Other people’s children

White voters, with their own children in private or suburban schools, have written off schools for other people’s children, concludes The Economist’s review of education in California.

Back in the 1960s, California had the fifth-highest spending-per-pupil rate in the country. Now it ranks 30th and spends $7,240 — around $600 below the national average and $4,300 below the level in New York. Yet its education challenges are greater than those of any other state. Not only are so many of its pupils learning English as a second language, but many of them are poor and their parents move around a lot. In many urban high schools, fewer than one in 20 students of an entry class will graduate from the same school.

The results are depressing. Californian students score below average on every national test; only around half California’s students are proficient in the basics. In 2002, California ranked 43rd in verbal SAT scores and 32nd in mathematics. One in five Californians aged 25 and over lacks a high-school diploma—the ninth-worst figure nationally and hardly a good omen for the knowledge economy.

. . . Education epitomizes the state’s problem with government. There is the wide gap between public and the private systems; a public-sector union adamantly protecting its turf; an incoherent administrative map; and a lunatic funding system.

Via Lloyd Billingsley of the Pacific Research Institute, who focuses on the establishment’s hostility to school choice.

About Joanne


  1. theAmericanist says:

    Don’t forget to look beyond the horizon of the usual suspects within the education debate, JJ: this isn’t just the teachers union vs school choice.

    For one thing: The late Howard Jarvis, the Prop 13 guy, started his political activism pretending to be what we’d now call a libertarian: he wanted to close parks, playgrounds, libraries, etc., that he didn’t use because he didn’t want to pay for them. He lost, because folks understood what they GET for their taxes, and liked having ’em. So he went after property taxes with the vague and powerful message that they’re simply ‘too high’, and that services didn’t need to be cut because of ‘government waste’. That worked. Like the Hitchhiker’s Guide t the Galaxy pointed out, the most powerful force in the universe isn’t gravity, it’s the Somebody Else’s Problem field — and Jarvis, followed by Reagan, built that into the connection between what people pay in taxes and what they get from the government that, in the end, IS “We, the People.” Everybody always feels THEIR taxes are too high — and that they’re not getting enough for the money: that’s why states that get more than they pay (like all the ones who went for Bush) support tax cuts.

    For another: you know (cuz we’ve talked about it) how immigration advocates insist that it is all benefit, and no cost. That simply isn’t true. The National Academy of Sciences reported in 1997 that there is a marginal national economic benefit to immigration of as much as $10 billion (in a $10 TRILLION economy), which is like picking up a dime off the sidewalk when you’ve got $100 in your pocket. But immigration adds $1,500 a year to the average taxpaying household’s tab in California, mostly for education. So the primary beneficiaries of immigration IN California, in the form of cheaper labor costs for everything from software to lawn care, are exactly the ones who refuse to pay the bill.

    You might want to pass that along to your former colleagues at the Merc: coming from you as an admonition not to use it as just another tool to call for charter schools, perhaps folks might resort to the use of facts.

  2. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Hey, tA, you missed Reagan throwing crazy people into the street and impoverishing our public employees. Oops, California public employees earn more than and retire earlier than the private sector folk who are “undertaxed” to pay them?
    I agree on the costs of the illegals, a cost unfortunately loaded disproportionately on health care. Mexican Medicare is a bus ticket North.

  3. Ken Two says:

    I don’t know you JJ but I have met people like the Americanist ever since Prop 13 went into effect. They just can’t understand how citizens would vote in a measure that would limit property taxes to 1% of the value of the property instead of having those same taxes raised each year depending on the whim of the state bureaucrats.

    In other states the money is collected through other techniques but the net effect is that all the states have managed to get more and more money for their biggest expense items – schools.

    Catholic Schools are often held up against public schools because they consistantly do the job of educating K-8 kids for about half of what California spends. Countering that argument, some contend that the Catholic teacher gets less pay and the schools don’t admit problem kids.

    Well, the pay is about 75% lower in the first years and it’s true that the schools can only be inclusive to needs to a point. Maybe we have to approach kids with special needs in a different way than thru school. A little creative thinking here may be called for.

    But those with math skills can quickly discern that the salary gap doesn’t account for the tuition/cost disparity between Catholic and public. And turning on a tax spigot as suggested by the previous writer is a huge waste of money. The people at PRI are absolutely right.

  4. I could be wrong, but my understanding is that California’s per capita spending on schools started dropping as a result of court decisions mandating equal spending across school districts. When local property taxes are spent on local schools, and residents can see the value of what they are getting for their taxes (both educationally and in higher real estate values), they are far more willing to pay taxes to support education. Once you cut the ties between property taxes, strong local schools and local real estate values, though, property owners become far less willing to pay up. The result: less spending on schools, as has happened dramatically in California.

    This same folly is being forced on school financing willy nilly by the courts in Vermont, New York and elsewhere. You couldn’t dream up a better way to ruin public education but that doesn’t deter the levelers who won’t be happy until all children have the same rotten education.

  5. theAmericanist says:

    (smile) It just fascinates me how hard folks work to miss the point. In the sense I made it, it doesn’t actually matter if property taxes are high, or low — the point is simply that you get what you pay for. If you don’t want to pay for it, don’t ask for it.

    Wallis: I wasn’t referring to illegals, but to immigration. Learn to read.

  6. As I said in an earlier post…vouchers should be considered as a viable alternative!

    As a public school teacher, I know I am in the minority when I say this, but throwing good money after bad is NOT the answer! Money doesn’t solve the problems! It helps in some ways but doesn’t fix it – competition is what education needs. I have taught in both private and public schools and know that each has its strengths and weaknesses. But until the general populus has the authority and right to stand up and say, ” I am sick of mediocre schools and I’m taking my kid to one that performs better,” the schools will stay in mediocrity. Competition is what fuels this economy – why shouldn’t it fuel education??

  7. Ken Two says:


    You are right.

  8. Superdestroyer says:


    The problem I have with vouchers is that the demand for elite private schools greatly exceeds the supply today. What are vouchers going to do? Increase the deamdn without increasing the supply. Why? Because it takes decades for a private school to establish itself as being good. Most middleclass parents will be out of luck because the public schools will collapse while they are stuck with picking among a few store front or back room schools that have space.

    In addition, in a world dominated by private schools people in mobile jobs are massively screwed. Look at the military who refuse to go to Hawaii because the public schools are rotten but the private schools are set up to exclude new arrivals. How does vouchers fix that?

