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08/15/2005

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» The Economics of Religion from AnalPhilosopher

Federal appellate judge Richard A. Posner, the founder of law and economics (sometimes called, as in his book, "Economic Analysis of Law"), weighs in on the recent Ten Commandments cases. See

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In a series of posts on their blog, Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker and former federal appeals court judge Richard Posner (both now professors at the University of Chicago) discuss the effects of state sponsorship of religion, and the recent ... [Read More]

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Patrick R. Sullivan

"Akhil Amar's 1998 book the Bill of Rights offers powerful textual and historical reasons why the 14th Amendment, sec. 1 was written to incorporate the Bill of Rights..."

How does he explain away the fact that many of the same people who passed the 14th Amendment, seven years later took up the Blaine Amendment, which proposed that, no state shall establish a religion. Isn't that redundant if the 14th Amendment had already incorporated the 1st Amendment?

nate


ben:

in your cost analysis, do you take into account that fixed vs. variable costs? Also, do you consider that education cost per student is probably not linear?

Would you be up for means-testing vouchers? (wealthy people do not need a voucher)

Why haven't more market-based means sprouted up for access to private education for lower-income people?

nate


education cost per student may also be a function of interactive variables. not sure.

ben

in your cost analysis, do you take into account that fixed vs. variable costs? Also, do you consider that education cost per student is probably not linear?

I tried to take account of fixed vs. variable by using the term "eventually". In the short term, the government will almost certainly not avoid the full average cost of a student that goes private, although it will incur the full cost of the voucher. However, in the long term, I expect the public school system will adjust its size to demand. Because of this, I believe costs will be roughly linear in student numbers and money will be saved overall when students go private.

In the short run, it is possible total education costs will spike. However, I do not believe short run costs usefully inform government policy and regulation.


Would you be up for means-testing vouchers? (wealthy people do not need a voucher)

Yes, because the poor suffer disproportionately from shortcomings in public education and vouchers overcome an important barrier to accessing better schools.

Why haven't more market-based means sprouted up for access to private education for lower-income people?

I can think of four reasons. One, a lack of tangible collateral. Two, crowding out by government subsidy: because only public education is free at elementary and secondary schools, the incremental cost of going private is made far higher than the incremental benefit. Three is that incremental income benefits of going private are very distant: a minimum of 15 years if starting from elementary. This sharply reduces private investment returns. And four, spillovers. Not all the benefit of education is captured by the individual, which is a justification for government funding.

Jack Sprat

"Vouchers will allow more parents to buy their way out of public schools, which will further impoverish those schools."

As usual, Corey has volunteered an incoherent argument. The purchasing power of a school voucher typically corresponds to the per capita spending a given child would receive within the public school system. In a public school system with 2 students, A and B, and a budget of $10,000, permitting vouchers would let A take $5,000 and apply it to tuition in a private school of his choice. While it is true that the public school system would be "impoverished" because its budget would shrink from $10,000 to $5,000, because the public school system would not have spent more than $5,000 on B even if A had remained within the system, B is receiving the same amount of resources allocated to his education. B is not being deprived of anything. Saying that the public system is being "impoverished" suggests that B is being short-changed, which is clearly untrue. The only persons being short-changed under a voucher system are bureaucrats, i.e., rent-seekers, who are better off the larger a budget they manage, because a larger budget means more money in raw dollar terms for "administrative costs". Of course Corey supports bureucratic rent-seekers: he is a Marxist right out of central-casting. Rather, central-planning-casting.

Jack Sprat

"Is it unreasonable to ask for some sort of proposed good that would be served other than fidelity to the wishes of some dead white man?"

As usual, Corey relies on fallacies, e.g., complex question, to volunteer his incoherent argument. The argument one might tease out of the gibberish above is this: Slavishly adhering to rules laid down by long-dead rulemakers ignores that relevant facts may have changed over time which render those rules no longer useful. While that may be true, that does not negate that law requires sufficient process for valid enactment. Law cannot simply be made up whole cloth by a single person and imposed on the rest of us in an antidemocratic fashion. That would be tyranny. It is just as tyrannical to bind us all to the wishes of some living tyrant as it is to bind us to the wishes of a dead tyrant. Whether that person is male or white is irrelevant. I must therefore conclude that Corey is a racist and a sexist. Is it so unreasonable to ask for Corey to attempt to make his incoherent jabberwocky of an argument without resorting to sexist and racist comments?

