Q&A Friday #3: Would School Vouchers Lead To Overcrowding?

Question: “You’ve written several times that you support vouchers so children won’t be stuck in public schools that are failing to give them the skills they need. What would you say to people who are concerned that the good schools will become overcrowded if everyone has the option to attend any school they choose? Do you think this is a valid criticism, or are they missing part of the bigger picture?” — CMD

Answer: Because of the power of the marketplace, any overcrowding caused by vouchers would only be temporary. Look at it like this…

Let’s say you live in a fast growing town with only one very large restaurant. However, it’s a bad restaurant with high prices and slow service. Then, next thing you know, a smaller, but much better restaurant with lower prices, better food, and great service crops up. Suddenly people flock to this new restaurant, there are lines out the door, and they can’t handle all the business. So what’s going to happen next? In all likelihood, either…

1) The small restaurant will expand in order to handle more business and therefore make more money.
2) The big restaurant will try to make improvements in order to get their customers back.
3) Another restaurant will open up to try to handle the overflow & take a bite out of the big restaurant’s business.

Note that no matter what happens in this scenario, the customer has more — and better — options than when there was just one restaurant.

The same reasoning applies to school vouchers. If a private school pops up and is so much better than the public schools in the area that it draws more pupils than it can hold, then either that school will expand to make more money, the public school will improve to keep so many kids from leaving, or new schools will pop up to try to take students from the old school. There may be some growing pains during these changes, but in the end, inevitably, the quality of education will improve as schools compete to draw in more students. If there is a public or private school that can’t compete, then it will go out of business and schools that are more able to meet the needs of parents and students will replace it.

There is nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, we could do that could make a bigger positive impact on education in the United States than making schools compete for students via vouchers.

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