  9. SuperD…

    If the demand is there, businesses will form to create the supply… In the private sector, when there is money to be spent on a certain need, people will find ways to fill that need in exchange for money… Contrast that with the government, where you take what they give you, and then they complain because they don’t have enough money…

    If vouchers became available to everyone right now, would there be enough private schools to fill the demand..? No… However, would there be enough private schools five years from now..? Yes…

    Money talks…

  10. I teach math in a public high school. I’ve often “played with the numbers” to see if, should vouchers ever come to California, I could start my own school with a few other teachers. The obstacles are enormous; it would be difficult at best. How many teachers would it take to teach at a school that offered enough varied educational opportunities for students? Trying to answer that question has actually kept me up at night.

    As for teachers themselves, I’ve either been extremely lucky or quite blind. The *vast* majority of teachers I’ve worked with, both in Title I schools and well-to-do schools, are dedicated, exceptional educators. I’ve seen so little of the dead wood I keep reading about. Why do students not learn as much as we’d like? I don’t put as much blame on teachers as others do. Unfortunately, we teachers don’t help ourselves in such arguments when we:
    1) oppose standardized testing, the only objective standard we have for student performance,
    2) have a union (CTA in California, and NEA nationally) that is so out-of-step with ordinary citizens in political views, and
    3) keep insisting that we throw good money after bad, support every tax increase there is, and support only Democrats for office (even in Colorado, where one Democratic candidate supports vouchers!).

  11. Ken Two says:


    Keep playing with the numbers but give up trying to create a school that offers “enough varied educational opportunities for students.”

    I think you could market a school that presented a core curriculum and raised expectations among all the constituents. The biggest problem would be the mindset of the recruited faculty. I don’t know at first blush where you would go for your staff. But there are plenty of curricula models out there.

    There’s a model in early American History. John Adams changed schools as a child a couple of times and never moved from the family farm in coastal Massachusetts. His father was simply dissatisfied.

    Stick with your idea.

  12. superdestroyer says:


    In cities like New York and Washington, DC the current demand for elite private schools greatly exceeds the current supply yet no one is opening schools to compete with this market because it takes decades to build up the reputation for private schools. The market is inefficent since there is no reasons for people to take the time to develop good elite private schools. They are all non-profit and still costs a foture.

    The profit motive is not working now and will not work in the futre. All vouchers will go is drive demand and prices up without solving the supply. thus the midddle and upper middle class who benefit from good suburban schools will get screwed when the public schools collapse but they cannot get their kids into the elite private schools.

  13. I think you can pretty much discount anyone who is unable to write “private schools” without the adjective “elite”. What adjective does this imply for public schools?

    Reminds my of my grandmother, who was never able to say the word “cat” without saying “damn” first.

  14. “…the current demand for elite private schools…”

    I guess I’m just a lowly redneck that doesn’t subscribe to the belief that every school needs to be elite… (As I was once told, “By definition, 90% of kids are not in the top 10% of their class…”)

    Vouchers will not solve any supply shortage… Business owners responding to the laws of economics will solve any supply shortage…

  15. superdestroyer says:


    The waiting lists and numbers of rejected students at the top private high schools in cities like Boston, New York, and Washington, DC indicate a huge demand for academically rigorous high schools. Yet, no one has tried to open such a school in years.

    Why aren’t all those educational entrepreneurs out there chasing those dollars? Because, those entrepreneurs cannot start a school from scratch that people will want to send their children to instead of those top schools. Yet if people start getting a voucher for six thousand dollars they will begin to want to send their children to those schools instead of the local storefront school that the entrepreneurs start up. It is called a barrier to entry and is part of any supply and demand curve. The entrepreneur can start up a school but they can create a reputation out of thin air. In addition, many of the early start up school will be failures (something that is easy to predict from basic economics).

    You do not see anybody giving up Harvard to attend the University of Phoenix do you? The same motivations will apply to private elementary and secondary schools.

  16. You do not see anybody giving up Harvard to attend the University of Phoenix do you?

    I guess the University of Phoenix is a failed business model then. What a pity for all the people who invested in Apollo Group, Inc.

  17. Zach — schools aren’t businesses, nor should they be. There are many costs to education that cannot be seen as other than long-term social investments. They are incremental, and how they benefit society is frenquently not quantifiable — how can you measure the cost/benefit ratio of getting a kid with a propensity for trouble into an academic mindset?

    As I posted before, I went to school in CA before Prop 13 really kicked in. My sister’s kids are the results of post-prop 13 schools (same schools, mostly). My mother was not all that involved after I was about 12, but we were fine. My sister is very involved, and the kids are still not doing quite as well as we did. From the descriptions my sister has given, I think the schools aren’t as good. they’re bigger, more impersonal, and a lot of the music and arts instruction has disappeared.

    I do agree to some extent with the people who are worried about the unions — and I’m in the AFT. Still, I am not sure exactly what the function of tenure is for K-12 teachers. In colleges and universities, it’s supposed to preserve our academic freedom, but the AAUP still has guidelines on what that means. And mostly, it’s to allow us to publish on controversial topics, etc. I can see cases where this might come into question in public schools — in English classes in high school, we debated abortion, the dropping of the atomic bombs, and the red scare, topics that some parents might feel were inappropriate (although I think they’re all valid academic endeavors — especially since Roe v. Wade wasn’t all that old at the time, and there was tons of information on both sides of the issue available); however, I don’t think any teacher has a right to push a particular agenda, whether it be “America is the good guy” or “America is the villain.” (for example). That’s bad teaching: bad teachers should be coached in better pedagogy, but if it doesn’t work, then they shouldn’t be teaching.

  18. I do know someone who gave up Harvard to transfer to a college which had a program for students who wanted to become pharmacists. It fit her career plans.

    Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C. all house large numbers of wealthy, influential people. It is understandable that there would be huge competition for the “right” elite schools. On the other hand, there are large numbers of smaller private schools which provide an excellent education, but do not have the same “snob appeal”. It strikes me that there are a number of wealthy, influential people who wish their children to attend school with the children of other wealthy, influential people. In other words, the student body’s connections is a factor in the decision, as well as the education.

    As I wrote above, however, there are a large number of smaller, good private schools who do accept students. In the Boston area, for example, you will often find them clustered around cities (including Boston) or towns whose school systems are perceived to be abyssmal. If I were looking for a private school for my kids, I would find the selection greatest in those areas in which the demand is greatest.

  19. Colorado passed a pilot voucher program last year for 11 districts, starting at 1 percent of enrollment and rising to 6 percent. More than a hundred private schools signed up to participate, many planning to expand. The amount of the voucher was 75 percent of what the district would receive (the district kept the rest) and that plus the fact that only students who were from poor families and doing badly on state assessments were eligible meant the districts did not oppose the program.

    However, a coalition of teachers unions and other succeeded in getting a court injunction to stop the program, and it’s now before the state Supreme Court.

    So much for wanting to help children.

