Why 2011 Is the Year of the School Voucher

November 21, 2011

Over the last decade, the expansion of school voucher programs, which let some students use taxpayer dollars to pay tuition at private schools of their choice, slowed considerably.  Losses in statewide referenda and in state Supreme Courts made vouchers an even tougher political sell than they had been in the past.  However, this trend took a drastic reversal in 2011, when 12 state legislatures and the U.S. Congress implemented policies that created new voucher programs or expanded pre-existing ones, says Marcus A. Winters, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

  • In creating these new voucher systems, specific portions of the population (usually low-income families) are often targeted as these are usually the families that can otherwise not afford an excellent school for their children.
  • Furthermore, one of the primary arguments that have been thrown against voucher programs -- that they will damage the quality of education provided to those who stay in public schools -- has fallen by the wayside in recent years.
  • As a growing body of data emerges from older systems, researchers have been able to assess the effects on the public school system, and have found reasons for cautious optimism: not only do vouchers not hurt public schools, but the competitive pressure they provide may actually stimulate their growth.

Moreover, beyond recent gains, it does not appear that the recent growth of vouchers will be stopped any time soon.  As one of the few policies that can both improve quality and cut costs (the cost of a traditional voucher is less than the cost of educating a child in public school), voucher programs seem to be a logical direction in which to move the American education system.  This is especially true as state legislatures seek to make unprecedented cuts in state expenditures.  In this way, vouchers are likely to remain on the agenda and continue in the near future.

Source: Marcus A. Winters, "Manhattan Moment: Why 2011 is the Year of the School Voucher," Washington Examiner, November 16, 2011.

 

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