The Instigator
Logos
Pro (for)
Winning
51 Points
The Contender
clsmooth
Con (against)
Losing
25 Points

Education should be funded by vouchers granted to individual families, not public schools.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/14/2007 Category: Politics
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 3,007 times Debate No: 455
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (27)
Votes (23)

 

Logos

Pro

It is no secret that public schools in this country are floundering. Across the board, American students are slaughtered on international performance tests. Clearly, there is a problem. One look at the schools provided by the government clearly shows why. Complacency.

Public schools have a de facto monopoly on education in America. They are supported entirely by involuntarily-given tax dollars by every taxpayer, whether their child attends the school or not. Even if a parent decides to send their child to a private school, they must pay for their child's education as well as foot the bill for a public school education via their local taxes. It is unfair to ask parents who choose to avoid public schools (schools that are in many cases sub-standard) to support them anyway. If a parent cannot afford to pay for both schools, the choice is made for them; public schools only, unless you have lots of extra cash.

As to the quality of education, again the public school system delivers a failure. Public schools do not match up to the performance of private schools, even the low cost charter schools that operate in urban areas. (Often these schools can make do with less money than public schools receive and still generate a healthy profit.) Private schools have to compete to earn funding; if their school were of substandard quality, no one would pay to send their child there and the school would go under. Public schools are funded out of the taxpayer's pocket, like it or not. They do not have to attract customers, or compete to keep them. Unless a family can find a low-cost school, or is somewhat wealthy, public schools are their only option.

This is not to say that education should be entirely privatized. Despite its many problems, the basic idea of providing an education to all citizens has benefited our society greatly. Therefore, a combination of systems should be implemented. A system where schools can compete to win customers and make a profit, but where parents do not necessarily have to pay the full cost of their child's education. This is where the voucher system comes to the rescue.

In the voucher system, each student has x amount of dollars "attached" to them, to be spent on education. That money is given to any school the parents choose to educate their child. If the cost of the school is less than or equal to the amount on the voucher, the child gets a free education, same as he or she would at public school. If the cost is more, however, it is up to the parents to foot the higher bill.

This system has been studied statistically as well as tried and proven. There are several voucher or voucher-like programs in various states. The Friedman Foundation studied these programs and found that all of them operated at least at financial equilibrium; most actually produced a tax savings for the state. (Compare that to the average government program that runs several billion dollars in the red.) As to the quality of education in this system, one need only look at the Dutch education system. Their school choice system operates cheaper and better than the current American system by a wide margin. (Dutch high school students place much higher than Americans on scholastic performance tests.) Even in poor countries like Vietnam and the Congo, private schools are appearing. Like the charter schools in America, these schools offer a cheaper, better education than public alternatives. If this system can flourish even in the poorest nations, there is no reason it cannot succeed in America.
clsmooth

Con

Thank you for challenging me to this debate, Mr. Logos. I can only assume you did so upon viewing my profile and seeing I was AGAINST vouchers. You probably also noticed I am a libertarian, so the perspective I'm arguing from should not be surprising to you.

You say: "Education should be funded by vouchers granted to individual families, not public schools." I agree that public schools are dreadful and should be abolished. My argument is that vouchers effectively turn all private schools that accept them into public schools. Instead of arguing for the abolition of public schools, you are thus actually arguing for the abolition of private ones!

By what standards would the government decide a school was eligible to receive a student's vouchers? There would have to be some standard, right? I mean, I couldn't open a school at the video arcade and accept vouchers as "tuition," could I? Whatever the standards, since virtually all "private" schools would do whatever necessary to accommodate (and get that government money), then clearly, the government would be in control of these schools -- just like they're in control of the public schools now.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1984 (Grove City College v. Bell) that any college or university with even one student receiving government money is thereby subject to government regulation. Do you trust the government to not exercise this power when it comes to K-12?

Later, the Supreme Court ruled that vouchers for religious schools did not infringe upon the First Amendment's supposed guarantee of "separation of church and state." That was the correct decision in my opinion. But do you want the government subsidizing religious schools through its vouchers? Think about the implications of this: We could have Wahabiist madrassas like they have in Saudi Arabia, and taxpayers would be footing the bill for them.