  20. Superdestroyer says:


    Look at Honolulu. Over 50% of the kids attend private schools yet the wait lists at the top ten high schools are long and they are hard to get it. There are many other small private high schools but even many of those are full. Are you willing to ask the middle class to give up sports, band, choir, science, and advanced math for vouchers. None of the private high schools that the educated, middle class sent their kids to since they could not get into the top few schools offered none of those programs.

    I want to hear about a city with many good private high schools that have spots open for student who move in the middle of the year. Please give a specific. Then look at what it takes to get into Iolani or Punahoa in Honolulu is and tell me they are equivalent schools.

  21. “[S]chools aren’t businesses, nor should they be.”


    “I want to hear about a city with many good private high schools that have spots open for student who move in the middle of the year.”

    Implement vouchers, and I’ll be able to give you all the examples you want…

  22. Superdestroyer,

    You are confusing the quality of education with “brand name”. These elite schools have a good brand name and can charge a lot to parents who want the “brand name” on their child’s diploma. That doesn’t mean the education is better or worth the cost. Sure, a new private school won’t have the “brand name”, but it can still deliver a quality education. It turns out that at the college level the educational quality is actually worse at the elite research universities because the focus is on research instead of teaching. But students still go to those schools to get the “brand name”.

  23. theAmericanist says:

    Schools — or at least, public schools — aren’t and shouldn’t be businesses because a successful business must cut its losses and fire folks — sometimes, even their customers. The public schools cannot and must not do that — no matter how much it costs.

    When a particular customer becomes more cost than he’s worth, a smart business will dump him — even though he/she/it is paying for the product or service, the marketing/maintenance etc. can not only drain enough resources to drag a business into the red, it imposes opportunity costs, as well. (Just think of trying to get an upgrade for an outdated computer or application.)

    What MBA would want the “business opportunity” posed by large numbers of unprepared students in underfunded schools with undertrained and ill-motivated teachers, without a TON of money made available to make it worthwhile?

    That said, on the value of brand name in education: Maybe the funniest thing a President ever said in those boring commencement speeches, by JFK when he got his honorary Ph.D. from Yale in 1962: “I’m glad to say that I finally have the best of both worlds — a Harvard education and a Yale degree.”

  24. Cousin Dave says:

    Ah, Americanist, I see you turn up here too. There are a few things you’ve conveniently left out of your argument, such as the economic context that Howard Jarvis operated in. The late ’70s were the stagflation years: costs were rising while incomes remained flat or declined. In California, there was huge inflation in real estate. The result was that, as property assessments went up, people who had lived there for years found themselves being taxed on theoretical gains that they couldn’t actually realize. This is always a problem with property taxes, but most of the time people tolerate it because they usually don’t rise that fast, and because people do recoginze that the cost of the things that property taxes pay for also go up. However, in California’s case, many people who had moved out there in the ’40s and ’50s found themselves with yearly property tax bills that exceeded what they had paid for their houses. (And worse, the assessment system was stacked so that the assessed value often far exceeded the actual market value.)

    Yes, those people could make a lot of money by selling, but then if they went to buy something else, they’d have to pay a similarly high price and would then find themselves back in the same boat. The only way out, for many of those people, was to sell and leave the state. Jarvis perceived that if something wasn’t done, California would soon find itself with a depleted middle class. Hence Prop 13.

    Ironically that very thing, depletion of California’s middle class, is happening now. The problem is property taxes specifically, but more of the general cost of living and the cost of living with the California government. The spread become costs and income has become intolerable for a lot of middle class workers and small business owners. Lots of those people are moving to Arizona and Nevada. If memory serves, in the 2000 census, southern California actually experienced a decrease in population.

    Now Prop 13 certainly wasn’t perfect; it had a number of undesirable side effects. (For instance, certain property owners were grandfathered in at the time Prop 13 passed, and this created a two-tier tax system.) But it was the first shot across the bow of the state’s regulatory-legal complex. And it looks like the Governator’s about to launch a new one:


  25. Superdestroyer:
    You write, “None of the private high schools that the educated, middle class sent their kids to since they could not get into the top few schools offered none of those programs.” Should I understand that you mean to say that the small private high schools, to which the educated middle class families chose to send their kids, do not offer “sports, band, choir, science, and advanced math”? Please correct me if I have misconstrued your sentences.

    In answer, I would have to say that academic subjects come first. In comparison to literacy and numeracy, sports, band, and choir are secondary considerations. If middle class families are choosing to send their kids to private schools which do not offer sports, band, and choir, rather than send them to the local public schools, then I would say that that should answer your rhetorical question.

  26. Superdestroyer says:


    I would argue that many parents weight the issues of public school versus private school. Many parents seem willing to give up the extras of the good suburban public schools because they want a religious education, want a different ethnic make up, or just do not like the local public school.

    However, if you go to vouchers to destroy the public schools, then many families will have to give up marching band, choir, foreign language, science, advanced math, so that some students can have vouchers. Those middle class families will be unable to get into the private academies that many offer what they want. Those middle class families will be going to the local christian school and struggling to make up the differene.

    The problem with vouchers is that the proponents of the systems vastly oversell. At the most, vouchers can make the situation of some student better some of the time. That is it because that is the real world.

  27. So why is this only the fault of white voters? What sort of assumption underlies this statement?

  28. “…if you go to vouchers to destroy the public schools…”

    Why do you say vouchers destroy public schools..? The only studies I’ve seen show that when public schools are facing a threat via school choice, they tend to improve… The threat of losing revenue seems to light some fires…

    Have you seen other studies..?

  29. Personally, I love SuperDestroyer’s logic: because some students want band instruction others must accept a substandard education.

    Let’s assume he’s right, even though he isn’t. Who decided (and with what authority) that the sole purpose of rich and middle class kids attending school is to provide others with more educational opportunities?

    The underlying truth supporting his outlook is that these children are tools to be used for the benefit of others. The kicker though is that he can’t figure out why the parents of his tools don’t agree with his view.

  30. superdestroyer says:


    I am still waiting for anyone here to offer the least bit of evidence of any town where a private school has opened in the last few years to met the demand for private schools. I am also waiting for anyone to describe a town where good private schools have opening for middle class people. I do not expect an answer because those places do not exist.

    When most strong advocates for vouchers propose vouchers what they are really wanting are more schools based inside of churchs (thus low initial capital expenses) Yet, I have never lived in a town where a church based private school has marching band, football, choir, etc.

    When pushing for vouchers, the advocates need to stop overselling them and admit that people are going to have to give up things for them. Many kids are going to have to give up sports, arts, advanced math, advanced science, etc when the vouchers crush the local schools and the advocates are so disengenious that they will not admit it.

  31. Rita C. says:

    The Catholic schools around here have very strong sports programs.