Corey

"vouchers overcome an important barrier to accessing better schools."

See, that is exactly what I do not buy. Your hope is that by giving parents in poor neighborhoods vouchers, they will overcome collective action problems and induce a private organization to open a school within bus range. But the private school will still face higher costs and more operational hassles vs. building the same school across town. It won't get built.

Don't believe me? Drive through the 'hood. You see liquor stores, payday loans, and churches. There aren't enough banks, grocery stores, clean parks, movie theatres, or retail shops. Every single one of those shortcomings shows the "market" failing to serve poor neighborhoods.
Why would schools be different?

"I can think of four reasons... This sharply reduces private investment returns."

So you pretty much admit that it will take government subsidies to stick private schools in poor areas. Why then would you prefer a market based "voucher" system rather than straight $ support to existing schools? Is it just the $3000 per student cost savings you expect to realize?

Teachers at public schools make at least $15K more in salary and benefits than at private. Partly because of unionization and state retirement benefits, and partly because of pay incentives to attract talent. Catholic schools pay the least relative to public. So given a class size of 25, at least $600 of the $3000 savings you expect to realize comes straight out of teacher's pockets and off their kid's dinner plates.

Public schools also have a much higher enrollment of special needs students. Those students cost more to educate. I believe this is the single biggest reason for the cost difference between public and private. Private schools would NOT see a cost savings if they took on special ed.

Public schools also spend more on athletics, lunch, music, and after-school programs. Private schools also manage to hide some of their expense in these areas by extracting it direct from parents rather than through a tax bond.

So I think your expected cost savings are a myth, and would never be realized if private schools served the same market that public schools do now.

"There is no reason private provision will not be dominated by not-for-profit institutions."

So far, the dominant players in the privatization market (for curriculum and school operation) have been for-profit and traded on the NASDAQ. Opportunity for profit routinely trumps charitable intent, which is why you have to tax for charity.

"Your proposal Corey would see those bad schools expanded (ie. rewarded). Mine would see them replaced."

If the things which are making the schools bad are environmental or geographic (gang violence, loitering, drugs, parents working 3 jobs) then it makes no sense to REPLACE the school. The new school will inherit the exact same problems and be just as bad or worse for the same money! You can't find more than a few schools where the key problem is mis-management, and even there, the prudent approach would be to replace administrators, not the whole school.

The key paradox that confuses this issue is that it is precisely the worst schools that need the most money. Great teachers and administrators work in poor schools, they need support to fight the gangs or meth-addicted parents or mal-nourished kids. At the school where my girlfriend works, they have to feed dozens of kids breakfast every day or else they are too hungry to learn. There are so many special needs kids that every classroom teacher has to have an aide to keep the disruptions down.

So yeah, public schools cost more, and I want to give schools in bad neighborhoods more money. I don't know how to convince corporate management in Manhattan that a rural Indiana school needs extra funds for breakfast. I do know how to convince the local school board and townspeople.
We haven't even talked about governance and accountability to parents, which is also a concern as privatization inevitably leads to consolidation.

That's all I have to say on the subject.

Corey

"On another thread you were rabidly pro-democracy, so much that you were willing to concede the elitist control of the judiciary is a bad thing. I'm not sure how your position with respect to establishment harmonizes with that position."

My position with respect to establishment is that I believe a democratic majority would oppose it in all 50 of the states. Therefore I do not care about Madison's or Jefferson's vote either way because they are dead. (Although you are welcome to use their public domain rhetoric to try and persuade voters)

I could be wrong, Utah could vote to establish the LDS church. I would respect that result.

The constitution is good and valuable to the extent that it is allowed to represent the common norms and values of a democratic and plural whole. It can just as easily be made to serve "tradition" against a majority consensus for change, or to oppress a minority that dissents. The constitution is not a Aristotelean good-in-itself.

I would like to point out that in the course of one evening, I have been refered to here as "rabidly pro-democratic", as a "marxist", "sexist", and "racist". I'm positive that no one person can be all of those things. I am also positive that I am NOT three of them.

Thank you for the negative attention. Infamous is a type of famous. :)

Corey

"The only persons being short-changed under a voucher system are bureaucrats"

That's patently false. IF administrative functions are shortchanged, then so is every single school-wide function that takes a % from each student. That includes Band, Choir, Athletics, janitorial services, utilities, the cafeteria, groundskeeping, security, the library, the computer lab, special needs programs, afterschool programs...

