March 1, 2006
One exciting thing about the free market is that you can't predict
what the market will create. Big-government advocates tell you exactly
what will happen when their plans work (as if they actually would
work!), but we who trust the free market can only say that people
will compete and good ideas will win. We don't set out to make all
your choices for you, and, not being psychic, we can't predict what
decisions you'll make.
Bureaucrats like to say, you will go to this school,
because we said so, and you will be taught according to this
program, because we said so and we know best. Those of us with
confidence in markets think you could do better deciding for yourself.
Neither the bureaucrats nor the freedom lovers can judge what's
in your interest better than you can. One big difference is, we
know what we don't know, while they think they know everything.
We do know
that competition works. It works because it gives people the chance
to be creative. Educational experts, freed from the massive regulations
that snarl the public schools, can come up with new and better
ideas for teaching. Competition works because it gives people
incentives to produce -- it inspires them to work constantly at
trying to find better ways to please their customers. The bad
producers lose their jobs -- but the best ones gain new customers.
Bad schools will close and better schools will open.
better schools won't all be the same.
tell you about all the wonderful schools that would appear if
students were able to bring their public funding to any school,
public, private, or religious. No one individual can begin to
imagine what competition would create. But because a few experiments
in school choice have been allowed, I can tell you about a few
of the possibilities:
now focus on technology, foreign languages, or music; there are
charter schools that operate as boarding schools. At the KIPP
charter schools, teachers must give kids their cell phone numbers,
and in the evening, every teacher is available to answer questions
until 9 p.m. The students call "constantly," say teachers.
KIPP kids are in school until 5 p.m., some Saturdays and for weeks
in the summer.
students want to get into charter schools like those, many have
to hold lotteries. The winners get a shot at a better future;
the losers are generally stuck with whatever the bureaucrats deign
to give them. Why should kids have to win their future possibilities
in a lottery? If school money were attached to individual students
in the form of vouchers, every parent could take their child to
Florida court ruling against school choice came after former teacher
Ruth Holmes Cameron brought a suit. "To say that competition
is going to improve education -- it's just not going to work,"
she said. "You know, competition is not for children. It's
not for human beings, it's not for public education."
Would you keep going back to a restaurant that served you a bad
meal? Or a barber that gave you a bad haircut? Competition makes
everything better. Why would schools be different? In the few
places where vouchers have been allowed, like Milwaukee, the kids
who used vouchers did better, and those who stayed in the public
schools were not left behind.
that be? In 2001, Harvard economist Caroline Hoxby found that
Milwaukee's private school vouchers made the nearby public schools
(which were competing for the same students) change. "[Public]
school principals were allowed to have a lot more autonomy,"
she said, "They counseled teachers out of teaching altogether
who really weren't performing or showing up on the job -- they
put in new back to basics curricula in some primary schools that
really needed that so that reading skills and math skills would
go up." Test results at those public schools went up by 7.1
percent in math, 8.4 percent in science, and 3.0 percent in language.
Scores went up in voucher schools, too.
worked -- for human beings, and for public education.
readers: Last week, I said New York teachers had agreed to a "uniform"
six-hour, 50-minute day, a "concession" that lengthened
their workday by a measly 10 minutes. In fact, it's not "uniform":
Different schools are using the additional time to stretch their
schedules different ways.
JFS Productions, Inc. Distributed by Creators Syndicate