Public schools are immoral
The title “public schools” is misleading. In almost all cases, these schools are run by the government, taught with government mandated curricula and run in a top-down fashion from state and local bureaucrats. “Government schools” is a more appropriate title.
All citizens are forced to contribute thousands of dollars towards government education through taxation regardless of their usage. Parents who home school or send their children to a private institution must pay for education twice. Because the government maintains a coercive monopoly in the education market, it is extraordinarily difficult for private institutions to compete when children can be enrolled at a government school at no marginal cost.
Furthermore, parents have the right to choose a school based on its overarching philosophy and its academic focus. Instead, parents must contribute to institutions that teach sexual harassment to primary school children, present creationism alongside with evolution or pledge to leave “no child left behind” even if it stunts the education of the more motivated children.
Government schools don’t work
By financially crippling their competition, government schools can afford to offer a lackadaisical education. A shocking number of high school graduates are illiterate and an embarrassing number struggle to write complete, coherent sentences. Worst of all, students do not learn how to think. Graduates typically have strong opinions on political and moral issues but are unable to offer a cogent argument for their convictions.
Government schools can’t hire quality teachers
Government schools can also afford to maintain a sub-standard workforce. Tenure is a system that rewards teachers who have seniority and play office politics. Tenured educators have an enormous amount of job security regardless of their competence. Terminating a tenured teacher’s contract is an elaborate, costly process as teachers’ unions invariably litigate the decision. Not only does this encourage retention of mediocre teachers but this also removes the incentive for educators to continue to develop new skills.
Moreover, the current near monopoly also cripples employment opportunities for educators. Not only are positions limited, but salaries are also dictated by bureaucrats and lobbyists, not the market. Public schools cannot offer merit-based salaries to attract more qualified professionals.
Government schools can’t compete with private school
Because they are immune from market pressures, government schools can also afford to allow costs to balloon to inexcusable proportions as costs of education are included in taxes and inflation. Washington DC spends over $12,000 per student each year – the highest cost in the nation. It also happens to have the lowest public school test scores of any state in the nation. A good private school will start at $8,000- $10,000 per year – so the median income DC resident would have to pay $22,000 to send one child to private school. Nationwide, public school teachers are almost twice as likely as other parents to choose private schools for their own children, a study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute found.
Privatizing education benefits everyone
A common misconception is that privatizing education will only benefit the wealthy. This is wrong. Removing government controls on schools will raise the standard of education for everyone.
Even if one insists on government subsidized education, children from impoverished backgrounds will be immeasurably better off if given a voucher to attend a private academy of their choice. This is portended by the successful programs in Milwuakee, Cleveland and Washington D.C. Although vouchers are an improvement, a direct tax credit for education would be far superior as it requires even less interference on the economy.
- Market Education: The Unknown History by Andrew Coulson
- Leonard Peikoff. “The American School: Why Johnny Can’t Think” in The Voice of Reason: Essays in Objectivist Thought. (Also on CD)
- Tax Credits for Education by Ayn Rand, The Voice of Reason: Essays in Objectivist Thought.
- Inside American Education by Thomas Sowell