Every single one of these things is technically "overhead" and has a cost that does not linearly decrease as students leave.

Its nice that you learned how to say "rent-seeking" in school, what year do they teach pro-capitalist attack speech in private schools anyway?

N.E.Hatfield

Just as an aside, here's an excerpt of conversation overheard in saloon on the south side of the City:

Mr. Hennessey: "An wat yer tink of dat Supeme Kort rulin dat say da tem komandents don belong on de wall a de Kort?

Mr. Dooley: Well- de Constitutin sez wat it sez. An if dem hi-flootin tips kaint figger it out, GAWD hep us.

Mr. Hennessey: Karful Mr. Dooley deys mite be some a dem types in here dat take ceptin to dat word- an ye kno wat dat kin led to...

Perhaps Sarte was right, the world and life really is absurd. ;)

ben

Corey

The content of argument that our kids be put through a system that costs more and performs worse amounts to a series of red herrings, straw men and unsubstantiated assertions, most of which fall over under the vaguest inspection. I can go chapter and verse through what you have said, but instead I will try to point out the key problems in your argument.

First, if you are right and a voucher system saves nothing and private schools turn out not to be viable under the system, or choice isn't valued, then nothing is lost. The status quo is prevails and vouchers are not cashed outside the public school system.

Second, you lack imagination as to how private schools could work. It may not be necessary to build a school from the start. How about a retired teacher who gets certified and decides to teach 5 kids in a dis-used classroom at the neighborhood school for some extra income? His 20 year old grandson takes sports after school. Subject to regulations, any number of delivery permutations exist.

Third, the collective action problem is demonstrably solved by private schools who already teach 11% of our elementary and secondary school kids. Even if the collective action problem rears its head in poor neighborhoods (and why would it? Liquor stores and churches don't tell me much), the status quo will prevail, public schools keep their funding and nothing is lost.

Fourth, private schools do accept special needs children. I have taught at a private school and in fact had three special needs children under my instruction (out of 24). I can't find data on this but I strongly suspect special education at best accounts for only a limited fraction of the cost gap. But, again, if private schools have no cost advantage, vouchers need produce no change from status quo. (BTW, if private schools are unwilling to accept special needs children for financial reasons, the value of vouchers can be tailored to account for the child's needs, which are observable.)

Fifth, it is not clear private schools will simply inherit the problems of gang-ridden public schools. Private schools do not face the same political constraints in dealing with gang and drug problems. But, again, if private schools turn out to be no better in this respect, what has been lost?

Sixth, governance and accountability to parents are a problem of the public school system, not private. Decision making at public schools has become highly centralized and politicized at state and federal government level. Furthermore, existing private schools are not run like corporations, so the 'Manhattan' example is a complete red herring.

Teachers at public schools make at least $15K more in salary and benefits ...at least $600 of the $3000 savings you expect to realize comes straight out of teacher's pockets and off their kid's dinner plates.
I had to respond to this: your argument amounts to saying private school teachers don't feed their children.

N.E.Hatfield

When it comes to education in the U.S. "public" schools are open to the public at large whereas 'private" schools are open to those who can come up with the tuition or comes from the appropriate class. In the UK a "private" school is open to the public whereas a "public" school is open to whom ever can come up with tuition or comes from the appropriate class. So which system is better, public or private? Confusin ain't it?

As for the grounds of education, simply ask the question, "Why can't Dick and Jane read and write?" The answer is simple, they don't want to; and the reason, motivation or the lack of it. The issues of public or private institutions to education is meangingless.

Corey

"Private schools do not face the same political constraints in dealing with gang and drug problems."

Which constraints are those? Being forced to admit students with gang or drug problems? This has been my argument all along, nothing prevents private schools from solving problems through exclusion and externalization of costs.

"or choice isn't valued, then nothing is lost."

Yes it is, because as I said from the start, many parents value exclusion and those with the means will use the vouchers to take their kids across town. That further impoverishes existing schools, see my post above re: expenses shared by all students. Vouchers enable persons with sufficient means to betray the collective public school effort. Not everyone has sufficient means.
You can disbelieve it but the argument is simple.

"Even if the collective action problem rears its head in poor neighborhoods (and why would it? Liquor stores and churches don't tell me much)"

Then maybe you should educate yourself about poor neighborhoods. Go drive around, count full service grocery stores, now do the same in your neighborhood. Now imagine living in the poor neighborhood WITHOUT a SUV, carring your groceries home 4 miles on the bus.

