Donald Boudreaux, a Professor of Economics at George Mason University, recently published on Cafe Hayek an interesting thought experiment on what life would be like if we had to shop for food in the same manner we “shop” for education for our children for primary education in, If Supermarkets Were Run Like Public Schools.
I find the thought experiment fascinatingly absurd, and that is precisely the point. We as citizens would never willfully subject ourselves to such rigidity in choice or willingly allow the creation of such a monopolistic power that takes from us a significant portion of our taxes and pushes it to a consumer experience that would inevitably be frustratingly unremarkable in its homogeneity, unchecked cost increases, and lack of innovation and growth that entrenched interests and a lack of competitive market creates. We would never allow the government such restrictive power over our choice of something so critical as food, the forced inability to purchase a diverse range of goods that fit our proclivities, and the lack of choice of where we buy it. Yet this is the experience that we find in the typical public school model in municipalities across the U.S.
Imagine the power and freedom to choose where to send your child to school. Imagine what you could choose if you had ready access to the $10,000 that the government taxes and sends directly to one school that is currently your only option. Imagine having those funds attached directly to your child for you to spend at any accredited school of your choice. In such a world, innovative schools would proliferate and could cater uniquely to the needs of those that are seeking top-tier experiences and education in science and math, music and arts, traditional trades, computer science, or even athletics. Failing schools would close and cease to harm those in poor communities, who could take their money and the “votes of their feet” to high-performing schools, freeing them from the generational cycle aspect of poverty.
In another great summary with many links on research of the beneficial aspects of school choice and some of the shoddy and self-serving research out there that indicates that school choice has no impact, I also recommend the Post on the Sacred Cow Chips blog, Proof of Concept: School Choice versus Failing Public Schools.