Actually, this brings up another point: Although the First Amendment merely says "Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion," many state constitutions have specific laws outlawing taxpayer funding of religious schools. How do you plan to get around this hurdle? If religious schools were excluded, then obviously, there would still be people who footed the bill for the voucher system (through involuntary taxation), and yet had to pay out-of-pocket to send their children to their school of choice.

Finally, it seems you are arguing for a voucher program implemented by the federal government. Thus, I have to ask you: Where does the Constitution grant the government this authority?
Debate Round No. 1
Logos

Pro

To begin with, there is no reason why private schools would have meet government requirements to receive funding. The idea behind the voucher system is that the government is not the body responsible for determining which schools qualify for funding; each parent chooses the school they deem good enough for the price they are willing to pay. If parents do not want to bother with the same standards as the government, let them. And it is true, some parents might make unconventional choices for their child's schooling. Some parents might want their child to attend school solely at an art studio, or a sports training camp, or any other specialized facility. However, I have trouble imagining any parent with bad enough judgment to pay to send their child to a video arcade for their schooling.

As for the religion issue, the voucher system does not violate the First Amendment in any sense. The government is not forcing religion upon anyone; the only religious institutions receiving government funding are those that people choose to patronize. Mandatory public schools forcing religious curriculum is one thing; people willingly accepting the religion of their choice as part of their education is something else. (If people want to attend a madrassas, that is up to them, but again I do not imagine much demand for such an institution in America.)

The school voucher program also provides a neat way out of the creation science/evolution debate currently plaguing many public schools. As it currently stands, American schools are forced to decided whether forcing or forbidding the teaching of intelligant design violates the First Amendment. By allowing families to attend any school they choose (ones which could take any number of stances on the issue) this problem is resolved without any new law being passed. Now I do not have to attend a school that teaches creation science, creationists do not have to attend a school that teaches evolution, and the government did not have to choose sides either way.

The Constitution issue is perhaps the thorniest, but not altogether applicable. The Tenth Amendment specifically allows the States any power not reserved by the Feds. Therefore, it is not false to say that the States have the right to fund schooling through a voucher system.

On a side note, I do take some issue with government funding of education, but the substantial spillover benefits we receive by granting greater access to education outweigh the costs. There are safeguards against the government hijacking schools under a voucher system, and since all people receive benefits from an educated populace schools meet the definitions of a public good.
clsmooth

Con

You say: "To begin with, there is no reason why private schools would have meet government requirements to receive funding."

It is laughable to suggest that the government would not impose some sort of standard on the schools that receive its funding via vouchers. Right now it does impose regulations on "private" colleges who accept federal financial aid. Effectively, there are only two private universities in the country today -- Hillsdale College and Grove City College -- because they're the only ones that refuse all federal funding. Why do they refuse it? Not because they don't want the money... But because they don't want the government to regulate and CONTROL them.

I will reiterate: The Supreme Court ruled in 1984 (Grove City College v. Bell) that any college or university with even one student receiving government money is thereby subject to government regulation. Do you trust the government to not exercise this power when it comes to K-12? When has the government ever NOT regulated something that it had the authority to do so? It's absurd to suggest they wouldn't impose standards on the schools receiving vouchers when you can see the example of financial aid and "private" colleges, which they DO regulate and control.

Where did I say that vouchers violated the First Amendment? I specifically said they DIDN'T. Why are you raising the issue as if to suggest I said something I didn't? Federal vouchers are, however, in violation of the Tenth Amendment!

The arguments you make for freedom, choice, etc., are undermined by vouchers because I have clearly demonstrated that the government will regulate private schools if they receive public money. You have to believe that the government will exercise restraint -- that's absolutely hilarious to suggest.

And if vouchers are established on a state-by-state basis, then what of the many state constitutions specifically banning state money going to religious institutions?