"How about a retired teacher who gets certified and decides to teach 5 kids in a dis-used classroom at the neighborhood school for some extra income?"

Who will be accountable when it turns out that the retired teacher is incompetent? At best all your example does is disengage oversight and duplicate functions currently being performed. If the lone rugged individualist teacher takes a higher profit, then you've made education less efficient. If he/she does not, then only accountability has changed.

You would do well to just admit that you are concerned with accountability and that you trust market forces to bring it more than you trust democratically elected school boards. That's the question this argument boils down to, democratic planning vs. market planning.

By the way, I also decry centralization in public schools. You don't fight it by adopting an economic model that rewards consolidation in every other industry where it has been tried.

"I have taught at a private school and in fact had three special needs children under my instruction (out of 24)."

Try it with 6 or 8. You might actually get more parental involvement at the public school to help you out, or you might get abusive meth-addicts.

Jack Sprat

COREY: "Its nice that you learned how to say "rent-seeking" in school, what year do they teach pro-capitalist attack speech in private schools anyway?"

Not only is Corey a misologist, but, apparently, he is delusional. I attended public schools. I would also note that I am not pro-capitalist; I am pro-democracy. Since we have yet to elect a Marxist President....

Jack Sprat

COREY: "Every single one of these things is technically 'overhead' and has a cost that does not linearly decrease as students leave."

As a technical matter, "Band" does not qualify as administrative overhead. Note that I did not need selectively to misquote you to make my point.

Palooka

I don't think Corey's concern about damaging public schools is without merit. Let me explain my thoughts.

Corey believes that vouchers will result in some students (presumably upper and middle class studetns) leaving the public system for private. The result is that the school in question loses funding because it now has fewer students. Corey hypothesizes an accelerating downward spiral for the public school. As it loses more money, more students leave, and the cycle continues until the public school is financially and academically destitute.

The proponents argue that this is OK, as both the students and the government win out. Students get to attend schools of higher quality, and perhaps a better fit. And the government gets to, perhaps, save a few bucks (if it's more effcient).

I would tend to support vouchers, but I see a problem. If a voucher only is a fraction of the cost the public spends on the child in public school, and is also only a fraction of the cost of a private school, then I see real problems ahead, and a high probability of the regressive potential of such a system, which I believe is Corey's concern.

In a system which only partially subsidizes private education, only those moderately well enough or perhaps highly motivated will take advantage of the situation. The poorest kids with the least involved parents will remain in public school (remember, these are the kids we want to help with vouchers, right?). As the relatively well off students are siphoned off into a superior system, the public schools are left with less money, with fewer highly qualified teachers, and with a higher proportion of the at risk student population. That is a troubling scenario.

To partially address this problem one could support increasing voucher amounts, or means testing them. The richest of the rich can pay for their education, the middle class a sizable subsidy, and the poor even greater subsidization. I am not familiar enough with voucher programs, but I would imagine some of the programs resemble the above. Any one know for sure?

N.E.Hatfield

I don't belive in vouchers and have no children. Does that mean I can opt out of paying taxes that will be used for vouchers and since I have no kids does that mean I will no longer have to pay the portion of tax that goes to support education? How many billions would that pull out of the system if all the DINKS jumped on the band wagon? ;)

Corey

"How many billions would that pull out of the system if all the DINKS jumped on the band wagon?"

Don't know, but it would be less than if all the pacifists like me opted out of the portion of our taxes that goes to fund the military/defense industry.

As far as subsidized industries go, I think war stands more to lose from your course of action than school. Are you for privatization of the military?

Corey

"I am not familiar enough with voucher programs, but I would imagine some of the programs resemble the above."

Even if they do, there is a more basic question. If you are willing to subsidize poor children moving to private schools, why not be willing to directly subsidize existing schools that serve poor children? Why isn't it the same thing?

How do you guarantee that a private school that stays in the same location and serves the same kids will do the job better? The governance model has changed, but the challenges are the same. Crime, drugs, poverty, overworked parents...

To be for vouchers, you have to believe that a market approach is superior to a socio-democratic "school board" approach. One vote per dollar rather than one vote per parent. It does not suprise me that people here would think that, but it isn't self-evident. If you means-test vouchers, you are just mitigating the worst effects of the free-market model and making it look more like what we have now, where all parents who choose to vote equally on school governance.

Palooka

I am confused with your last paragraph and the "one vote per dollar" thing. I proposed, as a partial remedy, actually giving the poor MORE than the rich. In a way this does more than the current system for equalizing access and quality.

