Yesterday in the PA Senate, Robert Enlow, President and CEO of the Foundation for Educational Choice, spoke on the issue of school vouchers and their applicability in the state of Pennsylvania. As Enlow explained, the idea of school vouchers was one which gained popularity through the advocacy of economist Milton Friedman and gives choice and freedom to parents.
In Friedman’s system, tax dollars that are set aside for schooling become attached to the child and where he/she decides to go to school. For example, if a family wanted to take their children out of a public school and send them to a private one, the private school would then receive a voucher for a certain amount of tax money that the public school would have received.
The idea of vouchers is not a new one and is being tried throughout the world. In Washington, DC for example, a recent study showed vouchers highly increase graduation rates. Other countries, such as Sweden, have also implemented voucher programs with much success.
Enlow’s main area of focus was on the idea that a voucher system would reduce costs through increased competition, as well as provide greater opportunity to non-privileged students who could not normally afford to go to a private school, decreasing segregation in many areas. He claimed that increased education spending is not the answer, but rather increased competition; especially considering the fact that private schools operate at almost 1/3 the cost of public schools.
Enlow also made note of the success of charter and cyber schools, which are public schools, but ones whose funding is tied to students, and only get money when parents choose to send their children there. He claims that when a parent has choice over the education of their children, it gives them a whole new sense of responsibility. And he rebutted claims from other testifiers (i.e., the special interests who feed on the status quo) that school vouchers haven’t improved education quality—noting every study says they have, or had little impact, with far less money.