The debt hawks are to economics as the creationists are to biology.

In the post, Salary for attending school I suggested and discussed paying all students — elementary school, high school and college — a salary. Warren Mosler wrote to me, suggesting that a combination of salary and high school vouchers might be appropriate. Salary offers several advantages, which the earlier post described.

Additionally, vouchers might help make an otherwise unaffordable school, affordable. Beyond cost savings, the voucher adds a new dimension to school attendance. Depending on the size of the voucher, it can create competition among schools. Public high schools, being free, do not require a voucher . So would giving someone a school voucher encourage that person to select a private high school over a free public school? Does this “coupon” have the same psychological function as a retail coupon? (People are reluctant to “waste” a coupon).

And if a voucher does encourage private high school attendance, is this bad? What effect does this have on public schools? These questions have been debated for years, and I’m not sure if there has been resolution. Teachers’ unions oppose vouchers, but that is not a good measure, since teachers unions tend to oppose anything that hints of teacher evaluations. (Parents could use the vouchers to vote with their feet, regarding school quality.) “Cream skimming” is said to be a significant high school voucher problem, though that is said about any system allowing students to choose schools.

One thing I like about high school federal vouchers: The federal government, which never is cash strapped, would take some of the educational cost burden off state and local governments, which always are cash strapped. While I have questions about high school vouchers, I do propose federal funding of all elementary and high schools, with a continuation of local supervision.

This brings us to the possibility of college vouchers. For reasons clouded by history, elementary and high school education is free; college is not. There are state colleges, supported by tuition and state taxes, and private colleges, supported by tuition and donations. The federal colleges are military, i.e. West Point, and are funded by the federal government, with no tuition.

What, I wonder, would be the effect of federally funded, free colleges, comparable to the free elementary and high schools and comparable to the military colleges? What is the unique characteristic of the 12th grade, that makes it the last free grade? Why should the military schools be the only federally funded colleges? Why not continue to provide free public schooling through the 16th grade and beyond?

Again, I question vouchers, but instead I suggest federal funding of free universities, as one step toward providing additional advanced education to economic growth.

Many people claim U.S. education is in something of a crisis. New ideas are needed. My suggestions:
1. Pay a salary to all students (Salary for attending school)
2. Federal government support for elementary and high schools.
3. Federal government support of colleges.

What are your thoughts?

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
http://www.rodgermitchell.com

No nation can tax itself into prosperity