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Thread: Can we talk abut school funding and the "voucher" option?

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    Default Can we talk abut school funding and the "voucher" option?

    Hey, so I'll freely admit I'm not any kind of expert on this, but just a concerned parent and taxpayer. Feel free to correct me where I've made wrong assumptions

    Currently, the various "public, separate and charter" school boards receive funding on a per-student basis (I think). They may also receive some form of base funding irrespective of enrollment. "Private" schools receive some fractional amount per student, which I've heard is 70% of what a public board would receive, and no base funding.

    Teachers Unions and NDP typically frame all school funding discussions around "having strong and well funded public school boards"

    In some places in the USA, the full funding amount follows the student to whatever school they choose to attend, which is called a "voucher" system.

    I guess, to me, in this era of increased personal choice and personal responsibility for the educational outcomes of your children, what's wrong with a voucher system? Philosophically, I think it makes sense to "fund students" and not to fund institutions. I'm all for a strong public school system, but honestly, we don't have one. My kids are in public school, and it's a wreck in terms of accountability, fiscal prudence, and outcomes.
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    Like privatization of many things, voucher systems hurt the ones that need the public entity the most because you're pulling money out of the public system to subsidize the private system, which is great for people who can and want to pay more for their kids education because they'll pay less than they otherwise would, but isn't great if you can't really afford to pay the extra premium for the private option, you're either picking lesser private schools, or sticking with a lower funded public school while subsidizing the kids going to private school. The top private schools in the city cost about $18K/year, and that's on top of the funding the schools already get per student (~$5K as a base, more in certain circumstances like special needs students). So you're still looking at forking over about $10K in tuition every year for your kid to send them to those schools (I'm sure more will pop up at a more affordable rate, knowing what their base revenue will be). If you can't afford it, then the public school you're sending them to is going to also be getting a funding hit of a few thousand dollars a student which doesn't make things better.

    Basically the people who push for this tend to have the religious background so they can have better funded religious private schools, and from wealthy people who already send their kids to private school because it will save them a lot of money. There are also the ideologues who do just want to gut the public system just because, but there are less than you'd think since the whole premise was mostly to fund religious schools with public money more.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ExtraSlow View Post
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    I guess, to me, in this era of increased personal choice and personal responsibility for the educational outcomes of your children, what's wrong with a voucher system? Philosophically, I think it makes sense to "fund students" and not to fund institutions. I'm all for a strong public school system, but honestly, we don't have one. My kids are in public school, and it's a wreck in terms of accountability, fiscal prudence, and outcomes.
    I don't really feel that I should be spending my tax dollars to fund certain forms of private schools. Specialized schools for special needs kids like the blind etc? Yeah for sure I don't mind funding that with tax dollars. Now when you're talking about Pollo Club Webber Academy kids where the parents are paying 30,000$+ a year to send them to snotty rich person school F that noise. That's about as stupid as giving someone a subsidy for electric cars if they are buying a 1,000,000$ porsche 918 spyder. The rich can afford it so let them pay for all of it out of pocket. I don't see why they need handouts for what is a "luxury" purchase.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mazdavirgin View Post
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    I don't really feel that I should be spending my tax dollars to fund certain forms of private schools. Specialized schools for special needs kids like the blind etc? Yeah for sure I don't mind funding that with tax dollars. Now when you're talking about Pollo Club Webber Academy kids where the parents are paying 30,000$+ a year to send them to snotty rich person school F that noise. That's about as stupid as giving someone a subsidy for electric cars if they are buying a 1,000,000$ porsche 918 spyder. The rich can afford it so let them pay for all of it out of pocket. I don't see why they need handouts for what is a "luxury" purchase.
    Pretty much this.

    You have to remember that your kid doesn't just receive your own tax dollars. Everyone in the province pays taxes. So it's not fair for the general public to support private schools to the same funding as public schools. I think the current system of they get some funding but it's reduced is reasonable. I do not think it should ever be equal funding per student.
    Nolan

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    Quote Originally Posted by pheoxs View Post
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    Pretty much this.

    You have to remember that your kid doesn't just receive your own tax dollars. Everyone in the province pays taxes. So it's not fair for the general public to support private schools to the same funding as public schools. I think the current system of they get some funding but it's reduced is reasonable. I do not think it should ever be equal funding per student.

    Excellent point - everyone in the province pays taxes, so why should someone that chooses to send their kids to private school get none of the (likely outsized) contribution to the tax pool by not receiving any of that money in return, to offset their prioritized spending on education for their own children?

