May 17, 2011

Andrew Coulson responds

By Andrew Coulson responds

Author: Joshua Thompson

Earlier today, I wrote a post where I questioned the tack taken by Cato Institute scholar Andrew Coulson in a piece he wrote advocating for educational tax credits (as opposed to school vouchers). Click below the fold to read Mr. Coulson's response.

Hello Joshua,

Jefferson chose to use the word "tyrannical" in this precise context–compulsion to fund religious activities, including education–and he had more personal experience with tyranny than I've had. Whatever it's called, though, such compulsion has undeniably been a key cause of our endless "public school wars." It is well worth avoiding, particularly since it can so easily be avoided by opting instead for tax credits.

I don't see pointing out this inherent problem with voucher programs as "bashing," but rather as informing. If the public is made aware of the problem and still wants vouchers, it will still have them. Conversely, to push vouchers without ensuring that the public is aware of this problem is irresponsible at best at unethical at worst.

And is informing the public about the strengths and weaknesses of different polices really "making the perfect the enemy of the good"? The facts indicate that vouchers, in two important ways, are not good at all: they extend the compulsion of taxpayers that has been so destructive in the context of state schools, and they impose a heavy extra burden of regulation on private schools that tax credits do not–a burden that defeats a central purpose of school choice policy, which is to give families access to a diverse and dynamic marketplace of competing schools.

If, as my research suggests, vouchers ultimately impose a market-stifling burden of regulation on participating private schools, and if they simultaneously drive minimally regulated unsubsidized private schools out of existence due to their funding advantage (as tends to happen), the result will be a virtually 100% government school monopoly rather than the existing 90% monopoly. Is that "the good"?

There is no "perfect" in education policy, but there are certainly good and bad policies. My goal is to ensure that the public understands which are which, and why, so that they can make informed decisions.

Best,
Andrew

Some room for thought.  I'll post a response tomorrow.

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