  32. I think the premise of vouchers is that demand for private schools will increase when parents are given a choice and the means to afford them…

    You want voucher proponents to prove a cause and effect claim by showing examples of the effect before the cause has appeared… That will never happen… Basic logic…

    And since you brought it up, some private schools have exceptional sports programs… Most of the perennial powerhouses are private schools… That’s primarily because public schools (usually) aren’t allowed to recruit, whereas private schools can… Plus, private schools can offer more than public schools… Think of them as scholarships for high school…

  33. Well, Superdestroyer, I’m thousands of miles away from Hawaii, but I must say that the description of local Catholic schools in Hawaii available on the internet isn’t that bad. (http://www.hawaiicatholicschools.com/directory.aspx)

    Choosing from those schools which have internet links, I note of Damien Memorial School, “(a)s a member of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu, Damien fields teams on various levels of football, basketball, baseball, track and field, cross-country, soccer, bowling, volleyball, wrestling, canoe paddling and golf.”
    They also claim to have a band room, which leads me to believe that they have a band. They also have academic tracks which make Advanced Placement courses–even in math and science–available to qualified students.

    Sacred Hearts Academy also seems to offer math, science, band, and sports. They are an all-girls school, so no football. St. Francis School, another all-girls school, also seems to offer academics and extracurriculars.

    St. Joseph Jr./Sr. High school also seems to offer academic courses, sports, and extracurricular activities.

    These are just schools chosen at random from a list on the internet. I am not Catholic, so I’m not trying to defend anyone’s honor. It does seem to me, however, that most of the web sites for these schools do prominently emphasize that financial aid may be available, and the fees are certainly much more reasonable than those demanded by “elite” high schools.

    Once again, I must say that academics come first. If a school has a wonderful marching band and a winning football team, but a significant percentage of its students do not graduate, or a significant percentage of its students receive a diploma although they are illiterate, can that school be said to be fulfilling its mission? Is that a school which a parent will choose?

  34. Mark Odell says:

    theAmericanist wrote: If you don’t want to pay for it, don’t ask for it.

    And by the same token, if I don’t want it and didn’t ask for it, then I have a simple request: don’t force me to take it and don’t continue to force me to pay for it, as if I can’t change my mind, just because you think it’s good for me.

    {QUESTION rhetorical_mode=yes hint=”No”}
    Did somebody die and make you Philosopher-King?

  35. Why is anyone surprised that aging Anglos don’t feel like taxing themselves out of their homes to pay to educate Mexicans? It isn’t really complicated. How much property tax does an illegal living with his cousin in an apt pay?

    Since Anglos don’t choose to send their children to majority black schools, why do you think that will send them to majority Hispanic schools?

    There was an article in the WSJ a while back that described what happened in California when upper middle classe Anglos, devoted to the public school system, sent their kids to the majority Hispanic, public school. It wasn’t pretty. It was the Hispanics who objected to the “pushy” white parents.

    So, as the Anglo population declines and the Mexican population climbs, why do you expect that the schools will not look more like the schools in Mexico? We should take schools in Mexico as the yardstick, not schools in the best part of English speaking North America. In that case, the schools in California will look pretty good.

  36. I’d make a little different point about the situation in Hawaii. Superdestroyer is right that the public school system ranges from barely mediocre to abysmal and that a large percentage of parents who are able to send their kids to private schools do so. So all that competition ought to be making the public schools better, right? Nope. The Department of Education seems to be carefully organized to make it impossible to figure out who’s responsible for anything, so parents realize pretty quickly that it’s a lot easier to bite the bullet and pay for private school than to try to fight the system. I strongly suspect that offering vouchers in Hawaii would just make the state system even more ingrown and unresponsive than it already is.

  37. jeff wright says:

    I’m white and I grew up in California—graduated HS at age 17 in Los Angeles in 1962. How good was the education then? Well, I “tested out” in some freshman English, math and science courses and earned a BS in 3 years. It was my nickel so speed was important. Note that the very same LA school district is now a basket case.

    Fast forward 42 years. Homeowner in San Jose. Retired U.S. Army officer, one daughter who graduated HS in Maryland, picked up dual science degrees with honors in college and now has a neat job in biotech. I picked up a teaching credential three years ago, thinking that perhaps I could do something meaningful in the latter part of my working life. Right. Haven’t been back to the schools in a year and do not intend to do so. It takes a really special person to stay with the public schools these days. I really admire most teachers. I don’t have the sticking power.

    What most of you, other than Cousin Dave and Joel—who’ve nailed it—don’t seem to understand is that folks like me, who’ve grown up in a rigorous, disciplined environment and who’ve given their kids the same type of environment just aren’t going to continue to support the train wreck that public schools have become. Thank God for Prop 13. And in fact, the teachers and all of the other feel-gooders out there should also be grateful to Howard Jarvis. Were it not for Prop 13, white flight from California would have been far more pronounced than it is now.

    Folks, California is becoming a third-world state. Why anyone who’s invested in the American system all of his/her life, paid taxes, worked for a living, gone to war, and has just kind of basically followed the rules would tolerate the state of affairs in California is beyond me. The state has become unmanageable, even for the Terminator, and it will soon become unlivable for anyone who’s not super rich or poor, but actually works for a living. WRT the schools, you can talk vouchers, you can talk this and that, but until we get schools that will just laser-beam a lot of these kids and their parents between the eyes, we’ll see no improvement. And people like me are becoming less and less willing to pay for it.

    I sold my mother’s house in Orange County last year for a ridiculous price and sold my house in San Jose last month for an even more ridiculous price. We are now renting. Comes 2006, we’re out of here.

  38. theAmericanist says:

    Here is the problem in a nutshell: “Why is anyone surprised that aging Anglos don’t feel like taxing themselves out of their homes to pay to educate Mexicans? It isn’t really complicated. How much property tax does an illegal living with his cousin in an apt pay?”

    As noted above, I was talking about IMMIGRANTS, not illegals. So we’re not talking about “Mexicans” — but AMERICANS.

  39. jeff wright says:

    Excuse me, Americanist, but it doesn’t matter whether they’re here legally or illegally. The fact is many if not most Mexican immigrants do not intend to become American citizens and do not invest in our society. And the last time I looked, the term “American” is reserved for citizens, not for resident aliens.

    Yes, they pay taxes, but the fact is their tax rates are typically so low that they do little to support their children in the schools. Further, an all-too-common scenario in California is for immigrant Mexican parents to remove their children from school for one or two months each year to spend extended vacations in Mexico, thus undermining the efforts of the schools that are attempting to somehow get the kids into mainstream American society. They would not do this if they genuinely cared about their children making their way in this complex society.

