Education between States, Markets, and Civil Society: Comparative Perspectives

By Heinz-Dieter Meyer; William L. Boyd | Go to book overview

Chapter Nine
Vouchers: Still (Largely) Untested and Why
BRUCE S. COOPER
E. VANCE RANDALL
The idea is simple enough. Provide parents the means, such as vouchers, to choose any school, public or private, that will best meet the educational needs of their children. The response, however, to this uncomplicated concept has been anything but simple. School vouchers—government grants to parents or guardians who can select a school of choice for their children—were stopped by a clever set of actions so effective as to suggest a conspiracy of politicians, interest groups, university scholars, and policy experts. We maintain, however, that vouchers were stymied not by a calculated conspiracy of individuals and groups, but by a conspiracy of coincidences. It was the particular combination of the following three major developments that were effective in slowing and even stopping the major voucher movements:
1. Polarization of Left and Right. The voucher issue so divided the liberal and conservative actors that little real dialogue, compromise, and political strategies to support vouchers were possible. Vouchers were scuttled in large part by a united and strident anti-voucher lobby on the liberal Left, separating it widely from vouchers' conservative sponsors.
2. A Divided Right. The drive for vouchers also suffered from the lack of a unified voice of support on the Right. Religious and libertarian conservatives withdrew support of the voucher plans that did not also include a total separation of education and government control, whereas the more mainstream, business-oriented neoconservatives pushed hard for vouchers. These neoconservatives had simultaneously to fight their

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