Underperforming schools are built on the backs of our nation’s most vulnerable children

 

 We got to put in school choice because the current underperforming schools are built on the backs of our nation’s most vulnerable children.

Who’s Afraid of School Profits?

Should there be a separation of school and profit? Many opponents of education reform seem to think so.

Case in point, a blog post at the Washington Post yesterday decried “outside forces that want to make big profits on the backs of our nation’s most vulnerable children.” Setting aside that the vast majority of private schools are nonprofit, the author apparently misses the fact that parents choose to send their kids to these schools. (Does it make sense to complain that other businesses are profiting “on the backs” of their paying customers?) In order to persuade parents to switch to private schools, they must offer parents something that the free-to-attend government schools do not. Even when a school choice program covers the full cost of private school tuition, the parents would merely be financially indifferent. To motivate parents to choose something other than the default government school option, private schools still must offer something better.

Moreover, it is absurd to think that profit—in the sense of financial gain—is limited only to the for-profit sector. Do teachers, principals, and other school staff from janitors to bus drivers “profit” from their salaries or wages? What of the profits made by the corporations that publish the textbooks that students read? Or construct school buildings? Or manufacture desks, whiteboards, pens, pencils, and playgrounds? Whether government- or privately-run, nearly every adult involved in the formal education process is earning a “profit” short of the parents who volunteer to chaperone the high school dance.

Those who denounce “profits” in education simply don’t understand the role of profits in a market. Perhaps they are confused because in the government-run education system with which they are familiar, there is little connection between financial gain and meeting the needs of students. In a competitive market, by contrast, profits (and, just as importantly, losses) provide valuable information. As explained in Herbert Walberg and Joseph Bast’s excellent book, Education and Capitalism: How Overcoming Our Fear of Markets and Economics Can Improve America’s Schools (which is celebrating its 10th anniversary):

In a capitalist economy, profits are the reward earned by firms that maximize the quality of services and goods, minimize overhead and bureaucracy, motivate their workers to achieve high and consistent levels of productivity, and avoid unnecessary expenditures. Successful firms sell better, cheaper, or better and cheaper products and services than do other firms. Customers notice, and business gradually shifts from inefficient to efficient firms. […]

Low-performing government schools don’t gradually lose customers and face the threat of closure, the way an inefficiently run business does. As a result, there is little urgency for reform. Their assets do not move from the control of those who have misused them into the hands of others who could do a better job. (Pages 98-9)

In our existing education system, only the financially well-off can afford to live in the expensive districts with high-performing government schools or to pay for private schooling. Without school choice programs, low-income families are locked out of these markets. Instead, their only option is the local, assigned, government school. If I blogged for WaPo, I might say that these underperforming schools are built on “the backs of our nation’s most vulnerable children.”

Related posts:

Open letter to Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney on school vouchers

The Machine: The Truth Behind Teachers Unions Published on Sep 4, 2012 by ReasonTV America’s public education system is failing. We’re spending more money on education but not getting better results for our children. That’s because the machine that runs the K-12 education system isn’t designed to produce better schools. It’s designed to produce more […]

Public schools need more competition and vouchers is the answer

Public schools need more competition and vouchers is the answer. Related posts: Powerful Evidence for School Choice April 22, 2013 by Dan Mitchell I expressed pessimism a few days ago about the possibility of replacing the corrupt internal revenue code with a flat tax. Either now or in the future. But that’s an exception to my […]

Brummett still resistant to vouchers because he wants us to save public schools at all cost

John Brummett in his article, “A new civil rights struggle in Little Rock?” Arkansas News Burea, August 25, 2011, asserted the main role vouchers should have is  “providing new models for regular public schools to emulate, not about replacing regular public schools.” The Heritage Foundation cares nothing about saving the public schools. If the public […]

The Empirical Evidence on School Choice

Milton Friedman on School Vouchers _______________ Just the facts Mam. APRIL 18, 2013 5:17PM School Choice Works By  JASON BEDRICK SHARE The evidence is in: school choice works. Yesterday, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice released their third edition of their report “A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice.” The report provides a literature […]

Open letter to President Obama (Part 290) (Vouchers)

Milton Friedman – Public Schools / Voucher System Published on May 9, 2012 by BasicEconomics The Machine: The Truth Behind Teachers Unions Published on Sep 4, 2012 by ReasonTV America’s public education system is failing. We’re spending more money on education but not getting better results for our children. That’s because the machine that runs […]

Open letter to President Obama (Part 287) (on vouchers)

(This letter was mailed before Oct 25, 2012.) President Obama c/o The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500 Dear Mr. President, I know that you receive 20,000 letters a day and that you actually read 10 of them every day. I really do respect you for trying to get a pulse on […]

Open letter to President Obama (Part 254) (on vouchers)

The Machine: The Truth Behind Teachers Unions Published on Sep 4, 2012 by ReasonTV America’s public education system is failing. We’re spending more money on education but not getting better results for our children. That’s because the machine that runs the K-12 education system isn’t designed to produce better schools. It’s designed to produce more […]

Listing of transcripts and videos of Free to Choose by Milton Friedman: Episode “What is wrong with our schools?” on www.theDailyHatch.org

Everywhere school vouchers have been tried they have been met with great success. Why do you think President Obama got rid of them in Washington D.C.? It was a political disaster for him because the school unions had always opposed them and their success made Obama’s allies look bad. In 1980 when I first sat […]

Public school staffing has skyrocketed, we must turn to voucher system

Milton Friedman – Public Schools / Voucher System (Q&A) Part 2 Published on May 7, 2012 by BasicEconomics __________ Max Brantley of the Arkansas Times Blog is always critical of the voucher system but has he taken a closer look at what has been going on in the public schools the last few decades with […]

Listing of transcripts and videos of Free to Choose by Milton Friedman: Episode “What is wrong with our schools?” on www.theDailyHatch.org

Everywhere school vouchers have been tried they have been met with great success. Why do you think President Obama got rid of them in Washington D.C.? It was a political disaster for him because the school unions had always opposed them and their success made Obama’s allies look bad. In 1980 when I first sat […]

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: