Education and choice
One of the things as a country we generally approve is that competition breeds excellence. Competition between Firefox and Internet Explorer has made both better (well, okay, it has made IE better as the copy Firefox features and look and feel). Competition made Harley Davidson do better at making motor cycles; Japan finally got quality on the radar of American auto makers; telephone prices have come down, and telephone services have gone up (I remember $4 a minute for phone calls to California from Maryland before competition).
What about education? What choice do most people have for education? If you are rich, you can afford the taxes you already pay, and then the tens of thousands it costs for separate tuition. (Just one non-sectarian school charges upwards of $27,000/year Burke and there are others just as expensive.)
So what can be done? A lot of people say nothing -- what after all are the alternatives that would give people choice? What would happen if real educational choice existed? How could anyone possibly get it "right" (i.e., so no problems exist, and heaven forfend any student be given a lesser education because of a poor choice on the part of a parent! First, let us examine what is presently the situation.
One, those that are very wealthy (or are willing/able to sacrifice) do in fact find better education for their children. Schools like the one above exist and are servicing these families (and have serviced them) well for years. Those with money do have choice, and they get better education than the median household because of that money. I would posit this contradicts that education is a level playing field. I would also posit that it can never be a totally level playing field. The wealthy will always be able to opt out of, or supplement the education of their own children. As the Bible says, "... money is the answer to everything." (Eccl. 10:19) But that implies that a call for equality of education for every child is not going to be successful, and we need to instead look for the greatest possible good for all children.
Two, public schools are a reasonable education, but private schools tend to have better performing students (even when accounting appropriately for differences in student population). While there is some controversy in this (the NCES study and the analysis of flaws by the Hoover Institution) the general agreement is that private school students do have better objective metrics for educational performance.
Three, the poor cannot in addition to taxes pay for private tuition. I can speak to this one personally. As a public school teacher with 4 children in Loudoun county, I am classified as "very low income" by the county (the Loudoun County Home Improvement Program has a .pdf which lists the income paid a 6th year teacher with wife and four children -- I have 5, but one just got married -- as being very low income). It's official, teachers are very low income! I do very well in that I am nearly debt free (I still have a mortgage, but otherwise I owe no man anything but the gospel). At this time, I could not afford tuition for private school for my children (other than the grace of God, I am not sure how I afford to feed myself after feeding the children.)
How can someone have choice in education? The "evil V word": vouchers. If all parents where given an educational voucher they can redeem either at a public school, or at a private school of their choice, the system would benefit greatly. Competition would thrive, and people would have a real choice (instead of paying for their children's education twice, if they can afford it). This could even have an impact on costs for illegal immigration; without a voucher, you do not get into public schools, and you have to prove legal residency in order to be issued a voucher.
Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Education and choice.
TrackBack URL for this entry: