Why Educational Vouchers Are Not Enough

In 1955, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, Milton Friedman, introduced the idea of school vouchers in his essay “The Role of Government in Education.”

Friedman’s convictions about vouchers led him to found the EdChoice Foundation along with his wife, Rose Friedman. They showed us the benefits of the voucher system in American classrooms before the college level. The foundation also brings people together and equips them with high-quality research, analysis, policy expertise, and messaging strategies. EdChoice has three pillars: research and thought leadership, training and outreach, and policy and advocacy.

Classroom Finances throughout the World

Educational vouchers have a positive effect on the reduction of state spending across the world. In Spain, the state spends €7,861 per year and the European Union €6,071, while private education within the states of the European Union costs between €3,000 to €5,000 per year. 

That’s a big difference! With that data, we can conclude that the state is inefficient in the use of taxes in education.

Why Vouchers?

Educational vouchers allow the state to finance the demand for education. This allows education to be private and schools to fight in the market to attract students. This competition brings as a logical effect the improvement of the educational service, in addition to eliminating the possibility that unions or teachers can make incorrect use of the resources they receive when they are overfunded.

Under a voucher system, people with fewer resources who live on the periphery are not obliged to attend the nearest school, which, under the standard tuition system, is often among those that provide the worst service. In short, it gives people a choice in schooling.

Related: John Stossel on School Choice

Several professors, such as Martin Krause and Prof. Alberto Benegas Lynch, promote using a voucher system. But vouchers are not enough. Here’s why.

Socialism and Academic Freedom

History teaches us that education is the best tool a state has to maintain control of individuals and that socialist and fascist regimes (which are close cousins) have used it to do just that. Benito Mussolini understood this idea, and that’s why Eden K. McLean wrote “Mussolini’s Children: Race and Elementary Education in Fascist Italy.” The author of this book explains how educational institutions were used to change the minds of children between the ages of five and eleven. 

We can observe how other powerful groups seek to control education at an increasingly early stage, too. 

For example, we have the “Integrated Sexual Education” proposed by modern-day progressives, and in Bolivia, the book “Las Aventuras de Evito” indoctrinates students to idolize former president Evo Morales. 

So, the first step is to seek academic freedom: to separate the state from education so that schools, from preschools to universities, can choose what they want to teach without coercion. Academic freedom is essential to ensure critical thinking and that individuals can freely choose what they want to learn. 

Now, know this: Academic freedom will lead to the creation of schools that embrace ideas we don’t like; maybe even ideas that are dead wrong. 

For more ideas that are dead wrong, see:

That’s ok; the sorting-out process of good ideas from bad is necessary for our intellectual development and makes individuals responsible for their choices.

The Key Takeaway on Vouchers, Education, and Freedom

But here’s the thing: Academic freedom cannot exist if the state controls the curriculum. And that means the voucher system cannot work if the state controls the curriculum.

So, I propose this: Let’s start with a system of vouchers to improve education. It would be a wonderful starting point. However, we must not forget that vouchers are only the beginning — a means to an end. The end is academic freedom — a separation of state from education — which will help to instill strong critical thinking skills in students.

I’d like to think this broad policy approach is one that Milton Friedman (RIP) would support. It leverages a lot of what makes a market economy strong: competition among different kinds of curricula, privatized learning, and incentives for leadership to overcome challenges efficiently.

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