The Myths of Choice: Reflections on the Two-Income Trap
Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law
Rutgers Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 4, No. 1, Fall 2006
Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 29
This essay is a response to The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Families Are Going Broke by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Tyagi. My focus is different than the reviews published to date. I address Warren and Tyagi's proposal for switching the public education system to vouchers. The substantial legal literature on vouchers focuses primarily on their constitutionality and some on whether they will produce better schools. My concern is different - I examine the rhetoric claiming vouchers are a fair, parent-driven, and easy way to reform public education. I conclude that, although Warren and Tyagi are right that middle-class families are paying a high financial price to escape what they perceive as failing public schools, the voucher solution will neither improve the failing schools nor relieve the middle-class of the expense of escaping them. Vouchers are not even likely to offer choice to parents so much as choice to schools in selecting their students.
Vouchers and public education reform remain in the forefront of public debate. As the penalty phases of No Child Left Behind loom ever larger for public school systems, it is likely that the pressure for vouchers or other forms of school choice will build. This essay contributes to that debate by taking a closer look at the common justifications for school choice through vouchers and examining how this solution will impose unexpected and undesired burdens not only on poor families who are supposed to benefit but on middle-class ones as well.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 57
Keywords: public education, vouchers, school choice, school funding equity
JEL Classification: I2, 120, 121, 122, 128Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: October 31, 2006
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