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Education "vouchers" solve the fiscal crisis, and also lead to economic recovery?

Simply open up K-12 education to the market place, with government only playing a role by financing the students with a yearly education check of $8000.

*www.usagovernmentspending.com shows American local governments spending $458.3 billion for K-12 education in 2012.
*(Sir Ken Robinson says this education system is a complete failure)
*The new education cost of $8000 education check to 50 million K-12 students is $400 billion per year
*This saves $58.3 billion
*(a $6000 check would save $158.3 billion)
*The yearly education check allows students(and their parents) to choose how, when, where, and what they learn, and also who teaches them
*The yearly education check of $8000 opens up a $400B/year market to entrepreneurs, teachers, and creatives
*($6000 check opens up a $300B/year market to entrepreneurs, teachers, and creatives)

State fiscal crisis solved, federal fiscal crisis solved, and the new education market leads America's economic recovery.

Thoughts everyone?


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    Jan 23 2013: My chief concern about vouchers is the unintended consequences. Middle and upper class families will do fine, I think, but not the poor. Attending a school other than the poorly-performing neighborhood one is not an option for many poor children because they lack transportation, and I haven't seen a voucher plan which addresses that (maybe I just missed it). Requiring a poor family to use a chunk of its voucher money to pay for transportation means that their kids will have to go without something else.

    How do you handle travel distance at all? Are the students farther away from a diserable school out of luck because of location? Or will there no longer be any such thing as a neighborhood school; will all scholls be open to all students? If no school has a designated attendance area, then who gets to attend the highest-performing schools which will probably have far more applicants than spaces?

    What about the special needs students? Will those families get extra voucher money to pay for the aides and other expenses their children require, or will schools require everyone else to subsidize those costs? Also, the way No Child Left Behind works, schools are penalized for their special education students. No matter how great a school might be in meeting the needs of its disabled students, those with mental disabilities hurt the school's rating, driving away voucher-wielding parents from an otherwise excellent school.

    This may be a minor consideration, but at the high school level, how will vouchers affect athletics? Will a school be able to recruit better athletes, as colleges do? High school athletics are great for unifying a community and creating a sense of community where one does not exist.

    On a separate note, I don't like the assumption that every teacher at a "bad" school is a bad teacher. Closing a poorly-performing school ignores the teachers doing good work (few though they may be).
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      Jan 24 2013: I was about to post similar concerns regarding good schools attracting more students than they can handle and "low-performing" schools in poor neighborhoods getting less funds. Services for special needs students is another great concern of mine.

      Despite my skepticism that public schools are the only way to provide education, these are serious issues to address.

      Frequently, private schools have higher ratings than public schools not because they are better in any way, but because they select high-performing students. Special needs students and students with behavior problems are simply pushed out. I know this from personal experience.
      • Jan 25 2013: For Petar's longer response
        • Jan 25 2013: Alan and Arkady I will comment down here. Good questions all

          For Allan,
          20 years of voucher research has shown the people who benefit most from vouchers are the poor and minorities. The middle class also benefit enormously, and the benefit to the rich is much less.

          An older poll from 2000 when vouchers were less popular showed that 87 percent of African-American parents aged 26 to 35 supported vouchers. Voucher programs and support are strongest in poor inner cities. A senate testimony elaborating on the voucher studies and research methodology:

          Also, unrestricted vouchers open up education to every service imaginable. Tutoring, apprenticeships, internships, home schooling, online schooling, night school, daycare, YMCA, attending community college. Which means that education becomes more than just the domain of schools. If 20 students from the same apartment block put their $8000 together, they have $160,000 to hire tutors at $40/hr to show up at their house to educate them for 4000 hours. Transportation, how about an innovative educators converting 5th wheel trailer into mobile classrooms and picking up the students to make his service offer more attractive for the parents and students holding the voucher money?

          The inner cities also have hundreds of charity services ready to educate the children, the charities have no market for education because of rules, regulations, and students being mandated to go to public school at certain times and places due to zip codes. And people who made it out of the inner city poverty cycle, vouchers open a market to them so they can earn big money going back and teaching --- they attract 40 students, $320,000 in revenue.
        • Jan 25 2013: An example if we hold everyone at public schools and switch to vouchers.

          So what happens is the public school sets a price equal to the voucher, and the parents and students pay that price to attend the school.

          This is a simple change to the funding model:
          -instead of education funding coming top-down through politicians,
          -the education funding comes bottom up through the students and parents paying teachers or schools directly.

          So for transportation and food concerns, if parents decide to continue sending their child to the public school, the infrastructure, transportation, and food services are already there.

          Consider the statistics Robert Winner just posted for his home state of Arizona:

          1a. 1,077,831 K-12 students
          1b. $7,931 per student
          1c. $8,554,744,647

          2a. 51,947 teachers
          2b. $$44,642 per teacher salary
          2c. $2,319,017,974

          $6.2 billion dollars missing.

          3a. Average classroom size is 25 students.
          3b. $9,000 national cost per student, $225,000 per class
          3c. Instructional hours for public education is ~1000 hours per year. $9/h student.

