Minn. explores the education voucher system

What is the education voucher system?

The point of the voucher system is to provide an option for families who are dissatisfied with the public education in their district. It gives those an opportunity to choose a different school and still be directly supported with the funds they're paying for education taxes. With these funds, students can choose to attend a school in a different district, or opt to pursue an alternative education, such as home or charter schooling.

The voucher system gives parents the freedom to choose the type of school they want their students to attend without having to pay twice-- once as the education tax, and again as tuition for their preferred school. The voucher system, ideally, provides the opportunity for low income families to enjoy a variety of educational opportunities, without also shouldering a huge financial responsibility.

This voucher system is already enacted in Wisconsin, with a few restrictive additions intended to ensure this system is being used by those who need it. Specifically, in addition to implementing the voucher system, they've established a limit to participation, with income being one of the requirements.

Originally, Wisconsin legislators were not optimistic about participating in the voucher system. However, according to Jim Bender, president of Wisconsin School Choice, "we're a little bit shocked by the amount of demand the rural schools are hearing."


Milton Friedman, called the grandfather of the voucher system, was a fan for a variety of reasons. As a staunch capitalist, he was interested in increasing competition between schools, which he claimed would increase the quality of the education.

Using post-secondary education as an example, students choose which school they will attend based on price, location, values, opportunities, etc. The result has been very positive in America, with colleges and universities showing up more than 40 times in the top 100 list compiled by Times Higher Education of colleges and universities in the world. Click THE picture below for the link to the full results.

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Ideally, the voucher system would loosely reflect the system already in place in post-secondary education by allowing families to choose a school based on the student's interests, needs, or skills.

Why not?

If applied to primary and secondary education, will this system develop the same positive results throughout the American education system?

The primary fear of individuals is that the system, although increasing competition among schools, will also lead to academic "skimming", with the majority of the public education funding and students will attend one school, leaving the rest of the schools in a difficult situation.

In Louisiana, people were concerned that the voucher system, by providing a choice of school to the students, would propagate racial discrimination in the school system.

However, in a study done by Education Next, "evidence suggests that use of private school vouchers by low-income students actually has positive effects on racial integration."

Furthermore, Wisconsin State Assembly member, Sondy Pope, takes issue with the results of trial run in Wisconsin. She said that the system completely missed the students that were supposed to be served, namely, public schooled students who are interested in attending a private school, but unable because of financial obstacles.

"With no preference given to public school, students and 76 percent of applicants coming from outside of the public school system, expanding the private school voucher program was designed to subsidize families that have made the decision to educate their children in private schools."

In other words, she is worried that the program will be utilized by people who have already chosen to attend a private school and not by those who want to, but can't.

My thoughts...

All in all, the voucher system offers opportunities in education that are not present in the public school system. By providing an alternative to public education, it will introduce competition to the system, making both schools better. Each will be motivated to know their students and provide the best education possible to suit their needs and interests.

The potential downfalls to the voucher system are minimal and temporary. As students move away from the traditional public schooling system, those schools will experience reduced funding requiring them to diminish in size in direct proportion to the rate that alternative schools are growing.

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