I talked about flawed/unbalanced arguments related to vouchers in Pick Your Poison. As more and more is written the issue fails to get clearer. However, one point that I cited (made by the anti-voucher camp) involves throwing out numbers to prove their point without backing up their numbers. In this case it was “the average cost of private school tuition is $8000/year so a $2000 voucher wouldn’t help lower income people cover the cost.” (no, that was not a direct quote.)
I now have the pro-voucher counter-argument which also throws out numbers without fully backing them up:
The lower a family’s income, the higher the voucher amount—from $3,000 down to $500. Clearly, this benefits low- and middle-income families more than wealthier families.
According to a Utah State survey of private schools, the average tuition for kindergarten through eighth grade is just $3,800. As much as $3,000 of that would be covered by a voucher, leaving a difference that could be managed by nearly any family.
So are vouchers up to $3000, or only $2000? And what is the average cost of private school tuition? ($3800 is less than half of $8000 so the difference cannot be ignored.) At least the pro-voucher group cites a “Utah State survey of private schools.” I’d like to see a link to the survey.
The anti-voucher numbers link to a Salt Lake Tribune article, but when I read the article those numbers never appear. The $8000 figure never appears, it only states that private school tuition ranges from $2200 to $15000 per year. There is a “snapshot of private school tuition in Utah” that shows 7 schools with tuition between $2200 and $5000 per year and 7 schools with tuition between $6000 and $15000 per year. I notice that 3 of the schools have tuition of $8000 per year, but that includes Catholic schools which are not eligible for vouchers because they discriminate based on religion in the admissions process. If the $8000 average is based on calculating the cost of the 14 schools listed (which may or may not be representative) then it should be noted that the outliers on the high end drastically skew the results.
Actually those 14 schools average out to $7000 per year, and if we toss the 3 that cost over $10000 per year and the catholic schools that can’t accept vouchers anyway the average goes down to $5000 meaning that more than half the tuition is covered by vouchers for the lowest income people at more than half the schools in the list. I did not intend for this to be a pro-voucher argument, but I find that the numbers from the anti-voucher side are totally unreliable so far. The figures they cite don’t appear in the article they reference and the numbers shown in the article they reference actually come closer to the pro-voucher numbers than the numbers published by the anti-voucher group.
The best arguments against vouchers seem to be the arguments that don’t depend on numbers – arguments about philosophy and personal opinion. These are valid arguments to make, but if the anti-voucher crowd wants to focus on bogus numbers instead they deserve to lose on this issue.
So far this has been a discussion about the arguments being made on the voucher issue. My personal stance on the issue is rather unique. I will be attempting to codify it in some understandable way. Stay tuned . . .