          4a. For young ages (K-5), education oriented daycare centers are $100-$200 a week, 6:30-18:30. 60 hours per week.
          4b. For 25 children: $50,000-$100,000 revenue to the day care business.
          4c. For 40 weeks, 2400 hours. $4000-$8000 per student. $0.6-$1.2/h student.
          At least $125,000 missing per class.

          Just like in Robert's example, politicians, unions, government officials of all levels, and "educrats" are stealing money from the students and teachers.

          Switching to bottoms up funding where the students and parents pay teachers directly prevents bureaucrats from stealing ~50%+ of the education budget from teachers ($6 billion for Arizona!), and puts the money into the hands of the educators chosen by the students and parents.
        • Jan 25 2013: What happens if parents and students are free to choose education services with their vouchers and opt out of the public school?

          So if the public school shrinks by say 30%.... I'd like to focus on the students. Isn't it great that they discovered an education pathway better for them? That they are liberated from the shackles of textbooks and curriculum planning by politicians? That they can choose when, why, what, how, where they learn, and who teaches them?

          Why are federal and state government mandating curriculum anyways? 12 years of life dictated by the government in an education system without much liberty?

          The funny guys and class clowns may actually like Shakespeare's comedies. They are forced Hamlet, Othello, and Macbeth. The teachers know their individual students better than the politicians. Shakespeare has many books, yet teachers are so locked up by politicians calling the shots, they have to force the textbook. It's a disgrace.

          I know tenured teachers or administrators may feel threatened by having to attract and compete for students and parents who hold the voucher money... but seriously, man up and compete like every other service does for customers. If you are a great educator, attracting students on $8000 vouchers should be no problem, in inner cities where populations are large and close together, 40 students from the same apartment block lands you $320,000 in revenue for 1000 hours of teaching plus anything parents add on top.

          So if the public school shrinks by say 30%, and they will have to tighten their belt. The same thing happens with tutors and restaurants, if you do a bad job, the students and customers go elsewhere. This is where concerns for athletic programs getting cut come in?
        • Jan 25 2013: For school activities, I think high school sports would see a boom. Because schools can begin specializing where core parts of their education service cater to specific groups:

          -Football crazy parents can send their football crazy children to education services for the football crazy where they all fit in.
          -Baseball players who see more funding go to the school football programs could simply start baseball centered education services.
          -non-athletes who see no benefits from athletic programs could choose schools that offer services focusing on arts, sciences, and engineering.
          -special-ed schools can specialize in special ed and finally have the money to employ specialists, specialist impeded by the low pay offered by public schools will finally have a market to earn a decent wage if they are good.

          Division of labor and specialization are two key components of civilization, technological advancements, and efficiency improvements... both components are absent in America's public education because of the federal, state, and local government rules and regulations. Vouchers opening up the market allow for division of labor and specialization in education services.
        • Jan 25 2013: And for inner cities, at the beginning of this post someone was concerned about transportation and costs of the poor rural areas: What are your opinions on this Allan, Arkady

          "how do you envision competition in rural areas where there's only demand for one school in a wide radius"? Well, it's a buyers market.

          Most of the rural towns I have been through in the Midwest want nothing more than the government to simply get off their lawn, and stay off. Education "vouchers" break the chains of government rule, regulation, management and operation.

          So let's say this rural community has 20 K-12 students, $8000/student.
          And the parents pool their money together
          And the parents choose me to decide the education for their kids
          And the parents choose me to be King of education.
          So I have $160,000 of government money to spend on the education of 20 kids for an entire year -- plus anything the parents or community members decide to donate.

          I would put up advertisements across Mexico:
          "Paying $80,000 cash to the Mexican Mariachi band that teaches singing, dancing, music, songwriting to a small rural American town for 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, for 40 weeks."

          Use the remaining $80,000 to buy instruments, decorations, and whatever other supplies. And for one year they are learning Spanish, music, song writing, dancing, and interacting with musicians from Mexico.

          How do you envision the education change for the children of an inner city single mother of 5 who now has $40,000 a year for buying education products and services --- where before she had $0 and a worthless inner city public school assigned by zip code?
        • Jan 25 2013: ""
          Advertisements across former Soviet countries
          -"Paying up to $100,000 in cash to the group of 3 circus performers that teach circus tricks, maths, and Russian to a small rural American town for 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, for 40 weeks."
          -"Free room + food + experience of living in an American rural town. OBO/Negotiable"
          Then I would use the other $60,000 to buy resources for all the students.
          One year of Russian, circus performing, physical fitness, health, exercise, and math.
          One year of Spanish, Mariachi bands, music, dance, song writing"
          Allan, I think if you asked your students:
          "what is the most outrageous craziest education plan you can think of for a class of 20 students for one year using $160,000" they would have many more great ideas than the ones I posted.

          The combined creativity and education talents of 300 million American market participants is much greater than that of the central planning politicians and the Department of Education.

          My favorite one so far with an open education market is from Greg Swanson: home schooling + a $50/month gym membership.
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          Jan 28 2013: I don't mind legitimate competition in education, which we don't have now. Vouchers, as you explain, might be a viable alternative. I'm in favor of what helps the kids the most, and your ideas are appealing. The only down side is that to see if something works in education, we have to experiment on actual people over time.

          By the way, where I live and teach, people would beat you to death if you suggested taking away their football program, even if it has never won a game. I still think it's worth talking about, though.

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