Sunday, May 08, 2011

Why Vouchers Help Public Schools

The State of Indiana recently passed a law allowing its citizens to use vouchers toward private education. The vouchers are approximately $4,500 which can be used as a credit toward tuition payments. The article which I saw discussing this noted that public schools in the State of Indiana spend approximately $9,000 per child per year on education.

This struck me as simply amazing. Why would anyone - particularly teachers' unions - object to such a credit? This is a huge savings for public schools, and creates smaller classes in those public schools while also creating a greater demand for teachers in general. Let's analyze this for a moment: For each student which leaves a public school to move to a private school of their choosing, the public schools will save a net of over $4,500 per student. In a school of 1,000 children, where 20% of the students leave the school, the school will save nearly $1 million in costs per year - savings which can be used for compensation, capital improvements, and improving the quality of materials and technology available to the school.

In addition, class sizes in those same public schools will now be 20% smaller. Teachers will be able to give better attention to students who need it, and won't feel as overwhelmed and overworked as they have in the past. On top of that, the movement of children to private schools will create a need for greater teachers and services in those private schools, particularly as those private schools are often competing with one another for students and need to keep class sizes low - and with the extra funds they're getting for every student in the school, they can pass their own cost savings to hiring those teachers and/or lowering tuition costs.

The bill is also brilliant in that it doesn't shift monies toward kids who were already going to go to private school - it restricts it to children who've spent one year in public school (not kindergarten), and it has income caps as well so money isn't being shifted to save tuition for richer kids who don't need the voucher away from public schools. While there are certainly some serious concerns with other facets of the bill (discussed here) in regards to the control it gives government over education, financially it is difficult to see what arguments could possibly be made against it.

While obviously vouchers are increasingly popular and various states are passing similar bills over the past few years, the basic outline of the Indiana bill as I understand it seems a wise one for all other states to follow.