Your first question is fair, but I think that is a source of why you're opposed, you don't believe they are necessarily better. Private schools are better on discipline, often have better teachers, and are generally more flexible with curriculum. State schools have a harder time firing incompetent or burnt out teachers, for example. Obviously, the role of competition plays a part in promoting quality. Do I need to elaborate?

There are problems, of course. Many complications could arise as this becomes more popular. Private schools do not have to serve the disabled, is one example. Are the disabled kids going to be left out on this one? I hope not, that's a real valid concern. But that is not without a legislative remedy.

This is a very complex problem, which will require a lot of tinkernig in years to come if these programs expand. But I hope we can agree on some level. Do you believe parents and students having a choice is a good thing (setting a side all the other factors)? If I could write a check for whatever one's education cost, would you be confident in the private sector delivering? And if not, why not?

ben

>> "or choice isn't valued, then nothing is lost."

Yes it is...many parents value exclusion and those with the means will use the vouchers to take their kids across town. That further impoverishes existing schools

My full quote is: "if you are right and a voucher system saves nothing and private schools turn out not to be viable under the system, or choice isn't valued, then nothing is lost." I am saying that if nothing changes i.e. nobody moves from public schools, then nothing is lost. Read the response.

It is simply wrong to assert schools are automatically made poorer by vouchers. That depends on funding rules and the nature of costs. A school loses half its students but only 20% of its funding students may well be better off. I have already set out why this is a plausible outcome.

>>"Even if the collective action problem rears its head in poor neighborhoods (and why would it? Liquor stores and churches don't tell me much)"

Then maybe you should educate yourself about poor neighborhoods. Go drive around, count full service grocery stores, now do the same in your neighborhood. Now imagine living in the poor neighborhood WITHOUT a SUV, carring your groceries home 4 miles on the bus.

This is non-sequitur. Any of a number of reasons could explain lower density of full service grocery stores in poor areas, like cost or the nature of demand. Nothing you say here addresses the question of why a collective action problem is occurring in poor areas.

>>"How about a retired teacher who gets certified and decides to teach 5 kids in a dis-used classroom at the neighborhood school for some extra income?"

Who will be accountable when it turns out that the retired teacher is incompetent?

I did say "who gets certified". For goodness sake, read the response.

If the lone rugged individualist teacher takes a higher profit, then you've made education less efficient.

No Corey. Not if s/he produces equivalent results at lower overall cost after profit. Not if s/he produces better results for the same cost after profit. Not necessarily if s/he produces better results at a higher cost after profit.

Why is it, Corey, that when the extra money for public school teachers puts food on their kids' plates, but when it's a private teacher it's just profit? You are making up the rules to suit.


You would do well to just admit that you are concerned with accountability and that you trust market forces to bring it more than you trust democratically elected school boards.

I'll happily admit both. You use the pejorative term "market forces" to describe what is really giving poor parents the opportunity that wealthier parents have to move their kids away from under-performing schools and their boards. I trust parents' judgment.

That's the question this argument boils down to, democratic planning vs. market planning.

This is not an ideological question, but you are making it one. What is optimal can be largely decided by evidence and reason. You are ignoring this in favor of an unconditional preference for central planning. The evidence presented so far suggests that, in this particular case, central planning is not optimal.

By the way, I also decry centralization in public schools. You don't fight it by adopting an economic model that rewards consolidation

Vouchers clearly de-centralize decision-making by giving decision making rights to parents. Giving parents choice and the right to exit, in addition to voting rights, forces school boards to compete for the right to make decisions. This, by definition I believe, is de-centralization.

There are legitimate arguments with, and concerns about, vouchers - see Palooka's comment - but you, Corey, seem unwilling or unable to muster an argument, instead persisting with selective quoting and rhetorical devices.

ben

...If you are willing to subsidize poor children moving to private schools, why not be willing to directly subsidize existing schools that serve poor children? Why isn't it the same thing?

It is the same thing. Existing schools get the subsidy should parents decide to put their kids there. Under the current system, choice for poor parents is limited to public schools. Under vouchers, choice can be extended to include private schools as well.

How do you guarantee that a private school that stays in the same location and serves the same kids will do the job better? The governance model has changed, but the challenges are the same. Crime, drugs, poverty, overworked parents...

Indeed. You guarantee it by giving parents - who, I assume, care more for their kids than anyone - the freedom to move elsewhere should the job be done better in other schools.

