Milton Friedman’s school voucher program is the best opportunity for poor kids to get an excellent education!!!

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Milton Friedman’s school voucher program is the best opportunity for poor kids to get an excellent education!!!


The Case Against Government Schools

September 19, 2020 by Dan Mitchell

I’ve been writing about the benefits of school choice for a long time, largely because government schools are becoming ever-more expensive while produced ever-more dismal outcomes.

But even I was surprised to see this tweet, which shows how so many parents in New York City seek alternative educational opportunities for their children.

What makes these numbers so shocking is that parents are forced to pay for government schools. So when they opt for alternatives such as private schools, they’re paying twice.

But they decide the extra cost is justified because they know government-run schools don’t do a good job (and those failures have become even more apparent because of coronavirus).

For instance, David Harsanyi indicts government schooling in an article for National Review.

“Public” schools have been a catastrophe for the United States. …State-run schools have undercut two fundamental conditions of a healthy tolerant society. First, they’ve created millions of civic illiterates who are disconnected from long-held communal values and national identity. Second, they’ve exacerbated the very inequalities that trigger the tearing apart of fissures. …No institution has fought harder to preserve segregated communities than the average teachers’ union. …Prosperous Americans already enjoy school choice — and not merely because they can afford private schools. …This entire dynamic is driven by the antiquated notion that the best way to educate kids is to throw them into the nearest government building. It’s the teachers’ unions that safeguard these fiefdoms through racketeering schemes: First they funnel taxpayer dollars to the political campaigns of allies who, when elected, return the favor by protecting union monopolies and supporting higher taxes that fund unions and ultimately political campaigns. …most poor parents, typically black or Hispanic, are compelled to send their kids to inferior schools… Joe Biden says he’ll create not a child-oriented Department of Education but a “teacher-oriented Department of Education.” By teachers, Biden means unions. …It’s likely that left-wing ideologues run your school district. They decide what your children learn. …The embedded left-wing nature of big school districts is so normalized that parents rarely say a word. …a voucher system creates opportunities for all kinds of students, not just wealthy ones.

I suppose it should explicitly stated that those opportunities would produce better results, both for taxpayers and for kids.

In an article for the American Institute for Economic Research, Gregory van Kipnis compares government schools and private schools.

Only when there is a monopoly are we denied choice. The negative consequences of that are well known… Monopolies produce goods and services at a higher price and a lower quality than would be obtained in a competitive market. That is certainly the case with public education. …society should be interested in data about the costs and outcomes of different approaches to education, namely public versus private schools, and how this data should affect our choices and behavior.

And what does the data tell us?

…currently (as of 2018), a public school education in the US costs 89% more than private education; that is, $14,653 for a public school and $7,736 for a private education. The high relative cost of public school education has persisted since the earliest period for which the data has been collected – 1965 (Chart 1a). …Private education is significantly less expensive.

Here’s the chart showing that government schools are far more expensive.

This raises a separate question: Are government schools more expensive because they’re producing better results?

Nope.

While the generally accepted knowledge is that private education produces better results than public school education, …Chart 4…shows the trends and levels in the composite ACT test results (meaning for math and reading combined) for the period 2001-2014, for private, public and homeschooled children. …The results speak for themselves – private schools test at a significantly higher level than public schools, and the gap is widening.

Here’s a chart showing the difference.

So what’s the bottom line?

Consumers of any product know they get better outcomes, as measured by quality and price, if the product is offered in competitive markets. This is true even in markets that have only limited competition. Any competition is better than none. Just as that principle is true in the markets for cars and cafes, so it is true in the market for educational services. …It is manifestly cheaper to get a private education and get a far better education in a private school. The problem holding back the growth in private education is that you have to pay twice to get it. The economics and facts support the logic of freeing parents to obtain private education and alternative public education for their children. To further facilitate this decision, parents should be given vouchers and credits equal to the cost of public school in their area, which they can freely use to fund their choice of better education in the private sector.

Amen. School choices produces better educational outcomes and saves money for taxpayers.

Hard to argue with the data (unless, of course, your motive is to appease teacher unions).

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Why Milton Friedman Saw School Choice as a First Step, Not a Final One

On his birthday, let’s celebrate Milton Friedman’s vision of enabling parents, not government, to be in control of a child’s education.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019
Kerry McDonald
Kerry McDonald

EducationMilton FriedmanSchool ChoiceSchooling

Libertarians and others are often torn about school choice. They may wish to see the government schooling monopoly weakened, but they may resist supporting choice mechanisms, like vouchers and education savings accounts, because they don’t go far enough. Indeed, most current choice programs continue to rely on taxpayer funding of education and don’t address the underlying compulsory nature of elementary and secondary schooling.

Skeptics may also have legitimate fears that taxpayer-funded education choice programs will lead to over-regulation of previously independent and parochial schooling options, making all schooling mirror compulsory mass schooling, with no substantive variation.

Milton Friedman had these same concerns. The Nobel prize-winning economist is widely considered to be the one to popularize the idea of vouchers and school choice beginning with his 1955 paper, “The Role of Government in Education.” His vision continues to be realized through the important work of EdChoice, formerly the Friedman Foundation for Education Choice, that Friedman and his economist wife, Rose, founded in 1996.

