To the Editor:
In Edd Doerr’s July 27, 2005, letter to the editor (“Friedman ‘Willfully Ignores’ Voucher Damage,”), his opposition to the freedom that would result from a Milton Friedman-style voucher program is shocking enough—since he refers to America’s foundation on freedom—without his willingness to distort and mislead.
In contrast to what Mr. Doerr states, Newfoundland never had a voucher program. What its voters repealed in 1997 was the church supervision of public schools.
Friedman-style vouchers would unleash entrepreneurial initiative through universal participation and other factors missing from the narrowly targeted voucher programs that produced the “cost” findings Mr. Doerr cites. School choice opponents are ever willing to paint only the least attractive findings with a broad brush.
Voucher-referendum defeats were not repudiations of parental choice. Post-election studies showed that opposition resulted because people vote against what they don’t understand. Poll after poll shows general support for parental choice.
Teachers sometimes face religious tests, but only for jobs in church-run schools. Willing intellectual prisoners of the status quo assume that Friedman-style vouchers would create a private sector still dominated by churches. There is already evidence that churches dominate private schooling only when church subsidies are necessary for private schools to compete against public schools.
Most troubling is the implicit assumption that we are a nation of snobs, xenophobes, and racists; that in a system of genuine school choices, parents would widely ignore academic factors and instead pick schools based on the makeup of the student body. I reject that view of America. Polling of parents using vouchers shows that academic criteria matter most.
Even if choice opponents’ horrific view of parents’ priorities were accurate, it would be very difficult to produce more fragmentation along class and ethnic lines than our current practice of assigning children to schools based on where they live already does.
John D. Merrifield
Professor of Economics
University of Texas at San Antonio
San Antonio, Texas