    We all love our immigrant past. I for one have always strongly supported our liberal immigration policies, especially while watching xenophobic European states slowly dying off. Unfortunately, we have somehow lost the formula that’s successfully assimilated millions of non-English speaking people over the past two hundred years. We are becoming Balkanized and I do not believe it is my responsibility to pay for the upkeep of those who choose not to join me as a citizen of my country and to otherwise contribute to the maintenance of the society I and my ancestors have worked to build.

  40. Anonymous says:


    “I am also waiting for anyone to describe a town where good private schools have opening for middle class people.”

    Claiming there are no good private schools available is ridiculous, they’re available everywhere. You also haven’t addressed the core issue, which is why you think my son’s responsibility is not to get his own education but rather to make sure other children have band and choir.

    You consider me a tax resource and my son a school dollar resource. Neither is correct. We have every right to our own goals. The fact that you consider us tools to support a government organization tells me all I need to know about your backward priorities.

  41. theAmericanist says:

    Gotta love a poster who exemplifies the problem he bitches about.

    Jeff — there is a HUGE difference between legal and illegal. Blurring that is WHY we’ve lost — to the extent we have, which has been my career for more than 20 years (ask JJ) — our commitment to Americanization.

    It is not true that Mexican-Americans become U.S. citizens at a lower rate than immigrants from other source countries, when you factor in the length of time they have been here. You’re just wrong, Jeff. (Check the BCIS statistical yearbook, the US Census, reports done by the Institute for hte Study of International Migration at Georgetown, the records of the bipartisan, Congressionally-mandated U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, and so on.)

    What IS true is that the failure to make distinctions, e.g., between legal and illegal, means that our immigration policies don’t make sense.

    To make sense, they have to impose MUTUAL obligations — on the immigrants and on us, you and me. Americanization means that “they” become “us” — and it also means that who “we” are, as in “We, the People”, changes and expands to include them. You don’t seem to like that, Jeff — so when you bitch about immigration policy, look in a mirror.

    Shunning their own responsibilities is why it is wrong for folks (most especially those of the bogus libertarian persuasion) who like that cheap labor for software and lawn car, to refuse to pay for educating immigrant kids.

    If you want it, pay for it. If you don’t want to pay for it, make sure it isn’t delivered COD.

    JJ — pardon the personal story, but our host and I ‘met’ on the phone about 7 years ago, when she was still at the Merc. She had written a column kvetching about being questioned crossing the Canadian border, and going on to criticize the (horrors!) possibility that enforcing the law against knowingly hiring illegal workers would mean that EVERYBODY would have their SSNs checked when hired, being as how we all have to use ’em for employment anyway. Since I was a small player in proposing and debating that innovation, I called her up to point out that the way to fight discrimination is to treat everybody the same.

    That’s the American way — which is how we have always Americanized immigrants, hell, it is how we became America in the first place.

  42. Private schools around here do offer band and sports. Harding Academy, which is Church of Christ, has a very active band program. I’ve seen the kids at Solo & Ensemble and they are doggone good. They have sports too. So do the Catholic high schools, at least the co-ed ones.

    However, these schools have been around a very long time. You can’t set up programs like this overnight. There will be a lot of half-a. storefront schools springing up when vouchers let loose, just like the daycares and MCOs that we got when Tennessee implemented Families First and Tenncare. There has been one financial scandal after another with those two programs, huge embezzlement of our tax dollars, and the unsophisticated poor suffer because the money that’s supposed to go to them doesn’t. I wish I thought vouchers would be different but they won’t be. And as to whether the purpose of vouchers is to help or destroy the public school system – there are voucher proponents on both sides of that one.

  43. Fletcher says:

    Many of California’s new residents are from a very corrupt third world. If California is swamped by these newcomers faster than they can be assimilated, then California itself becomes a third world quasi-colony. As the more affluent citizens and corporations refuse to be sucked dry by the tax and regulatory demands of the sinking ship, and move away, the ship sinks faster.

  44. Walter E. Wallis says:

    If Mexicans can pay a Coyote 3 grand to be smuggled across the border, they could afford to post a bond guaranteeing that they would not burden the welfare system and that they would obey our laws INCLUDING OUR VOTING LAWS.
    I sometimes think the only chance of California getting relieved of this burden of venality and pusilanimity is to shop for an extremely conservative judge and have him legislate from the bench that funds paid to illegals come out of the paycheck of the payer.

  45. Tim from Texas says:

    When I first visited California back in the 70’s, I went there believing the propaganda that Ca. was a state with progressive and open minded people. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. The Anglos, both affluent and not, wanted nothing to do with the Mexicans and other immigrants, legal or otherwise. It was ok for them to take care of their lawns, build the houses, harvest the crops and so forth enabling them to maintain their lifestyle thru thick and thin. They refused , however, to make sure a good majority of immigrants, especially, the Mexicans, became assimilated. They kept moving away, or they established special neighborhoods.
    All one met there were angry Anglos,Blacks,which is another story along the same lines, angry totally segregated Mexicans, angry everybody. Now, it’s worse, and nowhere left hardly for the Anglos to escape. I feel so sorry for them> My heart just bleeds.

  46. SD…you argue that new (high-quality) independent schools would not open to meet demand created by vouchers, and seem particularly concerned about the entry barriers represented by branding of the elite schools.

    Thought experiment: almost all cars are built by the government (at low quality levels) and paid for out of taxes. The only private auto manufacturer is Mercedes, who charges even more than they do now. Rich people buy Mercedes; everyone else must make do with the gov-cars.

    It is proposed that the government issue “vouchers” so that people can buy their own cars if they want, instead of being issued gov-cars. Opponents of this move argue that most people *still* won’t be able to afford a Mercedes, so what’s the point?

    Are they right, or will someone start a car company called “Ford” or something like that? If they do, will people buy Fords, or sulk because they can’t afford Mercedes and stick with the gov-cars?

  47. “Thought experiment: almost all cars are built by the government (at low quality levels) and paid for out of taxes. The only private auto manufacturer is Mercedes…”

    This is a bad analogy. There are very inexpensive private schools out there. Some are of extremely poor quality, but they’re there. Lots of private schools offer scholarships for needy kids. There’s also homeschooling, which is done by people with very modest means. The government does not have a monopoly on schools, even for the poor.

  48. Laura…yes, I understand those points. I was trying to take his point about brand image to an extreme. My belief is that even if there *weren’t* reasonably-priced schools with good quality, then the explosion of demand created by vouchers would call them into being.

  49. theAmericanist says:

    It stretches it a bit to take it to Jarvis (who WAS an example), but one of the peculiar demographic facts about California is that if you count people from NY or Iowa, there are lots more “immigrants” than just those from Mexico.

