Mike Kueber's Blog

June 8, 2012

School choice

Filed under: Education,Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 9:30 pm
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I have been a big fan of school choice ever since reading Milton and Rose Friedman’s Free to Choose in the early 80s.  Although there are various ways to effect school choice (e.g., open enrollment or tax credits), the Friedmans’ suggested using vouchers, and for many years the battles against vouchers have served as a proxy for the war against education reform.

In 1996, the Friedmans’ established their Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice to advocate for school choice and vouchers.  The Foundation’s website provides the following summary of school-choice policy: 

  • What is School Choice?  School Choice is:
    • A common sense idea that gives all parents the power and freedom to choose their child’s education, while encouraging healthy competition among schools and other institutions to better serve students’ needs and priorities.
    • A public policy that allows a parent/guardian or student to choose a district, charter, or private school, regardless of residence and location.

The Foundation goes on to make the following arguments in favor of school choice:

  • Immorality.  It is immoral that the quality of schooling is based on the value and location of your home. School choice gives parents the freedom to choose a school based on its quality and their child’s needs, not their home address.
  • Parental Power and Freedom.  Most people can’t afford to pay twice for education, once in taxes and again in private school tuition. School choice gives parents financial power and flexibility by letting them use public funds set aside for education to send their children to the school of their choice—public or private, near or far, religious or secular—whatever works best for their children. In every part of the country, children are assigned to a public school based on where their parents live. School districts, in nearly all cases, control local monopolies that dictate the terms and conditions of education for students and schools. School choice gives parents the freedom to choose a school.
  • Healthy Competition and Effective Schools.  Most schools in America still operate using a 19th century industrial model for delivering goods and services. Today, schools generally do not function in a way that can effectively meet the specific needs and priorities of every unique child. School choice forces all schools—public and private—to compete and innovate in order to offer the best education possible to attract and retain students.

Because the reactionary forces have control of many levers of power, they have been able to stymy educational reform that is obviously necessary.  How else can you explain the succession of Democrats in Washington who proclaim the fundamental virtue of the public school system while they invariably send their kids to private schools?  Yet, the media gives this hypocritical behavior a pass, perhaps because their kids go to private schools, too. 

Because school vouchers have been generally accepted in America, school choice proponents are searching for other ways to skin this cat.  An article in the NT Times earlier this week described a “fiendishly clever” way that several states are using tax credits to accomplish what vouchers have been unable to do. 

And just today, there were multiple reports of a school-choice law in Arkansas that a federal judge found unconstitutional because it provided school choice only to minority kids.   

School choice and vouchers are a winning issue for the Republican Party, and this issue will do continuing damage to the Democratic Party as long as it persists in its obstructionary positions.  That’s what happens when a political party allows itself to be co-opted by special interests – i.e., the teachers’ unions.



  1. As a public school teacher, I am 100 percent in favor of a school voucher system, IF a school can turn to a parent and say “Here’s your voucher and your kid. We are unable to provide properly for his needs, you’ll need to take him somewhere else. Have a nice life.” A small portion, say 5% of the kids cause 80% of the wasted time in public schools for teachers and administrators (statistics made up on the spot). As long as public schools are forced to take all comers, there are flaws in this type of system.

    Comment by Bill — June 8, 2012 @ 9:59 pm | Reply

  2. […] one size fitting all, and the jury seems to be out on whether that system is working.  I recently blogged about school choice, which is a relatively recent issue based on the perceived failings of public […]

    Pingback by Socialized medicine – a/k/a one-size-fits-all « Mike Kueber's Blog — June 9, 2012 @ 7:53 pm | Reply

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