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Example research essay topic: Vouchers And Education - 1,451 words

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... n student outcomes, it does not explain why growing expenditures for the nation over all has not produced similar results, or why expenditures in non-instructional staff have been growing for the past thirty years, expenditures which could represent growing bureaucracy costs. While Card and Kruger's research does not explain why increased school spending affected student outcomes, it does show that at times increased spending can affect student outcomes. The important distinction is while capital can affect productivity, it may not always do so. Not all capital is equal. A farmer with a hammer in hand benefits from the utility of a tool; however, a farmer with a spade in hand benefits even more. Even if increased school spending results in greater school resources, it is unclear whether those resources are the ones needed to improve student outcomes.

Given the scope of education in this country and the vast diversity of an evolving capitalistic economy, it would seem almost impossible to apportion the appropriate resources in education efficiently through political processes alone. Market demand changes, technology changes, students change and, more importantly, vary considerably across the nation -- how could any political system be expected to keep up and be all knowing all the time? In an examination of school financing, Caroline Minter Hobby, an Assistant Professor of Economics at Harvard University, explained how the supply of school resources in the U.S. affected consumers of education (1996). She illustrates how spending patterns on education through local taxation, especially property taxation, can effect the growth of school resources, the type of school resources, and the productivity of school resources. According to her study, "the strength of local, property tax-based school finance is its ability to achieve a high level of allocative efficiency." Hoxby explains that, "the inequality between the intrinsic value of a district's schools and the per-household cost in property taxes induces movement between districts, until the households within each school district have the same demand for schooling and all households consume the amount of schooling they find optimal." (Hoxby, 1996) Movement between districts, however, may not be as efficient as Hoxby indicates. For households with limited resources, namely poorer consumers of education, movement between districts may be limited.

If Hoxby's assumption that property taxes influence school resources, then poorer segments of the population may be unable to consume the amount of education they desire because of their location. Additionally, they may have less influence over school operations, since local taxes in urban schools play a smaller role in school financing. (Hoxby, 1996) While Bush's claim that school "choice" will improve educational standards cannot be proved, at least it addresses America's current dilemma with student achievement -- larger school expenditures result in little or no improvement in student performance. Though controversial evidence surrounds "choice" systems, their popularity is strong among minorities and low socioeconomic groups. Recent evidence also suggests that vouchers among these segments of the population are spurning positive changes. Harvard University's Programme on Educational Policy in 1999 concluded that students who redeemed vouchers improved scholastically in both Cleveland and Milwaukee: "After two years, pupils at Cleveland's private schools performed seven percentage points higher than the national average in reading and fifteen points higher in math . . .

[In] Milwaukee schools, after four years, pupils in voucher schools had maths scores four percentage points higher than their unlucky public contemporaries, and six points higher in reading." (The Economist, September 4, 1999) If Hoxby's assertion that consumer demands for education favorably affect school resource growth and efficiency, then voucher successes in Milwaukee and Cleveland make sense. If consumers of education in these cities cannot affect school resources because their tax shares have little influence over local school funding, then voucher systems will restore their ability to effect school resources. Because most school dollars come from local property taxes in the U.S., low-income families are resource-limited to schools with restricted funds or greater independence. While Gore's plan to increase federal funding might help mitigate inequalities between school districts with disparate resources, it would come at the cost of increased school autonomy. The centralization of school funding reduces the power of parents to influence local school operations. Consequently, schools may become increasingly bureaucratic, loosing the efficiency and adaptability of a market driven industry.

Hoxby concludes that, "centralized finance cannot handle anything beyond a few readily identifiable differences in demand, because it has no means of eliciting true demand information from households." If school taxes become more centralized, members of society may also be driven away from their most-preferred political outcome -- some may want to consume more education than the majority and others may want to consume less. Because the majority tends to favor median outcomes, however, both will be forced away from their desired spending levels. Those who normally consume large amounts of education may loose interest in public schooling as their tax dollars contribute less to their consumption of education. Hoxby attributes the recent down turn in California's school funding to the complete centralization of its school financing. Hoxby explains, "Since centralized finance necessarily prevents many households from investing close to their private optimum, it gives them a strong incentive to evade the system either overtly by sending their children to private schools or covertly by rephrasing some school spending as 'off the budget' activity fees or private lessons . .

.California's spending slump since its centralization in 1978 is especially ominous." Under Gore's plan, schools and teachers have reduced incentives to improve their performances; they lack accountability insured by competitive forces. Under Gore's plan, public schools, which cannot teach children, nor provide a safe environment, may endure as usual. Parents might find themselves with fewer choices concerning their children's education. Furthermore, those who cannot afford to send their children to private schools or who do not have the time or resources to educate their children at home will bear the burden of public school failures. Since in many states these parents are disproportionately minorities with low incomes, the earnings gap between whites and minorities could continue far into the current century, stressing national stability and deriding American equality. With the upcoming election and the far-reaching ramifications it will have on education, America will have to come face-to-face with an issue too long over looked.

We will have to decide whether the current educational system is working, or whether it needs to be privatized. We will have to decide how important national education is as a public good and how much we are willing to pay for it. Furthermore, we will have to decide how to apportion educational resources in way that reflects the mores of a democratic nation founded on equality. Given the stances taken by Al Gore and George W. Bush on education, it seems right now Bush's strategy has an edge Gore's does not. Though both presidential candidates have their strengths and weaknesses, and both are strongly committed to improving educational standards, Gore's unbending adherence to the NEA, the AFT, and an old educational system of debatable viability, elicits questioning. Bibliography: References: Jonathan Cohn.

"The Old New Thing," The New Republic; Washington; April 17/April 24, 2000. Samuel G. Freedman. "Public Leaders, Private Schools," New York Times; New York; April 15, 2000. Amy Borrus and Richard S. Dunham.

"The Mad Grab for Latino Votes," Business Week; New York; April 10, 2000. Richard S. Dunham. "The ABC's Of Vouchers and Politics," Business Week; New York; April 10, 2000. "Choice Debate Is Over," Wall Street Journal; New York; April 6, 2000. Siobhan Gorman.

"Education," National Journal; Washington; April 1, 2000. "Leaders: America's Education Choice," The Economist; London; April 1, 2000. "United States: Teacher's Pet," The Economist; London; April 1, 2000. Charles Peters. "Tilting at Windmills," The Washington Monthly; Washington; April 2000. Andrew Stephen. "School Kids Become Vote-winners," New Statesman; London; March 27, 2000.

Bob Davis. "Gore Campaign's `School Days' Put Focus on Education," Wall Street Journal; Mar 24, 2000. Peter Schrag. "Education and the Election," New York Times; March 6, 2000. Martha M. McCarthy.

"What is the Verdict on School Vouchers?" Phi Delta Kappan; Bloomington; January 2000. Mark Gerson. "The Right Choice for Schools," Public Interest; Washington; Spring 2000. "United States: Sorting Out School Choice," The Economist; London; September 4, 1999. Milton Friedman. "Public Schools: Make Them private," Educational Economics; Abingdon; December 1997. Henry M. Levin, Cyrus E.

Driver. "Costs of an Educational Voucher System," Educational Economics; Abington; December 1997. Peter Rangazas. "Competition and private school vouchers," Education Economics; Abingdon; December 1997. David Card and Alan B. Krueger. "School Resources and Student Outcomes: An Overview of the Literature and New Evidence from North and South Carolina," Journal of Economic Perspectives; vol.

10; Fall, 1996. Eric A. Hanushek. "Measuring Investment in Education," Journal of Economic Perspectives; vol. 10; Fall, 1996. Caroline Minter Hoxby.

"Are Efficiency and Equity in School Finance Substitutes or Complements?" Journal of Economic Perspectives; vol. 10; Fall, 1996. Eugene C. Steuerle. "How Should the Government Allocate Subsidies for Human Capital?" American Economic Review; vol 86; May, 1996..

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