I conceded that public education is horrible and cannot be fixed. Although you "mean well," you are arguing for the abolition of private schools; the complete socialization of education. Your task in this debate is not to demonstrate how public schools have failed and are destined to fail -- I concede that. Your task is to answer this: How are vouchers preferable to what I am suggesting: Abolition of public schools altogether and the complete privatization of education?

Vouchers would destroy private schools just as government funding has destroyed public ones.
Debate Round No. 2
Logos

Pro

Regarding the Supreme Court decision; I am arguing in favor of a system other than the current one, and therefore saying that the court ruling in question is mistaken. In the scenario I am presenting the government is simply not given the means by which to impose regulation on schools that are to receive money. Parents choose where the education money is to be sent, and it is sent there. The only scrutiny needed would be to keep people from stealing the voucher money, but that is hardly the same as government decrees on how a school is run. My proposal removes the government's power to say where education money is spent, making restraint a non issue.

My point in bringing up the First Amendment was to illustrate why your questioning religious schools was flawed, but I seem to have misunderstood your approach. You are saying that religious institutions are barred under state law from receiving funds. However, there are problems with those laws. If a family were denied their entitled voucher dollars based on the religious status of a school, it means a state law has imposed a religious decision on that family, making the law unconstitutional. This argument also says nothing of voucher systems in other states or countries, where said laws do not exist.

I agree that a fully privatized school system is the least complex system, and a very good overall approach to education. However, it cannot be argued that there are great benefits gained by having as many people educated as possible, and by providing an education to all citizens it ensures that any citizen who wants an education can get one. Since every citizen of a country benefits from a more educated populace, it is not unreasonable to suggest that all citizens should pay for the cost of having one.

As I said previously, the Dutch have implemented a system much like the one I am suggesting, with resounding success. This system provides the universal access of public schools, while preserving the de-regulated, competitive state of privatized education. In short, it's a win-win.
clsmooth

Con

So you are predicating your voucher system on the notion that the government also stops regulating the private universities that accept federal financial aid, and that the government would exercise restraint and not regulate something that the Supreme Court says it has the authority to regulate... AND that the government should give "vouchers" to families without applying ANY STANDARD to the schools that accepted them, because parents can be trusted. I agree that parents can and should be trusted, but if there are NO STANDARDS WHATSOEVER on how the vouchers can be spent, then why do they need to be vouchers at all? Why can't the government just give stipends in cold, hard cash? After all, if there are no standards, then my Video Arcade Academy would qualify, and literally nothing couldn't qualify. If the government is defining what constitutes a "school," then it is regulating and some "schools" will not make the grade. But if the government is NOT determining what constitutes a "school," then the vouchers can be spent on anything; so again, why not just make them cash stipends? I think you've undermined your entire argument here.

I do not believe it is a good idea to fund religious schools with taxpayer money -- but I don't think it's a good idea to fund ANY schools with taxpayer money. Nevertheless, the First Amendment is very specific and very limited. Vouchers do not violate the First, but they DO violate various state constitutions. You are wrong when you say those constitutions are overruled by the First Amendment, because the First Amendment is, again, VERY SPECIFIC: "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion." It says CONGRESS shall make no law. It in no way applies to the states. The Tenth Amendment then says all powers not explicitly delegated to the federal government or prohibited to the states, are reserved to the states or to the people. The Constitution does not prohibit the states from banning religious schools from receiving taxpayer money, and the First Amendment in no way applies. Point being: The U.S. Constitution in no way can overrule a state constitution banning public funding of religious schools. Thus, in addition to the other impossibilities your argument is predicated on, you have to add this one to the list -- passage of several state constitutional amendments.

I do not accept the idea that, in the absence of involuntary taxation, there would be a substantial number of students who wanted an education but couldn't get one. You admit that an educated populace benefits society. Well, in order to receive that benefit, society will provide education, one way or another. It doesn't have to be through involuntary taxation. Whenever there is a need, the market will meet that need -- if the government gets out of the way and lets it work. Charitable foundations would establish free private schools, corporations would love the PR benefits of giving scholarships to needy and/or worthy students, and businesses would pay for the education of their employees as a fringe benefit, etc.

