I wrote some ideas on the subject in 1998:
busing was always a second rate idea, but it acknowledged two facts
which were cast in stone at the time, and one that remains today.
#1. you cannot get white taxpayers to directly subsidize non-whites in
what appears to be a zero-sum racial game.
#2. separate but equal is a bad idea.
the second idea has been losing currency, but the first is just about
as rigid today as it ever was. the clearest indication of that to me
is white support of vouchers, as contrasted to the summary dismissal
of geographic restrictions on public school enrollment. vouchers will
always privilege those who are smarter with money, and those who can
organize. in other words, them whose got, gets. vouchers = liquidity
which means it will accellerate the desires of everyone involved. i am
convinced that the desire to abandon rather than renovate ghetto
schools will not change with the advent of vouchers, and that the
liquidity vouchers provide will accellerate their destruction.
the second clearest indication of that is the willingness of suburban
schools to accept bussed children concurrent with their refusal to
allow circulation of highly qualified teachers. magnet schools are
proof positive that putting the best materials and best teachers in
the worst ghettoes results in drastically improved students.
So these are my essential talking points on vouchers. Overall Opinion, Thumbs Down
Religious Right Overproduction
At the bottom of some of the original thinking on vouchers was the absolutist point on tax abatement. Citizens hiding behind the mask of 'taxpayer' decided selfishly to defund the public school system which was racially separate, unequal, mediocre in suburbs and pathetic in racial ghettos.
Overfocus on test scores tend to falsely objectify the value of schools. What is defective in poor schools is not simply measured in grades. A school which is not a community center fails as well. The difference an active PTA makes is critical. Vouchers do not create soccer moms. Single parents will not suddenly be able to dedicate more time to making the school a better institution.
Supply Side Failure
Development of new schools is very expensive. Capital improvements are required for older schools. Capital is required for the purchase of land for new schools. Vouchers don't address these issues. If overcrowding is a problem in any school district or any argument is made about class size or dumbing down better schools that will not be diminished until new high quality schools appear.
Liquidity vs Equality
Smart families will do better with money directed at them. Vouchers will simply create a new kind of flight. The problem is not mobility. Improvement in schools should not be directed to individual families but to reform of the system.
Management Not Money
Most school districts are administratively incapable of executing quickly. This is a function of management, not of privatization. School districts should be reformed, not revolutionized. Firing incompetents does not create leadership, and overpaying high profile 'education executives' will not improve the education of children.
You can provide school choice without adding vouchers. Boundaryless public school districts work on the same principle. Tracking students by geography into particular schools can be unfair. Vouchers don't help children who don't have private schools nearby. Transportation is a big issue.