July 31 is Milton Friedman’s birthday. He died in 2006 at the age of 94, but his ideas continue to have an impact, particularly in education policy.

Friedman saw vouchers and other choice programs as half-measures. He recognized the larger problems of taxpayer funding and compulsion, but saw vouchers as an important starting point in allowing parents to regain control of their children’s education. In their popular book, Free To Choose, first published in 1980, the Friedmans wrote:

We regard the voucher plan as a partial solution because it affects neither the financing of schooling nor the compulsory attendance laws. We favor going much farther. (p.161)

They continued:

The compulsory attendance laws are the justification for government control over the standards of private schools. But it is far from clear that there is any justification for the compulsory attendance laws themselves. (p. 162)

The Friedmans admitted that their “own views on this have changed over time,” as they realized that “compulsory attendance at schools is not necessary to achieve that minimum standard of literacy and knowledge,” and that “schooling was well-nigh universal in the United States before either compulsory attendance or government financing of schooling existed. Like most laws, compulsory attendance laws have costs as well as benefits. We no longer believe the benefits justify the costs.” (pp. 162-3)

Still, they felt that vouchers would be the essential starting point toward chipping away at monopoly mass schooling by putting parents back in charge. School choice, in other words, would be a necessary but not sufficient policy approach toward addressing the underlying issue of government control of education.

In their book, the Friedmans presented the potential outcomes of their proposed voucher plan, which would give parents access to some or all of the average per-pupil expenditures of a child enrolled in public school. They believed that vouchers would help create a more competitive education market, encouraging education entrepreneurship. They felt that parents would be more empowered with greater control over their children’s education and have a stronger desire to contribute some of their own money toward education. They asserted that in many places “the public school has fostered residential stratification, by tying the kind and cost of schooling to residential location” and suggested that voucher programs would lead to increased integration and heterogeneity. (pp. 166-7)

To the critics who said, and still say, that school choice programs would destroy the public schools, the Friedmans replied that these critics fail to

explain why, if the public school system is doing such a splendid job, it needs to fear competition from nongovernmental, competitive schools or, if it isn’t, why anyone should object to its “destruction.” (p. 170)

What I appreciate most about the Friedmans discussion of vouchers and the promise of school choice is their unrelenting support of parents. They believed that parents, not government bureaucrats and intellectuals, know what is best for their children’s education and well-being and are fully capable of choosing wisely for their children—when they have the opportunity to do so.

They wrote:

Parents generally have both greater interest in their children’s schooling and more intimate knowledge of their capacities and needs than anyone else. Social reformers, and educational reformers in particular, often self-righteously take for granted that parents, especially those who are poor and have little education themselves, have little interest in their children’s education and no competence to choose for them. That is a gratuitous insult. Such parents have frequently had limited opportunity to choose. However, U.S. history has demonstrated that, given the opportunity, they have often been willing to sacrifice a great deal, and have done so wisely, for their children’s welfare. (p. 160).

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Today, school voucher programs exist in 15 states plus the District of Columbia. These programs have consistently shown that when parents are given the choice to opt-out of an assigned district school, many will take advantage of the opportunity. In Washington, D.C., low-income parents who win a voucher lottery send their children to private schools.

The most recent three-year federal evaluationof voucher program participants found that while student academic achievement was comparable to achievement for non-voucher students remaining in public schools, there were statistically significant improvements in other important areas. For instance, voucher participants had lower rates of chronic absenteeism than the control groups, as well as higher student satisfaction scores. There were also tremendous cost-savings.

In Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program has served over 28,000 low-income students attending 129 participating private schools.

According to Corey DeAngelis, Director of School Choice at the Reason Foundation and a prolific researcher on the topic, the recent analysis of the D.C. voucher program “reveals that private schools produce the same academic outcomes for only a third of the cost of the public schools. In other words, school choice is a great investment.”

In Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program was created in 1990 and is the nation’s oldest voucher program. It currently serves over 28,000 low-income students attending 129 participating private schools. Like the D.C. voucher program, data on test scores of Milwaukee voucher students show similar results to public school students, but non-academic results are promising.

Recent research found voucher recipients had lower crime rates and lower incidences of unplanned pregnancies in young adulthood. On his birthday, let’s celebrate Milton Friedman’s vision of enabling parents, not government, to be in control of a child’s education.

According to Howard Fuller, an education professor at Marquette University, founder of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, and one of the developers of the Milwaukee voucher program, the key is parent empowerment—particularly for low-income minority families.

In an interview with NPR, Fuller said: “What I’m saying to you is that there are thousands of black children whose lives are much better today because of the Milwaukee parental choice program,” he says. 
“They were able to access better schools than they would have without a voucher.”

Putting parents back in charge of their child’s education through school choice measures was Milton Friedman’s goal. It was not his ultimate goal, as it would not fully address the funding and compulsion components of government schooling; but it was, and remains, an important first step. As the Friedmans wrote in Free To Choose:

The strong American tradition of voluntary action has provided many excellent examples that demonstrate what can be done when parents have greater choice. (p. 159).

On his birthday, let’s celebrate Milton Friedman’s vision of enabling parents, not government, to be in control of a child’s education.

Kerry McDonald

Milton Friedman

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