Another excellent article from Dan Cuprill – John Pollock
Saving Public Schools
Yesterday, fifteen school districts in the Cincinnati area requested that voters either increase or maintain current tax rates for the benefit of public schools. Eleven of these initiatives failed. Of the four that did pass, three were just maintaining the current tax rate. Only one that actually requested a tax increase passed.
For some of these districts, it was the eighth time in a row that voters refused to raise their property taxes for public schools. So what gives? Do people just not care about educating America’s youth?
No. Not at all.
But like so many things in life, education is this country has deviated from the one system designed to ensure its quality: The Free Market.
Your typical public school system operates like a giant monopoly. No competition. Accountability is limited and quality is offered on a “take it or leave it” basis. Even worse, it requires non-customers to pay for its services even if they don’t wish to use them. Eventually, consumer’s revolt. Once again, a government controlled business (and education is a business) is doomed.
These school districts will first respond by removing student programs they believe are non-essential: sports, field trips, and clubs. Unaffected will be the high cost items: administrator salaries, teacher pensions and benefits, staff. But a free market enterprise that is losing customers/revenue would do the very opposite. It would maintain those aspects that make it appealing/unique and cut costs by either laying off employees or lowering salaries. The needs of the customer would come ahead of the need of the employees and owners. For without a customer, there is no company.
In a free market system, disgruntled customers can vote with their wallet and buy from a competitor. But with public education, the customer does not have that luxury. He must either endure or pay for a second school by sending his child to a private institution.
The most practical solution is to employ a voucher system. This would enter competition into the system, which would drive down costs and increase quality. But teacher unions and politicians are unlikely to give the people that freedom (and it always comes down to freedom). So instead, we will continue to see the demise of public education as those with means choose to send their children to private schools and continue to vote against tax increases. Retirees, damaged by another government system (social security), will also vote against levys since they have no children in school. As the population’s average age continues to increase, financial support will continue to decrease.
There is no doubt that quality education can be provided at a fraction of its current cost. But that would require that entitlements be cut or adjusted. How likely is that? The free market can save education…I only hope it is given that chance before it’s too late.