Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Vouchers

Mike Pence Really Could Be Worse Than Trump

As the talk of impeaching President Trump has ramped up, a lot of people seem to be really excited by the prospect of his removal. I’m afraid I can’t share the enthusiasm. Why? I’m a Hoosier–I grew up in Indiana, the state Vice President Pence governed from 2013 to 2017. My parents still live there. Every year I come back from grad school in the summers and over the holidays to reconnect with my roots, and even when I’m faraway I make a point to stay up to date on the happenings in my state. This means that for the last four years I’ve had a pretty detailed look at Pence. Most Americans seem to view him as some kind of serious, responsible, adult Republican. This understanding is grounded in the way Pence has presented himself on the national stage–as this taciturn, businesslike bridge between the different Republican factions. Pence has done an impressive marketing job getting people to view him this way, because when he’s in power it’s a very different story. Let me tell you some Mike Pence tales.

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A Radical Proposal for Kindergarten and Pre-K

In our schools, we are often trying to accomplish two conflicting goals at once:

  1. We want our quickest students to maximize their potential–this means we want them to be in classes that move at their pace.
  2. We don’t want our slower students to be dismissed and devalued, so we are reluctant to separate them from the quicker students and put them in remedial classes where they may be given a low priority.

If we put fast students and slow students in the same age group together, the class will either move at a pace that’s too slow for the quick kids or too fast for the slow kids. If we separate them, educational resources tend to flow disproportionately to the kids who are already at an advantage, as they tend to have the most involved parents.

I have a suggestion to get around this problem while at the same time resolving public policy disputes about state support for expanding Pre-K education.

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Jeb Bush’s Plan to Privatize Medicare Would Be a Disaster

US Presidential contender Jeb Bush recently spoke out in favor of the old Paul Ryan plan to “phase out” Medicare and replace it with a voucher program:

Said Bush:

I think a lot of people recognize that we need to make sure we fulfill the commitment to people that have already received the benefits, that are receiving the benefits. But that we need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something, because they’re not going to have anything.

When pressed on the point, Bush doubled down:

It took less than a day for me to be attacked for the very thing that I predicted would happen and that’s just ridiculous. We need to have a grown-up conversation about these issues.

Bush argues that if we do not privatize Medicare, the system will collapse. Consequently, he thinks those who disagree with him are not taking the issue seriously. But this argument is grossly misleading–Medicare is in a much stronger financial position than Bush would have us believe, and a privatized system would sharply increase healthcare costs for seniors.

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A Critique of Private Schools, Vouchers, and the School Choice Movement

One of the big ideas at the heart of the education reform movement in many countries is the concept of “school choice”. The idea is that by allowing parents to choose schools for their children, policymakers can use the principle of market competition to force schools to improve. By forcing schools to compete for students to receive funding, school choice is meant to force schools to make themselves more appealing to parents. In theory, school choice doesn’t even increase inequality, because vouchers can be issued allowing parents to send their kids to private schools that would otherwise be too expensive. This is intuitively appealing, but does it hold up against scrutiny?

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