You claim to be making an argument against public schools, which you admit are bad -- but you boost the idea of public education time and time again. As I have demonstrated here, the implementation of vouchers on a widespread scale would amount to the abolition of private schools, and the complete socialization of education. It would be just as it is now, except no one would be able to escape it, whereas at least some students are able to escape now.
Debate Round No. 3
Logos

Pro

Once again, I am proposing a solution to the education problem that involves a system different from the current way of doing things. Yes, I am saying the government should stop regulating the field of education. This is not likely, I will admit, but it is the solution that would work the best.

I hope you do not seriously think that a video arcade would be getting any money at all under this system. The entire POINT to privatizing a market is to allow the competitive nature of capitalism improve its overall quality. That is the reason there would not have to be some imposed method of government standards on schools; the market would by itself eliminate any substandard school. It may be easy to set up a video arcade that qualifies to receive vouchers, but how easy is to convince parents to send their child there for an education? The invisible hand works wonders when left to its own devices.

To suggest the First Amendment does not apply to the states is laughable. ALL Amendments apply to the states! The Constitution is the highest forum of law in the land. Article VI specifically states that even state judges must comply with the Constitution.

The issue I take with public schools is not so much the fact they are funded by taxpayer dollars, but the fact that they currently monopolize the market on education. A voucher system completely eliminates the monopoly on education, as should be done, but also makes it easier for families to gain access to a good education for their child. I will concede that it is possible for most families to obtain an education for their child without any sort of government funding. However, it is also true that repeated elections, on both state and local levels demonstrate that people are willing to submit to some measure of taxation in order to ensure some measure of education for all. So if the people willing accept a system that saves tax dollars, promotes competition and freedom of choice, and does not violate the Constitution, where is the problem?
clsmooth

Con

The point of providing a "voucher" instead of cash is that the voucher can only be spent in a certain way. Education vouchers could only be spent on education. If there are to be no standards on what qualifies as education, as you're suggesting, then there is absolutely no point in providing vouchers -- cash could be used instead. If there are some kind of standards to be applied to who can receive the vouchers, then this means the government will be setting the standards, thus regulating and controlling schools and turning all private schools into public schools -- just as has happened with colleges.

The above is irrefutable.

Your "free market" argument is laughable. The free market is what I'm arguing for -- you're arguing for wealth redistribution. Someone who has ten children would receive ten vouchers' worth of subsidies, while someone who has one child would only receive one voucher's worth of subsidies. If the vouchers can be spent on anything, then this is just a crude wealth redistribution plan -- and you're saying, yes, despite the fact that it makes absolutely no sense to provide vouchers that can be spent on anything (defeating the entire purpose of a voucher vs. cash), the vouchers in your system would be able to be spent on ANYTHING. It's doubly ridiculous to suggest that parents wouldn't make poor choices, such as sending their children to the Video Arcade Academy. Do parents not make poor choices now with their own money? Of course they do! Although a true free market would provide better quality education and more choices, there would still be parents who made poor choices.

WHAT ABOUT HOMESCHOOLING? Would homeschoolers not be eligible for the vouchers? Would their taxes pay for them either way? If they would be eligible for the vouchers, to be paid to themselves, then isn't this obviously open to massive fraud and abuse? Unscrupulous parents could have ten or twelve children and collect $8,000 to $10,000 per year, PER CHILD, for "educating" them, whether they actually educated them or not! And if homeschoolers are not able to receive the vouchers, then is this not an outright assault on the freedom to homeschool? You are arguing for tyranny and cloaking your words in the parlance of freedom. It is truly Orwellian.

It is downright blasphemous to use the "invisible hand" metaphor when you're talking about a big-government, wealth-redistribution program. Do you honestly believe your own rhetoric? Vouchers are a neoconservative transfer-payment apparatus. That conservatives and libertarians have fallen for this charade is one thing, but to disingeuously use "free market" rhetoric in order to justify the case for the socialization of education is downright insulting to people's intelligence.

