Every now and then, there comes a new proposal, amendment or suggestion that can revolutionize the way we impart education, either positively or negatively. But unfortunately, almost all suggestions or promotions in the recent past have been the crux of controversies. People with divergent views have put forth their arguments which have often led to policy paralysis and have certainly prevented unanimity or even a consensus.
School vouchers are creating quite a stir. Many are in favor while many don’t endorse the idea. No one is denying that there are some advantages of school vouchers but some are arguing the viability of the same and the eventual impact it would have.
Before delving into the school vouchers pros and cons, let us have a quick brief of what the school vouchers are and what they can do. Simply put, school vouchers can be used by parents who otherwise cannot pay for private schools to get access to the same as they would have got access to public schools. In other words, private schools will be made accessible to all and sundry, which is clearly not the case right now.
The Pros of School Vouchers
1. Private schools cost money. They can be very expensive and thus unaffordable for any family that is not rich. Some private schools that are relatively less expensive can also be beyond the reach of most families in a given area because the financial burden would be unbearable for the parents. What do these parents or families do? If there is a great public school in the area then the situation can still be managed and the kids of such families can get quality education. But what if there aren’t any good public schools in the area? Today, only the rich families or parents have the luxury of choice. The middle class families or poor parents don’t have much choice when it comes to schooling. School vouchers can create a level playing field for all.
2. Private schools have been doing better than public schools. It has been seen over the years that students passing out from private schools are more intelligent and showcase many more skills than those passing out from public schools. Allowing more families to get access to private schools with the help of the school vouchers would improve the quality of high school students or graduates in the years to come. This will help the economy, the people and eventually the overall future of the country.
3. Looking at school vouchers and public or private education from the perspective of taxes, it is the right of a tax paying citizen to get some incentive even if one is opting for private schools for their child. A citizen is paying taxes that are being used to fund public education. If that citizen chooses private schools and pays heftily for the same, then the citizen is actually paying twice for education, once by supporting public schools through the taxes and then again paying for the private school he or she has chosen for the child. It is thus desirable and fair that a tax paying citizen gets incentivized in either scenario.
4. Investing money in the private schools would be more useful than pumping in funds and wasting tax dollars in unproductive operations and functions of the Department of Education. Everyone knows that copious amounts of money are wasted in bureaucracies and needless expenses. All that money can be used tactfully and to desired effect by private schools. This can be facilitated through school vouchers. In the process, the private schools would get better, they would attend to specializations and there would be more private schools across the country.
The Cons of School Vouchers
1. There are a few shortcomings of the concept of school vouchers, the most concerning of which is the fact that many schools that are and would be in the program are religious. In a way then, the government would be funding religious schools or organizations. This is not acceptable. It is also unconstitutional as it breaches the 1st Amendment that clearly separates the state and the church. According to the amendment, there is no official religion of the country and the state would not interfere in the practicing of any religion by any individual. By funding religious schools, it may appear that the state is imposing a religion on the citizens. However, critics of this argument state that this is not a rational perception. There are religious and nonreligious schools and it is for the parents to decide where to use the school vouchers issued to them.
2. School vouchers may further worsen the condition of public schools that are already cramped for funds. Public schools cannot be done away with and if private schools start growing then that might be an eventuality. Also, private schools are not under strict supervision, so they might work without adhering to the best ethical standards.
3. Private schools may discriminate students based on religion, disabilities, race or socioeconomic profiles. Public schools have to take everyone in. If the same policy is not exercised in private schools, then school vouchers would not achieve the set purpose.