Saturday, February 24, 2018

Contra Congressman Donald M. Payne, a ‘For-Profit Model’ is Just What Education Needs

NJ Congressman Donald M. Payne’s letter, published in the New Jersey Star-Ledger under the heading DeVos poses threat to education, claimed that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos poses a “direct threat” to traditional public education:

The president of Michigan's State Board of Education warned against DeVos' nomination, saying that her "agenda is to break the public education system, not educate kids, and replace it with a for-profit model."

I wish it were true! While DeVos is a well-known advocate of parental school choice, I doubt the government school establishment has much to worry about.

Nonetheless, I left these comments:

Let’s examine the difference between the public education system and the for-profit model.

Profits are earned by persuading consumers to buy what you are selling. For-profit schools, whether public charters or private schools relying on vouchers or education tax credits, essentially rely on voluntarism. Traditional public schools, when parents are forbidden choice, require no effort to persuade. They are held in place by force. Voluntarism versus force: The moral difference is like day and night.

Charter school options and school choice programs are thus the moral thing to do—but also the practical thing to do. They only exist to the extent parents chose them. True, school choice programs reduce traditional public school funding. So what? All parents are taxpayers. We’re all taxpayers. If we’re going to have tax-funded education, why shouldn’t all schools, not only certain politically connected schools, be afforded a claim on education tax dollars? Why shouldn’t education tax dollars follow the child to the school she attends, whether it is a traditional public school or another choice made by her taxpaying parents? It’s only fair.

Reactionary defenders of the status quo, by fighting to keep kids trapped in schools their parents judge not to be the best option for their kids, are the real roadblocks to good education for many kids. True, not all parents will make good choices. But neither do many traditional public schools do a good job with every kid. It is morally the parents’ choice, not the states’, and good parents shouldn’t be punished for the bad choices of some parents.

There is nothing sacred about the tradition public school establishment. A good injection of for-profit educational entrepreneurialism competing for and accountable to parental choice, rather than government bureaucracies, is just what education needs in this country. Anyone who denies parents their rights to direct the course of their own children’s education cannot claim to be proponents of “high-quality education”and “educational success.” DeVos will head the Department of Education, not the Department of Traditional Public Education. If DeVos can leverage the DOE to expand school choice and diminish the iron-clad grip of the coercive and monopolistic public school establishment across America, she will have been a great Education Secretary.


My comments were tempered to conform to and support DeVos’s school choice leanings. Of course, I advocate the ultimate realistic education ideal—a fully free, individual rights-based, laissez-faire market in education.

Related Reading:

‘Unqualified’ DeVos Could Be Just the Education Secretary We Need

DeVos Could Advance the ‘Civil Right’ of School Choice Across America

A Newark, NJ Mother Demonstrates the Educational Power of Parental School Choice

Toward a Free Market in Education: School Vouchers or Tax Credits?

The Educational Bonanza in Privatizing Government SchoolsAndrew Bernstein for The Objective Standard


Mike Kevitt said...

Why shouldn't all schools, not just the politically connected, be afforded a claim on the educational tax dollar? Because the political connected schools would no longer be politically connected. That's why.

How much will the gvt. monopoly on education fund school choice? Only as a salve, as long as it doesn't threaten the gvt. monopoly on, not just education, but on ideas. The gvt. funded school choice regime will compete only within itself, but not with gvt. schools. Gvt. will confine school choice, its competition and its funding, within the gvt. monopoly on education and ideas. Count on it. But I'm glad you at least gave a nod to "a fully free, individual rights-based, laissez-faire market in education".

Michael A. LaFerrara said...

I also advocate abolishing the federal Department of Education. It has no place in a free society. But that's not going to happen anytime soon.