Friday, February 11, 2011

educational vouchers (to join food stamps) in Indiana?

Gov. Daniels is proposing educational vouchers (see: food stamps) for lower-income and middle-income families-- with the support of legislators, a national foundation for school choice centered in Indiana, and public support...if not some powerful interest groups.

This would allow them (far) more choice among educational service options. Of course, people have education options, on paper, independent of income. But in practice, access to alternatives is highly restricted for people with fewer means. This policy would inject competition into an arena where the government has tremendous monopoly power.

Opposition to vouchers comes from:
-self-interested government suppliers who want to continue with their monopoly power (can't blame them)
-those with wrong-headed and simplistic arguments about church/state (it's common to fall for "good stories")
-statists who value government, even at the expense of the poor and middle class (this is different from other "liberals" who value the well-being of the poor rather than the expansion of government as an end)
-those who generally embrace markets, but worry that onerous regulations would accompany the monies (this is a reasonable concern, but does not necessarily follow)

It's common for people to worry about adding competition to highly-regulated markets. Part of this is the abstract thinking required to imagine an unseen outcome. For example, people imagine a great expansion of religious education. But more likely, those willing to provide religiously-based education are already in the market, willing to self-subsidize their views. With government subsidies available, a wide variety of (secular) providers would move strongly into the market.

In any case, the status quo is clearly troubling and more spending certainly hasn't helped. At the end of the day, the question is whether this reform would improve things-- not whether it allow us to reach some utopia.


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