Tuesday, June 12, 2012

NEWS BLOG: Just how would a Romney school-voucher system work?

Posted By on Tue, Jun 12, 2012 at 8:27 AM

Everybody's saying that the outcome of this year's presidential election will be determined by the state of the economy over the next few months, and I'm sure they're right.

But a president affects a lot more than the nation's economic policy, so we ought to be paying attention to the candidates' stands on things like, oh, education. Look, for instance, at this morning's New York Times piece on Romney and education: "Vouchers Unspoken, Romney Hails School Choice."

Mitt Romney is a big fan of vouchers, and rather than have federal funds go to schools that serve high-needs students, he wants that money to go to the students themselves, to help them pay for their education at any school they choose: public or private.

This is one of those initiatives that - particularly to people convinced that the private sector always does things better than the public sector - sounds logical on the surface. Why not let the money go directly to families, and let them decide where their children go to school?

Romney's plan would probably be great for private schools - and I can't imagine that it would be anything but disastrous for many public schools, particularly those in cities.

But plans put into action have a way of turning out a bit differently than they looked on paper. How big would those vouchers be? Enough to fully fund an annual education at Harley or Allendale-Columbia? Or would they primarily end up partially subsidizing the tuition for students whose families could already afford to go there?

And what about suburban school districts? Even if the vouchers fully covered the cost of a city student attending schools in Brighton and Fairport and Pittsford, would those districts welcome hundreds of city students? Would taxpayers in those districts agree to tax increases to build new classrooms and hire new teachers to accommodate a big enrollment increase?

I can't wait to hear more.

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