    If private schools were eliminated, the funding required for those students would no longer be partial, but instead the full amount as borne by the public school systems (~$5,500 vs. ~$9,000 per year, so $3,500 / year / student, not accounting for other public funding of public schools). The math doesn't work and the results would ultimately be worse for everyone with more students needing a "full ride" of public funding.
    Last edited by you&me; 11-13-2019 at 12:37 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by you&me View Post
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    Excellent point - everyone in the province pays taxes, so why should someone that chooses to send their kids to private school get none of the (likely outsized) contribution to the tax pool by not receiving any of that money in return, to offset their prioritized spending on education for their own children?
    Because it is their choice to use the private schools. They have every right to use the public schools but they are choosing an alternative route for education. I did say that I thought it was reasonable that they get a reduced amount of funding, as that would include taxes that that parents pay.
    Nolan

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    If the public school system does its job well, it should have nothing to worry about - people will take their voucher to that system.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mazdavirgin View Post
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    Now when you're talking about Pollo Club Webber Academy kids...
    webb.png

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    Quote Originally Posted by ExtraSlow View Post
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    Hey, so I'll freely admit I'm not any kind of expert on this, but just a concerned parent and taxpayer. Feel free to correct me where I've made wrong assumptions

    Currently, the various "public, separate and charter" school boards receive funding on a per-student basis (I think). They may also receive some form of base funding irrespective of enrollment. "Private" schools receive some fractional amount per student, which I've heard is 70% of what a public board would receive, and no base funding.

    Teachers Unions and NDP typically frame all school funding discussions around "having strong and well funded public school boards"

    In some places in the USA, the full funding amount follows the student to whatever school they choose to attend, which is called a "voucher" system.

    I guess, to me, in this era of increased personal choice and personal responsibility for the educational outcomes of your children, what's wrong with a voucher system? Philosophically, I think it makes sense to "fund students" and not to fund institutions. I'm all for a strong public school system, but honestly, we don't have one. My kids are in public school, and it's a wreck in terms of accountability, fiscal prudence, and outcomes.
    Your assumptions are mostly spot-on. Currently, there are several streams of funding for education in Alberta, the biggest of which is the per-student funding, which (IIRC) is approximately $9,000 per student in the public systems, where as students in private schools receive about $5,500. The recent budget cuts left the per-student funding unchanged, but that only covers 66% of the overall CBE budget. The budget shortfall comes from a re-jigging of funding for three items: Fee Replacement, Class Room Improvement Fund & Class Size Initiative. Those three funding items became funding for Enrollment growth & a one-time transition fund, which equated to a total funding cut of $32mm for the CBE.

    The only funding provided to charter and private school from the provincial government is on a per-student basis. Private school tuitions are charged to make up the publicly funded deficiency, and then further top up to cover the balance of other costs (programs, equipment, teacher salaries, facility costs and improvements, etc).

    From where I sit, I fully agree with the fully funded voucher system, but I can see why others don't.

    Edit - I meant to add that your last point regarding personal responsibility and accountability were the main factors in our choice to send our kids to private school.
    Last edited by you&me; 11-13-2019 at 02:30 PM.

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    Here are some numbers to help people figure out how much they contribute to the school system (k-12):

    Total AB Budget: 56,000MM
    Total School Budget: 8,000MM (it actually rounds up to 15% of the budget).

    So assume, aside from property taxes, everybody contributes 15% of their provincial tax bill to schools, whether or not you have children, or have children in a public or private school. I can't find total assessed property value in Alberta so I have no idea how much of your property taxes go to schools, as a percent of property tax bill so it is pretty hard to say exactly how much any specific person is paying.

    Federal transfers are lumped in pretty large groupings of allowable usage but using similar percentages, about 2,000MM out of 18,000MM of transfer goes into education in Alberta so federal personal taxes are being used in Alberta for education at a rate of about 1.7:1 of provincial taxes (~20% of your federal taxes, depending on tax bracket).

    Last reported data shows that private schools are funded to about 263MM or a mean of $7576/kid with a mode of about $5000/kid.

    This should give a very rough idea of if you are paying more or less than you are costing the system. Last time I ran the numbers for my household, we were paying far more into the system than we were getting out, with two kids in private school.

    There are many instances when I feel like privatization could be used to further subsidize public services but this does not seem to be a common feeling with people who are pushing for privatization, whether it is education or health care. I am much more inclined to want to subsidize elective costs than required costs.

    I am not sure I would want a full voucher system as I see that as being detrimental to the public system whereas the current regime is beneficial. There could be more financial equity in the system but I don't think financial equality is something to strive for as all it means is that poorly educated families will continue to be poorly educated and well educated families will continue to be well educated, with the gap probably widening.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 98brg2d View Post
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    Federal transfers are lumped in pretty large groupings of allowable usage but using similar percentages, about 2,000MM out of 18,000MM of transfer goes into education in Alberta so federal personal taxes are being used in Alberta for education at a rate of about 1.7:1 of provincial taxes (~20% of your federal taxes, depending on tax bracket).
    2 billion out of 18 billion is only 11%. Not sure where you got 20%?
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    I can see both sides of the argument here, but my personal view is that if you are paying the taxes for schooling and you chose to not use the public school system, why shouldn't you get to spend your allotment as you see fit on your child's education. I get it removes money from the public system if you take that money and use it to partially cover a private system, but you are also removing a body from an the public system so this will also reduce the load to already overcrowded classrooms. I don't see this as an issue.
    Bob Blakeborough

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    Keep in mind the entire healthcare system is largely a "voucher" system.

