If all schools become privatized in the U.S., the poor wouldn’t be given vouchers for ‘school choice.’ They would have no choices.”

Ana Kasparian, Educator

Pros and Cons of School Vouchers

advantages and disadvantages of school vouchers

School vouchers (sometimes also referred to as education vouchers) give parents the opportunity to choose a private school or other types of school instead of a mandatory public school for their children, funded partially or entirely by the government.

Even though the concept of school vouchers has become quite popular over the past years, it also implies serious downsides. In this article, the pros and cons of school vouchers are examined.

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Advantages of School Vouchers

  1. Freedom of choice
  2. School vouchers give families a greater level of flexibility
  3. Children can go to school with their childhood friends
  4. Avoidance of long commuting times to school
  5. Access to better education
  6. Especially beneficial for kids from poor families
  7. Children can choose schools according to their preferences
  8. Certain talents can be supported
  9. May also contribute to improvements in common public schools
  10. Problem of social segregation can be mitigated
  11. School vouchers can improve overall motivation of kids
  12. Better education opportunities for minorities
  13. May improve the safety level of students
  14. Better support for children from difficult family backgrounds

Freedom of choice

One key advantage of school vouchers is that it gives children the freedom of choice regarding which school they want to go to. Kids are quite different and while school A will fit the preferences and needs of one child, school B will be a much better fit for another child. Hence, school vouchers give kids the opportunity to choose the school the is best in line with their personal preferences.

This can also mean that some schools offer certain activities which are not offered by other schools and kids who are interested in those special activities can go for the respective school. Therefore, in general, school vouchers give children and parents a much greater level of freedom regarding which school they want to choose.

School vouchers give families a greater level of flexibility

School vouchers can also significantly improve the overall flexibility of a family. For instance, if the workplace of a parent is close to a school, parents may decide to send their kids to this school since it will be easy for them to pick their kids up or to look after their kids from time to time. Also in case there is some problem, parents can just leave their workplace for a few minutes and come over to the school.

Hence, parents who make use of school vouchers can also make their life much easier by sending their kids to a school which is located nearby their work or even nearby their home so that picking up the kids from school does not take too much time.

Children can go to school with their childhood friends

Since school vouchers give kids the opportunity to choose from a big selection of schools in their area, kids will also have the opportunity to attend the same schools as their childhood friends. For instance, if your kid has a good childhood friend and urgently wants to go to school with him or her, you can talk to the parents of the other kid and apply for the same school.

In turn, your kids will likely be able to attend the same school, which can benefit both of them since they will often have similar schedules and can also help each other with their homework.

Avoidance of long commuting times to school

In general, especially in big cities, it can also be quite exhausting to bring your kid to school every morning. Quite often, you will get stuck in traffic jams and have to spend plenty of precious time in traffic. Depending on where you live, you might even have to drive long distances in order to bring your kid to school.

However, with school vouchers, you may be able to save plenty of time by choosing a school that is closer to your home since commuting times to this school will be far lower.

Hence, if you don’t have too much time in the morning, make sure to use your school voucher in an efficient manner so that your kid will go to school close to your home in order to avoid wasting significant time for bringing your kid to school each day.

Access to better education

Private schools are also known to provide better education compared to public schools on average. Since education is quite important to succeed in all parts of life, many parents want to make sure that their kid gets the best education possible.

Thus, school vouchers can give you the opportunity to send your kid to a good private school so that your child can enjoy better education and therefore, also your kid’s chances to get a good job afterward will increase.

Hence, through the introduction of the school voucher concept, more children will be able to enjoy education from private schools, which may translate into better job opportunities and more success in life in general.

Especially beneficial for kids from poor families

The concept of school vouchers is especially beneficial for families who cannot afford to send their kids to private school due to the high tuition fees that are often associated with them. Therefore, poor families often have to send their kids to rather bad public schools where the education level is usually quite low.

Consequently, through school vouchers, also parents who don’t have too much money will now be able to send their kids to private schools. In turn, the gap between the poor and the rich can be decreased to a certain extent and children from poor families may also be better able to escape poverty.

Children can choose schools according to their preferences

Since children are more flexible regarding the school they want to go with school vouchers, they are also able to choose their favorite school according to their individual preferences. For instance, some schools may be well-known to offer students a variety of different sports which they can choose from. Other schools may be known for providing the best music education in the district.

Whatever hobbies your kid has, there will be a school where those hobbies are supported and if your kid is able to attend one of those schools, chances are that he or she will be much happier compared to a state where your kid is forced to attend a certain school and does not have a choice at all.

Certain talents can be supported

Some children also have special talents from an early age. For instance, many world-class athletes have already shown those talents when they were quite young. However, in order to really become world-class at something, kids need support from teachers in order to progress and to become really good at their craft.

Yet, in public schools, there will often be not enough professional staff around that is skilled enough to support kids with those individual talents and many children will therefore never have the opportunity to become really good, even though they had the talent.

Thus, it is crucial that kids with outstanding talents are supported to become the best version of themselves and school vouchers can help in this regard since you can choose a school for your kid which is known to promote and support this special talent.

May also contribute to improvements in common public schools

School vouchers also increase the level of competition in the local school system. Since fewer children will choose to go to public schools if they have the opportunity to choose between many different school types, public schools will have to take measures to improve their education facilities so that more kids decide to go to their local public school instead of going to private schools.

Therefore, school vouchers may not only be beneficial to give kids a bigger selection of schools to choose from, they can also lead to a state where the quality of education in public schools will increase significantly due to the increasing level of competition in the overall school system.

Problem of social segregation can be mitigated

There is also an increasing problem of social isolation and segregation in our society. While many kids from wealthy families will attend private schools, children from rather poor families will often attend public schools since they simply don’t have the money for private schools.

However, this leads to a state where children from wealthy families are concentrated in private schools and children from poor families are concentrated in public schools.

Both groups of children will not interact with each other too much since they are educated in different schools. This can be quite problematic for our society in general since a healthy mix between different cultural, social and ethical backgrounds often works best.

Hence, school vouchers are also a great way to give more people from poor families the chance to attend private schools and therefore, the sociological variety in schools will be increased.

School vouchers can improve overall motivation of kids

Since kids will be able to choose from a variety of different schools, they can choose the school which best fits their personal preferences and abilities and therefore, those kids will also likely be much more motivated to learn and to progress in school compared to kids who had just been forced into a certain school which doesn’t fit their preferences at all.

Therefore, not only the motivation of kids may increase with school vouchers, also their overall level of happiness may increase as well.

Better education opportunities for minorities

Minorities often have a hard time to provide their kids with proper education since they are often not able to send their kids to good private schools due to several reasons.

However, through the implementation of school vouchers, kids from minorities will have a much better chance to attend good private schools and therefore, also the discrimination of minorities in our society can be mitigated to a certain extent through school vouchers.

May improve the safety level of students

In public schools, especially in those who are located in bad neighborhoods, schools are often quite unsafe and there had been several serious incidents in the past.

Hence, in order to protect your kid from attacks or other unpleasant things, using school vouchers to send your kid to a safer school can help you out a lot.

Better support for children from difficult family backgrounds

Children that come from difficult family background often have a hard time to get proper education since their parents often do not take care of them too much and those children will have no good role model in their lives. In turn, many of those children may get on the wrong track sooner or later.

In order to give those children the opportunity for a better life, it is crucial to provide them with school vouchers so that they can choose a school where they can get support from teachers or other staff members so that they do not have to rely on their parents too much anymore.

Disadvantages of School Vouchers

  1. System may not be sustainable
  2. Lack of staff in private schools
  3. Lack of space for the additional kids with school vouchers
  4. Students have no better achievements on average
  5. Church is indirectly supported by the state
  6. Money is missing for the public school system
  7. Parents may send their kid to the wrong type of school
  8. Money for school vouchers could be better spend on other things
  9. Private schools are not suitable for all kids
  10. Private schools have a high level of discretion on how to spend their money
  11. Reputation of private schools may suffer
  12. School vouchers may not cover full costs
  13. Lack of standardized testing in private schools

System may not be sustainable

Apart from the many advantages of school vouchers, there are also plenty of issues related to this concept. One problem with school vouchers is that the system of school vouchers may not be sustainable.

Over time, large amounts of money have to be spent on the school voucher concept and over time, municipalities or school districts may run out of money.

Hence, there may be a significant financing issue with school vouchers in the long run, which may lead to a system collapse in the long run.

Lack of staff in private schools

Another downside of school vouchers is that there will likely also be a lack of teachers in private schools sooner or later. If too many kids get school vouchers and choose a private school, chances are that those private schools will not be able to employ enough teachers in a rather short period of time and therefore, the overall education levels may greatly suffer due to that.

Lack of space for the additional kids with school vouchers

Not only school teachers may be a rather scarce resource, also the space in private schools is rather limited and school vouchers may lead to a state where private schools become far too crowded. In turn, class sizes will increase significantly and the overall quality of education will significantly suffer due to that.

