Sweden’s Voucher Program Part 10


John Stossel, Walter E Williams and Thomas Sowell comment on how market forces can improve education in America. http://www.libertypen.com

I read an excellent article called “School Choice in Sweden: An Interview with Thomas Idergard of Timbro,” (March 8, 2010) by Dan Lips and I wanted to share some of his answers with you below:

DL: What lessons do you think policymakers in the United States and other countries can take from Sweden’s experience with universal school vouchers?
TI: The one and overall lesson is that competition is a key factor in raising educational standards in the future.
Letting the entrepreneurial spirit flow is a necessity for innovation in both products and services. Innovation is required in order to raise standards in every sector of the economy—and society. Education is one of society’s most important services, which means that it is even more urgent to increase innovation and new ideas in education than in most other areas.
But because broad education—at least for the “ordinary men and women,” i.e., low and normal income groups—in most countries and systems is highly monopolized by politicians and bureaucratic public-sector structures, there is little space for entrepreneurship unless the foundations of the systems themselves are changed. School choice programs such as the one in Sweden, which makes freedom of choice the default situation in the education system, encourage competition and, hence, entrepreneurship and innovation.
The success factors behind the Swedish school voucher program are:
  • Equal opportunities to choose, regardless of families’ income and wealth status, and without anyone asking for your economic situation give the ultimate power to the parents and their children, and
  • Equal opportunities for education providers to offer and establish schools—so long as national quality requirements are being met.
Through our universal school choice model, we combine the social dimension (taxpayer money should fund education for all) with the principles of the free market: The clients’ choices decide how the funding should be distributed and providers compete for clients’ satisfaction, which is ultimately materialized in concrete educational results, in order to get their revenues.
This requires that politicians on all levels of government realize and recognize that their roles must change. Without choice they are financiers, regulators, service providers, and supreme quality inspectors—in a mix that is often neither successful nor efficient. With choice, their role is more cultivated and their focus is successively turned into funding, regulating, and overseeing the market. And the public schools will actually be helped by being subject to competition from new ideas, organizations, and methods. In the end, it is a lot about politicians’ courage and willingness not only to talk about change but to make it happen.
Dan Lips is former Senior Policy Analyst in Education in the Domestic Policy Studies Department at The Heritage Foundation.
If a monopoly is not good for industries like oil, retail, etc, then why is it good for K-12 education. John Stossel examines how lack of competition in education is hurting our kids, and areas where education is competing and helping. This video presentation will be discussed in the June 28, 2010 edition of Common Sense Capitalism.
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