    That is, a very substantial part of the well off and pissed off in California weren’t born and raised in California, but in places that (at the time, the late 50s and 60s, well into the early 70s) simply didn’t have much immigration — or diversity at all, in fact. You can overdo this, but there is something to the idea that lots of folks went to California, particularly southern California, expecting to find Walt Disney homogenized neighborhoods in Orange County and around San Diego, even the engineers who took jobs in aerospace and in the Earlies in Silicon Valley, at HP and Intel.

    Imagine their disappointment to discover that California was the real America, after all — and that their homogenized white bread ideal, was not.

    Paying to educate other people’s kids is simply a civic obligation, like it or not. Folks who bitch about having to meet that obligation have generally forgotten just how much they GOT, before they started to have to pay it back: defense contracts, DARPANet, the interstate highway system, subsidized water…

  50. Superdestroyer says:

    Mr. Foster,

    The is more to economic supply and demand curves than just saying that the market will met the demand. Mercedes or Ford can always just build another car to met demand. Yet, if the demand for seat at the top (elite) high schools increases, the number of seats at such schools does not increase.

    I have argued (and no one has offer the smallest counter argument) that in today’s affluent areas, the demand for seats at the top private high schools greatly exceeds the demand. Yet, no one is going out and starting new top high schools to fill the demand. Why? because the supply for top private high schools takes decades to fill.

    When people argue that if we had a voucher system, parents could send their children where they wanted to, I always correct them to say, under vouchers you could send you children where you can get them admitted which a very different set of schools than were most parents would want their children to attend.

  51. Superdestroyer says:


    I checked the homepages of both Damien and Sacred Hearts. They are your tradiational upper private schools (admission applications, entrance exam, interview). It also sounds like Damien is your typical private high school that only accepts applicants for 9th grade. So if the public schools close and re replaced with vouchers, what are the military children moving to Hawaii at the start of the 9th grade suppose to do. It is too late to take the exam, get an interview and start the year. Those kids are stuck at the local chirstian school or the store front school. Under the current system many military families will not move to Hawaii (or El Paso, etc) since the public schools are bad and they cannot get their kids into good private schools. That is what the entire US will be under a voucher system: the rich is a great education, the poor are excluded, and the middle class are scrambling to keep up or are left behind. How is that different that the current system exempt under the voucher system the good public suburban high school will cease to exist.

  52. Mark Odell says:

    theAmericanist wrote: Paying to educate other people’s kids is simply a civic obligation,

    enforced at gunpoint,

    like it or not.

    NOT, thank you very much.

    Folks who bitch about having to meet that obligation have generally forgotten just how much they GOT, before they started to have to pay it back: defense contracts, DARPANet, the interstate highway system, subsidized water…

    {QUESTION rhetorical=no}
    And after you’ve “refreshed our memories” and we “remember”, what then? What’s your point?

  53. jeff wright says:

    Well, Americanist, you’re all over this one. You’ve gone from immigration policy to civic obligation. Good for you.

    However, this thread really isn’t about immigration policy. Legal/illegal isn’t really the issue here—although IMO, taxpayers should absolutely not have to pay for illegals’ education. The issue is the civic obligation.

    I have no problem with paying taxes for things that work to the betterment of society. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as if the schools are doing that. They won’t do the hard thing and tell the truth to immigrants: learn English, math, etc., or mow lawns all of your life. I’ve spent nine years of my life overseas, speak two foreign languages and I believe I’ve almost certainly had a whole lot more dealings with foreign nationals—European, Asian, Latin American—than you have. Continuing refrain: they will do what they have to do to make it, just like all of us. They’re not stupid, they’re not bad, they’re human beings. And, just like all human beings, they are capable of great things if challenged.

    I don’t care to continue contributing to what has become a totally corrupt and dishonest system, one that lies to immigrants and American taxpayers alike.

  54. I have argued (and no one has offer the smallest counter argument) that in today’s affluent areas, the demand for seats at the top private high schools greatly exceeds the demand.

    No one has bothered to offer a counter argument because the point is simply not relevant to the voucher issue.

    The purpose of vouchers is not to allow parents to send their children to elite “Mercedes” schools, the purpose is to allow them to escape from government-run “Trabant” schools and seek out “Ford” or “Chevrolet” or “Honda” schools.

    For vouchers to be effective, we don’t need private schools to compete with the exclusive schools that cater to the offspring of celebrities and politicians; we merely need them to compete with public schools and with each other.

  55. greeneyeshade says:

    a friend of mine, a private-school parent like me, raised a point nobody seems to have touched on. he argued that if vouchers were enacted (as our home state of md. was debating at the time), private schools would just raise their charges to cover the amount of the vouchers. something like that seems to have happened in college education. anybody?

  56. Existing schools might raise tuitions by the voucher amounts if no new private schools were permitted to open. Although even this unrealistic scenario should be tempered by the fact that some of the private schools, e.g. parochial schools, are run for altruistic reasons and would tend to raise prices only to cover costs.

    Realistically, tuitions might rise temporarily by something less than the voucher amount until new schools open or existing schools expand and begin competing for the new potential customers. But public schools would also be competing for the vouchers, with the initial advantage that they already have the seats available, which would tend to keep a lid on rates.

  57. My reference above to elite “Mercedes” schools was not a good one, since Mercedes is also a mass-produced automobile. A hand-crafted Rolls-Royce or McLaren would have been a better analogy for schools of the rich and famous.

    Also, I didn’t mean to imply that all public schools are “Trabant” or “Yugo” schools, but some of them are. With effective competition, the worst of these would likely close, and most private and public schools would be in the “Ford-Chevy-Honda-Mercedes” range. Hopefully with a range of features to suit the individual customers’ needs.

  58. Superdestroyer says:


    What initially will happen is the demand for seats at the upper schools will skyrocket. Then when most of the parents find out there are no seats there, they will be stuck scrambling to find seats at the corner academy. Then most people will find out that the deal is not as good as they were promises (parents can pick the schools). Why would the elite schools add seats after vouchers when they have long waiting lists and large number of rejections. They (the elite schools) do not want any more students. Thus, in the initial years, the demand will greatly exceed the supply. Also, the barriers to entry for new schools will be huge. That is why there are no for profit schools now. The capital costs, the payroll, insurance, etc will be a killer.

    In the end, vouchers will help the poorest kids in the worst inner city schools but will screw over the kids in the good suburban schools. That why much of the middle class is not excited about them.

  59. theAmericanist says:

    JJ would know more than I, but just as I DO know that by far the largest cost imposed on California taxpayers by immigration is educating the kids (because the grown ups haven’t been here paying taxes long enough, so the burden is — temporarily — disproportionate), so too, I think the largest cost within the California education system is educating the foreign-born. Am I right, JJ?

