School Vouchers
by Michael Spencer

The great fallacy of the current debate over school vouchers is that vouchers will harm public school students by taking money out of the public school system. This fallacy has been carefully nurtured and disseminated by public school teachers, and their unions [collectively referred to as Educators]. The heart of the fallacy is a confusion between school district expenditures and per pupil expenditures.

Basically Educators see changes in per pupil expenditures as being inexorably linked to changes in school budgets. When considering the impact of vouchers, this is definitely untrue. To see why, let us look at the impact of vouchers on a hypothetical school district.

Assume that our hypothetical Dewey School District:
  1. has 6000 students;
  2. receives annually the sum of $7000 per student;
  3. is required to provide a $3000 annual voucher to any student whose parents request one;
  4. has 1200 students request vouchers.

Then without vouchers:

  1. Dewey has an operating budget of $42 million;
  2. each Dewey student benefits by $7000.

Then with vouchers:

  1. Dewey has an operating budget of $38.4 million [$42M - $3.6M being 1200 students each receiving a $3000 voucher];
  2. each voucher student benefits by $3000;
  3. each Dewey student benefits by $8750 [the $38.4M budget divided among the 4800 pupils remaining after the voucher students have left].

Result, with vouchers the Dewey operating budget declines by 9%, but the per pupil funds available to Dewey students increases by 25%. The precise figures will vary among districts, but public school students are always better off when vouchers are available, so long as the amount of each voucher is less than the amount received by the district.

Educators regularly claim that the way to improve the current standard of education is to increase the public schools' annual per pupil subvention. So why are they so adamantly opposed to vouchers? Because Educators are more concerned with the total amount of money in the system than with the amount available for each student. The logic is simple: reduce the system total and the number of public school jobs will fall - teachers will be laid off.

Even though vouchers will considerably increase the per pupil subventions for public school students, Educators oppose them. Not because Educators really believe that vouchers will cause the "pauperization and demise of the neighborhood public school" - they are not quite that mathematically challenged - but because vouchers will cause some public school teachers to lose their jobs.

On the issue of vouchers, teachers are seeking to feather their own nests at the expense of poor children.

Michael Spencer is a retired lawyer who served two tours in the military.