching? 4. Finally, think about the impact of a voucher system on the students in an urban setting. Describe whether all families would have an equal opportunity to access education.