    Bitch all you want — but there is a REASON taxes pay for the public school system. Complain enough and you just might muster the will to fix what’s wrong with it — but if you’re bitching cuz it’s expensive, then you’re just whining to no purpose except to exhibit your selfishness, myopia and general un-Americanness.

    I cited the umpteen things that government spending/policies have done for the middle class (like create it, and/or the conditions that made it possible), because I find that lots of folks who have benefited enormously from other people’s taxes sorta forget that when it comes time for them to pony up.

    Jeff, there ain’t an English language instruction program in the country without a waiting list. And you’re bitching because hiring ESL teachers takes money out of your pocket: pitiful.

    I don’t think that’s libertarianism, it ain’t civic minded, and it ain’t virtue.

  60. jeff wright says:

    Dear Americanist:

    I am a credentialed ESL teacher.

  61. theAmericanist says:

    And does your program have a waiting list?

  62. Greeneyeshade, your point is one I’ve made before and I believe it is valid.

    If a private school can fill its seats with kids whose parents can cough up $5000/year, and those parents get $3000/year vouchers, tuition will go up to $8000. Look, these schools that cater to lower-middle-class families would love to have more resources and pay their teachers better. They don’t charge more tuition because they can’t.

  63. Superdestroyer, vouchers will have little or no impact on the demand for “elite” schools, where the tuitions are far in excess of any anticipated voucher payment. You keep coming back to “elite schools”, but these are not at all relevant to the voucher issue.

    Laura, your prediction could only come true if there is absolutely no competition among private schools, or between private and public schools.

  64. Superdestroyer says:


    If you do not think that vouchers will not affect the demand for the top private schools then you need to go back to the demand-supply curves you keep thinking are going to fix the problems. If the marginal costs of attending an elite private school go down due to vouchers then the demand for the schools will go up. Many parents who did not want to pay 10K a year may be willing to pay five out of pocket and let the tax payer pick up the other five. All the way down the tiers of private schools the demand will increase while the barriers to entry (initial capital outlays, insurance, staffing up) are signifcant barriers to entry to the level of schooling that many in the suburbs already have.

    However, if vouchers become universal, the message will be clear to middle class parents: “Only losers send their children to public school.” Thus demand spikes will supply will only slowly increase.

    In addition, before you argue supply curves one more time, give an example of an elite private school in the top ten larges cities in the US that is less than 10 years old. That is the school that would be most common to be created in the first few years of universal vouchers.

    Also, go look at the list in Worth magazine and tell me how many are less than 10 years old.

  65. Superdestroyer: Ask, and ye shall receive. From Boston Magazine, Sept. 2002:

    “Like Masconomet, the private high school many admissions deans consider to have the most impressive intellectual offerings in Greater Boston is not well known. But if Boston University Academy (BUA) isn’t a familiar name yet, give it time. Just beginning its 10th year, BUA is an infant beside private-school peers like Roxbury Latin and Phillips Academy, which are more than 200 years old. Yet it has quickly become a powerhouse, where SAT scores average 1,430 out of a maximum of 1,600 (the national average is 1,019) and students regularly perform as well as the college kids alongside whom they take classes at neighboring Boston University.
    For the first few years of BUA’s existence, students from the all-but-unknown school were not winning admission to elite colleges. “Parents sent their children here knowing that they’d have a better chance of getting into Harvard if they sent them to public schools to get straight As,” Tracy says. But as BUA’s graduates have gone on to light up the academic boards at colleges across the country, highly selective schools are taking a closer look. Every Ivy League school sent recruiters last year, and BU Academy’s 2002 graduates are headed for Amherst, Brown, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Wellesley, and Oxford University, to name a few.” (http://www.bostonmagazine.com/ArticleDisplay.php?id=137)

    18 months ago, BU Academy was just entering its 10th year.

  66. Superdestroyer says:


    Not exactly a new, for profit school. Also, at 20,0000 (with capital supplied by BU) not in the range of the voucher crowd and not something that will be easily reproduced. It also has the limitation of forcing students to start at 9th grade only thus students with mobile parents are again shut out. BUA is the type of school that demostrates vouchers will not provide the type of school that voucher advocates claim it will. It also does not have football or band but does have an environmental club.

    BUA also has the Holy Grail of private schools, a leadership position for everyone. Somehow holding up BUA makes the Ford Pinto of education, the local christain academy, look like a piece of crap.

  67. Superdestroyer: You asked for, “give an example of an elite private school in the top ten larges cities in the US that is less than 10 years old. ” BUA is an example of such a school. I was under the impression that elite private schools tend to be competitive in admissions and to demand much of their students. I do not see how the existence of private schools of varying quality increases or decreases the value of an education at any one school.

    In addition, the “good schools in the suburbs” already function under a system which puts school administrators under pressure. If the perceived quality of a school suffers, then the administrators see enrollment numbers drop, because parents have the means to change schools. It may entail sacrifices on the parents’ part, but much of the middle class could make this switch. Vouchers would have the greatest effect on families who could not, otherwise, conceive of a different school for their children. To someone who has no car, a Ford Pinto would be a blessing.

  68. superdestroyer says:


    I keep holding up elite private schools and the difficulty of admission as an example of how the private sector will not automatically produce a large number of private schools. That a city like Boston managed to produce one more elite private high school (11 years ago and done by a university not a business starting up for profit or a group of parents) demonstrates the difficulty of starting up private schools. Yet, every time I hear someone discuss vouchers they claim that the money in the system will instantly produce many good private schools (real world not withstanding). I also hear from voucher proponents about how Al Gore III, Jesse Jackson III, etc get to attend private schools. But the elite in this country send their children to schools that the middle class have no chance of gaining admission to.

    Now compared to Anacostia High School or East St Louis, the corner christian academy will probably be able to offer a better environment. But to the suburban kids at schools with AP and IB programs, all vouchers will do is hurt their schools. Why? Because if vouchers are in place, the preception is that only losers will attend public school. So many of those kids is good public high schools will end up at the same corner christian academy that the kids for the poor urban schools will be going to since their will no spots in the elite private schools

    Ask yourself this: What would be easier, for the private sector to produce ten more BUA or for every suburban area to have the equivalent of a Thomas Jefferson High School of Alexandira, a public high school with a mean SAT score of 1450 (above that of the elites at BUA).

  69. Rita C. says:

    Here in the St. Louis area, the Catholic schools, which are generally fairly reasonable in terms of tuition, are closing by the droves. I think the Lutheran schools, which I don’t think are very good quality, are holding on. We also have a number of small private schools and charter schools. Charter schools have not been what they were advertised to be, and I know a lot of the teachers working in them.

    Interestingly, one of the best private elementary schools in the area has a curriculum based on Multiple Intelligences Theory.