Hence, if too many children choose to attend private schools due to school vouchers, the overall capacities of those private schools may get exceeded and the level of education in those schools will also drop significantly over time.

Students have no better achievements on average

Studies have shown that the academic achievements of kids that had the opportunity to use school vouchers do not differ too much from the achievements of children who didn’t have the opportunity to use school vouchers.

Consequently, it may be questionable whether spending tax money on school vouchers is a good idea if this concept has no actual positive impact on the overall education levels at all.

Church is indirectly supported by the state

From a legal perspective, there should be a clear separation of the church and the state in many countries of our planet. However, many private schools around the world are still operated and owned by churches.

Hence, by providing kids with school vouchers for those private schools, churches are indirectly financed by the state, which should not be in line with the local laws in many countries.

Money is missing for the public school system

Many public schools already have significant problems to finance their operations and many of them provide quite poor education quality. With school vouchers, there will likely be even less money left for public schools and chances are that due to the lack of financial resources, the education infrastructure in public schools may become even worse.

Therefore, while a small minority of kids will benefit from school vouchers, a huge number of kids who still have to go to public schools will suffer from a lack of educational resources.

Parents may send their kid to the wrong type of school

Since school vouchers give parents the opportunity to send their kids to a variety of different schools, parents may choose a school that fits their preferences rather than the preferences of their kids.

We all know that the preferences of parents are often not in line with the preferences of kids at all and therefore, giving parents the freedom to choose the school for their kids may even do more harm than good in case those preferences are not aligned at all.

Money for school vouchers could be better spend on other things

The concept of school vouchers is also quite expensive and has to be funded by taxpayers’ money. Opponents of school vouchers also often argue that this money could be better spent on projects that would benefit the local population much more. Hence, the concept of school vouchers may also be questionable from a financial perspective.

Private schools are not suitable for all kids

Another disadvantage of school vouchers is that they will not benefit everyone in our society. For instance, private schools are often not required to take on disabled persons. Thus, those groups of people, even though they might be eligible for school vouchers, will often not have the opportunity to profit from those school vouchers since private schools may reject them.

Private schools have a high level of discretion on how to spend their money

Private schools are often also quite independent from rules and regulations of the state and will therefore also have a great level of freedom on how to spend their financial resources. Therefore, plenty of additional income for private schools related to school vouchers may be spent on projects that will not be in the best interest of the general public.

Reputation of private schools may suffer

Through school vouchers, excessive numbers of students will attend private schools and therefore, the overall education levels in private schools can suffer. In turn, the overall reputation of private schools will suffer as well, which may lead to serious long-term consequences for those types of schools.

School vouchers may not cover full costs

In some cases, school vouchers also only cover part of the costs related to schooling. In such cases, families will have to pay the remaining part of the schooling costs from their own pockets and many parents will not be able to do so. Hence, the concept of school vouchers may not work efficiently in such cases.

Lack of standardized testing in private schools

Private schools often also have a high level of freedom when it comes to testing their students. Quite often, private schools do not have to use standardized testing, which makes it difficult to evaluate the true performance of their students.

Thus, school vouchers may also lead to a state where it will become increasingly difficult to evaluate the performance of school kids due to the lack of standardized tests.

Top 10 School Voucher Pros & Cons – Summary List

School Voucher ProsSchool Voucher Cons
School vouchers give you the freedom of choiceConcept may not be sustainable
Can help to support individual talentsMay hurt public schools
School vouchers give families more flexibilityCrowded private schools
Competition among schools increasesCan damage the reputation of private schools
Better education on averageSome people can’t use school vouchers
Going to school with your childhood friendsParents may act against the will of their child
Mitigation of social segregationProblem with separation of church and state
Better education for minoritiesNot suitable for all kids
Better education for children from poor familiesVouchers may not cover full costs
Can help children from difficult backgroundsMoney could be invested better

Do School Vouchers Make Sense?

As we have seen before, there are many advantages and disadvantages of school vouchers. While the concept of school vouchers can make sense in some cases, it may be questionable whether spending large amounts of money on this concept really makes sense from an overall social welfare perspective.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_voucher

https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/your-childs-rights/basics-about-childs-rights/school-vouchers-what-you-need-to-know

https://www.edchoice.org/school-choice/types-of-school-choice/what-are-school-vouchers-2/

About the author

My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.

As I went to university and got my Master’s degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.

After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.

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