Tom Coyne of the Associated Press recently published a piece — “Ind. vouchers prompt thousands to change schools” — about school vouchers being implemented in Indiana and Ohio. He notes that:
“It’s a scenario public school advocates have long feared: Students fleeing local districts in large numbers, taking with them vital tax dollars that often end up at parochial schools.”
In Ohio, many children are being pulled from public schools to attend Catholic ones:
“That demand comes at a price to public schools, which say the voucher program siphons off money they need. The South Bend district expects to lose $1.3 million in funding if all the students who have signed up for vouchers leave.”
Coyne is giving voice to perhaps the most pervasive complaint about school vouchers: They take money away from public schools.
What Coyne doesn’t mention is the obvious rebuttal to this complaint: So what? Why shouldn’t you get less money when you’re teaching fewer students? Why should you continue to get the same amount of money when some of your students are now no longer yours, and are instead being taught by someone else? Shouldn’t the money follow the student, rather than just going straight to the public school system, regardless of whether the student is being educated there?
Now, if public schools somehow wind up with less money per student as the result of a voucher program, then they have a legitimate complaint. But, until that’s demonstrated to be the case, there’s no basis for this objection. Who knows? It might be that voucher programs siphon off less than the usual per student amount, leaving public schools with more money per student.
This objection to vouchers — “They make public schools lose money!” — is frivolous. It’s like McDonald’s complaining that people pay them less money for two Big Macs than for three. Well, duh, you get asked to make fewer Big Macs, you get paid less money. Likewise, you get asked to educate fewer children, you get paid less money. What’s the problem with that? More to the point, how is this objection anything less than the insistence on being paid for services you aren’t providing?
If voucher opponents can’t show that public schools wind up with fewer resources per student as a result of voucher programs, they should drop this ridiculous complaint. Public schools shouldn’t get “vital” funds that they “need” for students they aren’t teaching.