Elizabeth Warren's Sensible Thinking On School Vouchers
I've long found it terrible that kids are forced into terrible schools because their families are poor -- along with finding it terrible when parents have been jailed for enrolling kids in schools out of the area where they lived.
The WSJ quotes from the book "The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents Are (Still) Going Broke" (2003), by (now Senator from Massachusetts) Elizabeth Warren and her co-author, Amelia Warren Tyagi.
I think what they write here is right on:
Any policy that loosens the ironclad relationship between location-location-location and school-school-school would eliminate the need for parents to pay an inflated price for a home just because it happens to lie within the boundaries of a desirable school district.
A well-designed voucher program would fit the bill neatly. A taxpayer-funded voucher that paid the entire cost of educating a child (not just a partial subsidy) would open a range of opportunities to all children. . . . Fully funded vouchers would relieve parents from the terrible choice of leaving their kids in lousy schools or bankrupting themselves to escape those schools.
We recognize that the term "voucher" has become a dirty word in many educational circles. The reason is straightforward: The current debate over vouchers is framed as a public-versus-private rift, with vouchers denounced for draining off much-needed funds from public schools. The fear is that partial-subsidy vouchers provide a boost so that better-off parents can opt out of a failing public school system, while the other children are left behind.
But the public-versus-private competition misses the central point. The problem is not vouchers; the problem is parental choice. Under current voucher schemes, children who do not use the vouchers are still assigned to public schools based on their zip codes. This means that in the overwhelming majority of cases, a bureaucrat picks the child's school, not a parent. The only way for parents to exercise any choice is to buy a different home--which is exactly how the bidding wars started.
Short of buying a new home, parents currently have only one way to escape a failing public school: Send the kids to private school. But there is another alternative, one that would keep much-needed tax dollars inside the public school system while still reaping the advantages offered by a voucher program. Local governments could enact meaningful reform by enabling parents to choose from among all the public schools in a locale, with no presumptive assignment based on neighborhood. Under a public school voucher program, parents, not bureaucrats, would have the power to pick schools for their children--and to choose which schools would get their children's vouchers.
And for those of you who would scream that this would not work -- it already is. As a WSJ commenter writes:
In Colorado any student can attend any public school, traditional or charter, of their choice, unless the school is already at capacity. The only other caveat is the student / parents are responsible to get them to that school (i.e. no school bus service for out of neighborhood students).
Working just fine as far as I can tell.
And as another commenter puts it:
Obviously Lizzie did not clear this with the teacher unions but of course at the time she was the professor at Harvard and running for the elected office was not at all on her radar screen.