(Guest post by Greg Forster)
My colleagues at the Friedman Foundation have released this year’s ABCs of School Choice, which you can find here – but only if you want the very latest and best data on school choice.
Just inside the cover is this striking photograph of Milton and Rose, which I had never seen before. Coming up on seven years after his passing, I’m tremendously heartened by the progress school choice has made. Right up until his death Milton was boldly predicting that he would live to see one state enact a universal voucher. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, it was a gutsy thing to say for a man who had seen the far side of 90 and was cracking jokes about having outlived the actuarial tables.
Next to the photo appears this statement, which first ran in The School Choice Advocate in 2004:
Government is committed to assuring that all children receive a minimum education. It currently does so by setting up and running schools, assigning students within a designated catchment area to each school. Students are thereby deprived of choice. They go to the designated school or else they do not benefit from the government commitment and their parents must pay twice for their education—once in the form of taxes, again in tuition.
Equally important, government is deprived of the benefits of competition. It is as if the government decided that the automobiles it uses must be built in government factories. What do you think the quality and cost of government cars would be? Or, to take another example, it is as if recipients of food stamps were required to spend them in a specified government-run grocery store.
It is only the tyranny of the status quo that leads us to take it for granted that in schooling, government monopoly is the best way for the government to achieve its objective.
A far more effective and equitable way for government to finance education is to finance students, not schools. Assign a specified sum of money to each child and let him or her and his or her parents choose the school that they believe best, perhaps a government school, perhaps a private school, perhaps homeschooling. Let the schools in turn, whether government or private, set their own tuition rates, and control their own operating procedures. That would provide real competition for all schools, competition powered by the ultimate beneficiaries of the program, the nation’s children.
Check it out.