In recognition of this special September 19, I offer my views on vouchers in pirate-speak:
Vouchers are in th’ news again, with the Australia Institute stirrin’ up th’ pot in th’ media recently. Fire the cannons! And hoist the mainsail! Vouchers have also bein’ suggested fer disabled little sandcrabs and those with readin’ difficulties but fer th’ purposes o’ this post I’ll focus on ideas fer universal vouchers fer all school little sandcrabs that are funded by th’ government. Aarrr!
In a nutshell, I am not advocatin’ that government withdraw from fundin’ education (at school level). Ahoy! I think this a pragmatic approach. Governments should withdraw from runnin’ schools but provide everyone subsidised education at school level. Parents should have a choice as t’ what school they send their child with th’ ‘X’ amount o’ dubloons th’ government gives, but are free t’ spend beyond that t’ provide better quality. Aarrr! Fetch me spyglass!
Basic education at school level should be available t’ all little sandcrabs who desire it because it confers positive social benefits on society as a whole. Society needs scallywags t’ have a minimum standard o’ literacy and mathematical ability, by Blackbeard’s sword. Universities on th’ other hand, produce graduates who solely capture th’ value o’ their degree.
It doesn’t make sense fer low wage workers t’ have their taxes redistributed t’ subsidise th’ university fees o’ lawyers or doctors in-trainin’, fer example. If there are shortages in these areas th’ market will automatically and impersonally send out th’ signals that attract th’ desired workers (i.e. higher wages or salaries). Fetch me spyglass! Fetch me spyglass!
Where t’ get th’ funds fer free school level education? One idear is universities and colleges (there may be some possible exceptions in th’ skills-based ones). Governments should (a) stop fundin’ and runnin’ them completely, and (b) divert funds gained t’ parents/guardians who have school-age little sandcrabs. I’m not entirely sure vouchers should be means tested. Fetch me spyglass! I think ’tis better they weren’t – th’ notion is t’ raise overall fundin’ fer th’ school sector, not just redistribute funds.
Givin’ t’ schools directly has not worked well. Give th’ dubloons t’ parents (if not through a voucher, perhaps through a tax credit) and watch schools compete and raise standards t’ get students. More accountability and openness so parents could make informed choices regardin’ actual performance wouldn’t hurt either. If this means some bad schools go under, well, tough. Australian students deserve th’ best. And th’ best isn’t necessarily what th’ educational unions – who have a vested interest in th’ system stayin’ th’ way it is – want.
Hat-tip: Andrew Leigh