    You go to your doctor with, essentially, a voucher from the gov't. But the doctors are private people/corps.

    If we ran our healthcare system like we ran our education system, you would be assigned a local doctor. That's where you would go, you would have no choice in service providers.

    (As an aside, I've never been able to figure out why people who are against privatized services, would never consider the gov't taking over our food distribution. Nobody wants the grocery equivalent of the AHS...and yet they flip that logic when it comes to medical services.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Buster View Post
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    Keep in mind the entire healthcare system is largely a "voucher" system.

    You go to your doctor with, essentially, a voucher from the gov't. But the doctors are private people/corps.

    If we ran our healthcare system like we ran our education system, you would be assigned a local doctor. That's where you would go, you would have no choice in service providers.

    (As an aside, I've never been able to figure out why people who are against privatized services, would never consider the gov't taking over our food distribution. Nobody wants the grocery equivalent of the AHS...and yet they flip that logic when it comes to medical services.)
    Private medicine already exists. You simply can't charge AHS and add a fee on top for a service.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tirebob View Post
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    I can see both sides of the argument here, but my personal view is that if you are paying the taxes for schooling and you chose to not use the public school system, why shouldn't you get to spend your allotment as you see fit on your child's education. I get it removes money from the public system if you take that money and use it to partially cover a private system, but you are also removing a body from an the public system so this will also reduce the load to already overcrowded classrooms. I don't see this as an issue.
    If the money really followed the parents wishes I should be in for a pretty good refund for the pre-child vasectomy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Buster View Post
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    Keep in mind the entire healthcare system is largely a "voucher" system.

    You go to your doctor with, essentially, a voucher from the gov't. But the doctors are private people/corps.

    If we ran our healthcare system like we ran our education system, you would be assigned a local doctor. That's where you would go, you would have no choice in service providers.
    That's an interesting comparison that I hadn't considered.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tirebob View Post
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    I can see both sides of the argument here, but my personal view is that if you are paying the taxes for schooling and you chose to not use the public school system, why shouldn't you get to spend your allotment as you see fit on your child's education.
    That would be fine if you're only getting the money you yourself are paying in but that's not how that works... I have a very real problem when my tax dollars are going to subsidize sending kids to 30,000$+ a year private schools. My view is that if you can afford that in the first place then you don't need a bailout from the government. Private schools are fine but I don't want my tax dollars going to fund them unless they are something specific for disabled children or something along those lines. School for the blind/autistic sure why not. But rich person boarding school polo club? Yeah not so much...

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    Quote Originally Posted by mazdavirgin View Post
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    That would be fine if you're only getting the money you yourself are paying in but that's not how that works... I have a very real problem when my tax dollars are going to subsidize sending kids to 30,000$+ a year private schools. My view is that if you can afford that in the first place then you don't need a bailout from the government. Private schools are fine but I don't want my tax dollars going to fund them unless they are something specific for disabled children or something along those lines. School for the blind/autistic sure why not. But rich person boarding school polo club? Yeah not so much...
    You have to keep the public system accountable somehow, and the money following the student sorta helps.

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    Quote Originally Posted by suntan View Post
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    You have to keep the public system accountable somehow, and the money following the student sorta helps.
    You can keep the system accountable and tie the money to the students but not subsidize private schools. It's really not that hard... You choose to go to rich person school then you forfeit the money and it goes back into the overall slush fund. The people sending their kids to Webber don't need handouts and will send them there no matter what.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mazdavirgin View Post
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    You can keep the system accountable and tie the money to the students but not subsidize private schools. It's really not that hard... You choose to go to rich person school then you forfeit the money and it goes back into the overall slush fund. The people sending their kids to Webber don't need handouts and will send them there no matter what.
    Not specifically directed at you, but I find it ironic that a lot of the "equality for all" posters seem to forget all about that same equality when it comes to funding received by those perceived to be "wealthy". It might not be hard to say some people forfeit the education funding, but it's even easier to simply apply the same funding to all children.

    I know this flies in the face of the eat-the-rich, anti-private school crowd, but it should be known that there are a lot of families that send their children to private schools by making sacrifices in other areas of their lives. For some families, cutting the basic funding would mean the difference between private and public education.
    Last edited by you&me; 11-13-2019 at 03:02 PM.

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