NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Progressive Vouchers

September 6, 2000

President Clinton's former Labor Secretary Robert Reich has parted company with his old boss and presidential candidate Al Gore on the issue of school vouchers. Despite Clinton-Gore's adamant opposition to them, Reich says "vouchers do work."

He proposes to give children vouchers in amounts inversely related to family income, and makes these points:

  • Wealthy and upper-class families can already select the best schools by buying homes near them -- in which case the "voucher" comes with the home -- or by sending their children to private schools.
  • There are fewer behavioral problems in private schools because they can enforce discipline in ways public schools cannot -- since private schools can expel children who misbehave, while public schools must, by law, provide an education for all.
  • Giving children from America's poorest 20 percent of families vouchers worth $10,000 to $12,000 would encourage public, private or charter schools close to poor neighborhoods to upgrade physical plants, buy new textbooks, initiate after-school programs and hire more and better teachers.
  • Children from families in the next income quintile might get vouchers worth $8,000 to $10,000 -- and so forth on a sliding scale until families in the top 20 percent received vouchers worth $2,000 to $4,000 a year.

This would encourage schools in wealthier communities to seek out enough $10,000 to $12,000 voucher students in their region to meet their budgets, Reich believes.

Source: Robert B. Reich (Brandeis University), "The Case for 'Progressive' Vouchers," Wall Street Journal, September 6, 2000.


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