To be for vouchers, you have to believe that a market approach is superior to a socio-democratic "school board" approach.

School boards will continue to exist with vouchers. Democracy is enhanced by giving parents the right to vote as well as the opportunity to walk away.

One vote per dollar rather than one vote per parent. It does not suprise me that people here would think that, but it isn't self-evident. If you means-test vouchers, you are just mitigating the worst effects of the free-market model and making it look more like what we have now, where all parents who choose to vote equally on school governance.

Ideological clap trap. The existing system demonstrably works against the poor. It is disadvantaged kids who overwhelmingly end up in bad schools. The children of the wealthy end up in good schools because under the existing system a) only the wealthy have the opportunity to move, and b) despite receiving more expenditure per head than any other education system in the world, the public elementary and secondary education system is unable to provide anything like uniform quality.

ben

The following passage, taken from "Say Anything" by Jim Holt in this week's New Yorker, is apt in view of Corey's extended commentary.

"The essence of bullshit, Frankfurt decides, is that it is produced without any concern for the truth. Bullshit needn't be false: "The bullshitter is faking things. But this does not mean that he necessarily gets them wrong." The bullshitter's fakery consists not in misrepresenting a state of affairs but in concealing his own indifference to the truth of what he says. The liar, by contrast, is concerned with the truth, in a perverse sort of fashion: he wants to lead us away from it. As Frankfurt sees it, the liar and the truthteller are playing on opposite sides of the same game, a game defined by the authority of truth. The bullshitter opts out of this game altogether. Unlike the liar and the truthteller, he is not guided in what he says by his beliefs about the way things are. And that, Frankfurt says, is what makes bullshit so dangerous: it unfits a person for telling the truth."

It's almost as if Frankfurt has our learned contributor in mind. :-)

Corey

"I did say "who gets certified". For goodness sake, read the response."

Certification exists now, and as you are quick to point out, schools end up with bad teachers anyway. Your bare assertion that private schools have an easier time identifying or firing bad teachers is nothing more than a bare assertion.
One might even call it a rhetorical device. :)

And as for reading the argument, what about the fact that I have been arguing since the first comment on this thread that vouchers can fail to provide choice to poor parents in economically unattractive areas. And you come back with:

"You guarantee it by giving parents - who, I assume, care more for their kids than anyone - the freedom to move elsewhere should the job be done better in other schools."

Two problems. Some parents don't care. Some parents can't move elsewhere even with a big voucher to use once they got there. Freedom is not freedom without a realistic possibility of acting on it.

"...central planning is not optimal."

I didn't say "central planning", I said "democratic planning" hoping to point out the democratic All-American nature of the local town school board. What was that about selective quoting and keeping the debate non-ideological?
What have you got against parents delegating responsibility for education to well-funded democratically elected school boards?

"but you, Corey, seem unwilling or unable to muster an argument, instead persisting with selective quoting and rhetorical devices."

Whatever ben, you are putting a lot of energy into debunking a supposed "non-argument" then. Everyone can scroll up and see what the person wrote, if you feel I misinterpreted your statement then by all means clarify, but don't accuse me of fraud and BS. You don't know me at all, and it is presumptuous and malicious to publically speculate that I do not care about the issues I advocate for. I assume that you are arguing from deeply held belief and understanding, please do me the same courtesy if you can.

I assume from the dearth of third party input into this "debate" that it has exceeded the mandate of the forum. I wish you well in your endeavors.

Corey

"I am confused with your last paragraph and the "one vote per dollar" thing. I proposed, as a partial remedy, actually giving the poor MORE than the rich. In a way this does more than the current system for equalizing access and quality."

To clarify... I would agree with you, except that I pessimistically do not believe that giving dollars to parents in poor areas will work to equalize access or quality. In the same way that giving out WIC vouchers in Watts does not make a Ralph's Supercenter appear to provide quality organic produce. Perhaps you could hand out enough WIC vouchers to do that, though I still wonder how the actual inducement would occur. When I lived in central LA it wasn't happening, there were 25,000 college students but we had to drive 30 minutes to get good meat or produce, that is once my friend got a car, before that I ate hot-pockets and ramen.

My experience does not match up to your (or ben's) optimism about choice. I cannot provide data to prove that those markets won't get served, any more than you can provide proof that they will. Consequently, I would prefer to direct subsidies to existing public schools in the area, and find a less radical solution to the accountability issue.

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