Your understanding of the Constitution and Original Intent is horrid. If the First Amendment's "separation of church and state" applied to the states, then why did official state churches in Massachusetts and Connecticut endure until 1833, and why were they abolished through state legislative process, not the federal government's enforcement of the First Amendment? You have a very liberal, big-government understanding of the Constitution. The Constitution clearly says "CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW..." That's what it says, and it doesn't matter what FDR's judges have said since.

Of course, the above has nothing to do with the debate at hand, but it merely shows your lack of constitutional logic, and the Rooseveltian liberalism that informs your supposedly "libertarian" stand for wealth redistribution and state-sponsored education camps.

A voucher system would take the partially monopolized education system and make the monopoly complete. There are only two colleges that refuse federal money. There are many more private schools at the K-12 level. If your system were adopted, then truly private schools would become as rare as truly private colleges, thus effectively abolishing the private alternative to public education.

AND AGAIN, WHAT ABOUT HOMESCHOOLING?

Every worthwhile argument you've made for a voucher system can also be made for a truly free market in education. You've done nothing to show why vouchers are better than a true free market. I have shown why a true free market is better than vouchers -- which are NOT a "free market" (PLEASE!). I will go further to say even the status quo is better, because at least now, parents are able to send their children to truly private schools. Under your system, that would cease to be the case.
Debate Round No. 4
27 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by SirJDCroix 9 years ago
SirJDCroix
I was being sarcastic.

And with regards on Medicaid and Medicare, I disagree with these programs in principle, and I think they should eventually be phased out. My point is that these are two benevolent programs that actually help disabled/senior citizens when others cannot. I'd slash nearly every social program, and just leave some money for this.

Eventually, It should be phased out.
Posted by Ragnar_Rahl 9 years ago
Ragnar_Rahl
We already have universalized socialist education, anyone who wants it can walk right up and get it. It's like taking Canada's health care and moving it on a market-based track that will never work for any length of time on its own right, forcing the politicians to continue further on the course and privatize it completely or face systemic collapse, because they'll lose face if they "admit they were wrong" by going back.
Posted by clsmooth 9 years ago
clsmooth
No. You want to universalize socialist education and call it its "destruction." That's like saying we will abolish Medicare and Medicaid by going to 100% national healthcare.
Posted by Ragnar_Rahl 9 years ago
Ragnar_Rahl
Really... I'm to be considered a socialist, because I favor a program that I see as the most likely way to destroy public interference in education?

Sounds to me like the only difference i have with clsmooth on this issue is a tactical one. Labelling me a socialist is like a Trotzkyist labeling Stalin a capitalist :D.

Except waitaminnit JDcroix, you favor medicaid and medicare. Can anyone say, socialization of the means of payment? :D

Or is there some tactical nuance I'm missing?
Posted by SirJDCroix 9 years ago
SirJDCroix
...everyone except you CLSMooth.
Posted by SirJDCroix 9 years ago
SirJDCroix
You're all a bunch of socialists.
Posted by clsmooth 9 years ago
clsmooth
Did I say you were a socialist? If so, I got too worked up. You are for the socialization of education -- you're an education socialist. That I will stand behind.
Posted by Logos 9 years ago
Logos
<sarcasm>I am thrilled! At last, an all knowing law professor to set us straight</sarcasm>

Full disclosure: In theory, I like the idea of fully privatizing education, but voters would probably never back that. Your logic was sound, I just don't see it being applied.

I don't know if I agree with my being branded a "socialist" though...
Posted by clsmooth 9 years ago
clsmooth
What am I saying that's idiotic? Point out even one thing. You're just a smear artist. You have time to make this post, but not to supply the logic for even one item?

Law professor? I wouldn't be surprised. They give law degrees to anyone willing to indenture themselves to the government and its inflationist paymasters these days.

I have a legal document I suggest you read. It's called the Constitution.
Posted by elanortaughann 9 years ago
elanortaughann
clsmooth, you are an idiot. You have no knowledge of government or law. As a law professor at Bates College, I can disprove almost all of your logic with just one class period. Alas, I don't have the time to engage in such foolishness...
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