    In general, I think the predictions of schools opening up to meet demand are unrealistic. Running a school is expensive, and making a profit is extremely difficult. Didn’t Edison go belly up? Furthermore, most private schools, imo, are very mediocre and once parents realize they can get mediocre at their public school, they’ll quit shelling out the difference between the voucher and the actual tuition. Ghetto schools are probably the exception (the East St. Louis schools mentioned above are a disgrace to us all), but I don’t know how long parents are going to shell out a few thousand dollars a year for their kid to be a pain in the ass and cut class.

  70. Destroyer: Of course I agree that a voucher large enough to cover half of a school’s tuition would influence demand. But I’m not sure how “elite” a school can be with a tuition lower thant the per-pupil cost of some of the worst public schools.

    In your next post, you state that a 20K school is “not in the range of the voucher crowd,” which was my point in the first place. So why do you think that schools of this type are relevant to a discussion on vouchers?

    Regarding the necessity for high-end schools to spend many years developing a brand name, another option is for existing schools to expand or open new campuses.

  71. “… how long parents are going to shell out a few thousand dollars a year for their kid to be a pain in the ass and cut class.”

    Well, here’s a point. Part of the reason the public schools aren’t doing such a terrific job for some kids is that the kids aren’t receptive to what the public school has to offer. Why would a private school be any different?

  72. Superdestroyer says:


    For the fourth time now, elite private schools and their current situation demonstrate clearly that the idea that a demand for private high schools will automatically increase the supply is false. The demand for elite private high schools greatly exceeds the supply now but those schools do not add seats, do not expand, and do not open braches. Yet, every voucher proponent keeps repeating the tired mantra that pay parents and the schools will magically appear. I recommend you really study economics instead of repeating something that someone else has told you. The supply curve for private schools is hard to affect due to signifcant barriers to entry. In addition, schools are hard enough to run (20K plus per year for not-for-profit schools) thus, how could a private company make a profit offering $5K year schools (they can’t).

    You at least have identified the problem of developing a reputation as a signifcant barrier to entry. Even the one example given above (BUA) could start off by using the name of the associated university. How is the academy on the corner going to cope with that? It can’t.

  73. SD…

    You’re repeating the same flawed argument over and over again… You assume that since ELITE schools won’t expand enrollment to meet demand, that others won’t do the same…

    Elite schools don’t get considered elite by letting everyone in who shows up with tuition… It’s analogous to Harvard not letting everyone in… There are plenty of quality private schools that will… By comparing “elite” schools to those that would serve the voucher crowd, you are simply making an apples-to-oranges comparison… They’re not the same market…

    If you care to respond, please do two things… 1) Make a post without using the word “elite” (or any synonyms)… 2) Either fix your argument or come up with a new one…

    BTW: I suggest you take some of your own advice… I recommend you really study economics instead of repeating something that someone else has told you.

  74. M. David says:

    The Berlin Wall fell in 1989.

    15 years later, people here are still arguing against the free market.

  75. Not sure what vouchers from the gov’t have to do with a free market.

  76. If the parents are free to apply vouchers toward any school they choose, then the source of the money is irrelevant.

  77. Oh, no, Bart. No it’s not. It’s the government interfering in the marketplace.

  78. I’m not sure what your point is, Laura. The government interferes in every marketplace. It interferes in the education market by providing free schools, thereby undercutting private competitors. Are you saying that vouchers wouldn’t be a step in the direction of a free marketplace, or did you mean that only pure laissez-faire capitalism can be considered a free market?

  79. SD, I don’t have a problem with your economic arguent; the flaw is in your attempt at logic. You are trying to draw a general conclusion from a specific example. If you still can’t see the error in this, you might try a course in Reasoning or Symbolic Logic, available in the Philosophy or Mathematics departments of most community colleges.

  80. Superdestroyer says:

    I am still waiting for anyone to demonstrate in a real world example that an increase demand for good private schools causes an increased in supply of good private schools (contrary to my real world examples of the increased demand for elite(sorry, no other term drives the point home)does not cause an increase in the supply of elite private schools. Even an increase in customer base (more upper middle class school age or college age children) has not cause an increase in the seats available in elite secondary schools or universities.

    I am still waiting for someone to explain how a $5k voucher is going to cause people to put the work into overcoming all of the barriers to starting new schools.

    What vouchers will do is cause a huge increase in demand without a comparable increase in supply. This leads to shortages and to price inflation. How do shortages and price inflation help the middle class? They only examples of vouchers working so far is to limit them to parts of cities where the middle class is not and to keep them so low that they do not put price inflation on the existing supply.

    And for those of you who want to discuss reasoning, the repeated claim of more demand-more supply and the schools will just appear is called a hand wave and is a sign of a weak argument.

  81. Bart, I already described how vouchers are going to upset the free market in education, back in the post where I agreed with greeneyeshade.

    As far as I know, there is no one in the USA who is denied the right to pull their kid out of public school and have him privately schooled. There are people who make sacrifices to put their kids in the school of their choice. There are other people who say they can’t afford it, but spend their money on other things. That’s their privilege. The fact that the government partly subsidizes mass transportation in my city does not mean that there is no free market when it comes to my buying a car.

  82. It’s ludicrous to claim that the existence of free government schools has no effect on the private marketplace. Flooding a market with a free or subsidized commodity always has a depressing effect on the private production of that commodity. When relief supplies began pouring into Somalia and Ethiopia in response to war-related famines, farmers in the area quit farming. When Microsoft decided to give Internet Explorer away free, it all but killed the market for web browsers and ended Netscape’s viability as a company. When the federal government began to subsidize employer-provided health insurance by exempting health benefits from income and payroll taxes, it pre-empted the most of the the market for non-employer-provided health coverage.

    And it’s not true that consumer choice is unaffected by the existence of free government schools. Because subsidized public schools undercut the market and reduce the number of private schools that the market can support, the choice of private schools is curtailed even when parents are willing to fork over the cash.

  83. Superdestroyer says:


    The exclusiveness of private schools is another factor that casues people to choose public schools. If the only year to enter private high school is the 9th grade and you have to apply in the eight grade, it limits the choices people can make, even in heavily private school cities like Honolulu, there are many people who would and can afford to send their children to private schools if they could afford it but the barriers to getting their children in to most of those schools is high. Many of those parents are left with the choice of a poor public school or the loca christian academy. However, none of the Chirstian academies have the electives or courses of study that the parents want. The parents have very hard choices to make then. In the suburban areas of most large cities that is what vouchers would do, leave most parents with the choice of a declining public school or the corner academy while the rich still get the elite private schools.

    Also, what would vouchers do in most small and mid size cities. Take the small group of students wanting and capable of performing college prep and split them between two or three small academies. Thus, there would not be a critical enough mass at any school for AP, IB, honors, etc.


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