Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A little Something from Adam Smith on Line

During Clinton's first presidential debate on October 6, Clinton made a startling admission. "I support school choice," he said. "If a local school district in Cleveland, or any place else, wants to have a private school choice plan, like Milwaukee did, let them have at it." While the president often talked one way and governed another, he usually allows himself more wiggle room. As Reagan administration education official Chester E. "Checker" Finn Jr. wrote in The Wall Street Journal_ ( a few days later, Clinton's unambiguous statements on education made it appear that the only differences between the two candidates were whether to subsidize vouchers with federal tax dollars (Bob Dole's plan) and whether to abolish the Department of Education ( . Supporters of school choice seem to have won the debate.

Over the past five years, vouchers and other significant education reforms have moved from presidential debates, think tanks, and academic conferences to thousands of school districts nationwide. And no wonder. Since 1960, test scores and other measures of achievement have taken a downward spiral even though inflation-adjusted spending on elementary and high schools has more than quadrupled. In most inner cities, the schools resemble prisons and the crime rate on school property approaches that of the neighborhood at large. And teachers' unions, backed by the bureaucratic establishment, go ballistic any time reforms are suggested that threaten the status quo. The intellectual marketplace has been ripe for new ideas.
Parents, with the help of education reformers and a few politicians, have pushed through a number of school choice initiatives. Cleveland has joined Milwaukee to offer tuition vouchers to a couple of thousand low-income students.

Twenty-six states have established or are setting up "charter schools"--publicly funded schools with specialized curricula that are exempt from many union and other regulations. New York City's John Cardinal O'Connor offered to enroll 5 percent of the city's most difficult to educate students in parochial schools; Mayor Rudolph Giuliani accepted the offer, originally floating the prospect of using vouchers to fund the transfers. (The money must now come from private sources.) New York's effort would be far from unique: Nationwide, more than 100,000 "difficult to educate" students--young people with physical handicaps, learning disabilities, emotional troubles, or involvement with the juvenile-justice system--are already enrolled in private secular and religious schools at taxpayer expense.
While all this ferment is under way, debate about the direction of education reform is raging within libertarian circles, where most of these ideas originated. School choice supporters face a dilemma: Universal vouchers may be the only way to assure a complete overhaul of the government schools, but any political momentum vouchers now have is concentrated on those plans that would help only low-income parents. Hence the disagreement.

Nobel laureate Milton Friedman, who invented vouchers, criticizes proposals that target only low-income parents. He has always advocated making vouchers available to all parents who remove their children from public schools.
Limiting vouchers to poor children, he says, prevents an effective private alternative to government schools from developing. Meanwhile, _Institute for Justice_( President William "Chip" Mellor and Vice President Clint Bolick defend means-tested plans in court. They believe choice plans that target low-income families can weaken the teachers' unions and transform the education monopoly while saving a generation of children from hellish inner-city schools. Friedman and the institute represent the poles of the debate, with other school choice advocates falling somewhere in between--liking the purity of universal vouchers but attracted to the political viability of means-tested experiments.

Even as these internal debates intensify, the primary danger vouchers pose to the schooling monopoly may be indirect. As a response to the threat of vouchers, the system of compulsory schooling is undergoing subtle but potentially far-reaching changes. Supporters and critics of vouchers concede that it may take a generation to break the public school monopoly. Yet, at the margins, changes are just beginning that may be as effective in eroding the system of tax-financed common schools, perhaps without a single large voucher program ever being enacted. And charter schools, which are increasing in both numbers and popularity, might offer the greatest possibility to transform elementary and secondary schooling.

Original Intent
Milton Friedman first proposed school vouchers in a 1955 academic article.
His original idea was to provide any student who left a public school a voucher equal in value to the average amount spent per student by the local school district. In the intervening years he has modified his position slightly, arguing that the private sector should be able to provide schooling for less than the government; he now thinks vouchers valued at about half the per-pupil expenditure would be sufficient to entice private schools to take students from the government schools. From the start, Friedman has argued that the government's monopoly on schooling could be challenged only by "the rapid establishment of an industry [in private schools] that's large enough to have clout."
He invented vouchers as a mechanism to generate funding for the creation of this alternative market, which might include for-profit schools as well as religious or secular schools operated by nonprofit organizations.

Basil Venitis is against any form of government interference in education, including vouchers. Venitis, a libertarian politician of B'Athens with Laikos Synagermos, says that the only purpose of a government is to protect us from criminals. The government should stay away from education, markets, health, and any activity not related to police, justice, and defense. The two socialist mafias of Greece, Pasok and Nea Demokratia, have been using the schools as a propaganda tool, transforming the cradle of democracy to a socialist familyocacy of butterbabies.


The cradle of democracy
Is full of butterbabies
A new familyocracy
Venitis terminates.

Socialist rabblerousers
Malignant brigadoon
Full of pullpeddlers
And bumptious bugaboos.

Venitis is my charm
Basil is my spice
Basil Venitis I have
In liberty for life.

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