Monday, June 18, 2007

School Choice

I'm a public school teacher as well as a taxpayer and parent. And I support school choice.

Universal public education is sacred, public schools themselves are not. I have no qualms, though, about having government-run schools as one of the choices for parents and their children.

So when I came across this opinion piece via NewsAlert (see blogroll at left), I had to read the entire thing.

During a trip to Washington, D.C., last weekend, I was struck by a front-page Washington Post article on the dismal state of the city's public schools. Despite spending more per student than virtually any other school district in the nation, the capital's pupils are tragically deprived of a decent education, with nearly three-quarters of them lacking basic math skills...

Most supporters of public schools acknowledge that the middle class and wealthy people would do well if the system became entirely private. But what about the poor kids, they ask. That's their ultimate attack on this idea.

That brings us back to the current state of affairs in the nation's poor, urban school districts. Just look at the results in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Can it get any worse? I believe things can get much better, that the market (and private charities) will provide an astounding array of excellent choices in the poorest, bleakest neighborhoods.

He's right, of course, but advocates the total elimination of public schools. I'm not ready to go there yet, but perhaps someday.

Although charter schools and tuition vouchers offer some hope for individual parents who want to get their kids out of urban public school nightmares or out of the mediocre, politically correct school systems in affluent suburbia, they are not the ultimate solution to the education problem. The solution is much simpler and more sensible: the complete elimination of the public school system and its replacement with a true free market. Parents would pay for their own kids' education and would select from a host of private schools (ranging from big institutions to tiny home schools) that best serve their needs. They would shop for benefits, quality, features, location and price – just like we do for everything else in the market economy, such as cars, groceries and cell-phone service. That's not to say that all private companies are good, but consumers have choices, and competition provides pressure for the bad ones to improve. (boldface mine--Darren)

A related argument is made regarding health care. Food and housing are more important, on a daily basis, than medical care, at least for most of us, but we don't expect our employers to provide our food and housing. Because health care isn't truly a competitive market, costs rise egregiously. Imagine what will happen if/when government itself takes over that industry. Think "public education on steroids".

And yet public schools have their rabid defenders, often the same people who want government to take over health care. Such people must not have much faith in themselves, else why would they want government to do so much for them?

1 comment:

Mike said...

Dear Darren:

Indeed, I agree with you that we should not look to government to pay for what we can do ourselves. When government is involved, our freedom is always lessened and sometimes, completely curtailed, and once a bureaucracy is established, it is virtually impossible to dismantle it.

So we absolutely must not support government paying for schooling of any kind, above and beyond that already provided by law.