Glenn Ford faces unruly students in The Blackboard Jungle. I faced similar students when I was a substitute teacher in DC.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Privatize the Schools

I’m not the first or the only person to suggest this. The Cato Institute published a paper on school privatization back in 1995.

There are a number of non-economic arguments that can be made against public education.

  1. The state has no business being in education, and should confine itself solely to matters of fraud and force.
  2. The state imposes a uniform system of schooling upon a diverse population, often against the wishes of parents and children. This results in continuous argument and litigation over matters such as Darwinism and evolution, sex education, and other matters.
  3. There is a vast bureaucracy on the state and local level that is involved in administration rather than direct education.
  4. Public schools as a block are subject to action by the various unions. These unions act to obtain greater benefits for their members, often to the detriment of the education of students.
  5. Teachers, because of the requirements for education courses mandated by the state and local governments at the behest of the unions, are less qualified than ordinary liberal arts or science graduates. Schools or departments of education frequently require lower GPAs for graduation than non-education departments such as English or chemistry.
  6. Public education is paid for out of taxes. Even parents who have opted out of public education, by home schooling or private/parochial schools, are subject to the tax. This is true even though they impose no burden on the school system. The tax also affects those who have no children in the school system. It is prolonged and ends only at death. Private education is paid for on an ongoing basis by the actual consumers. If any loans are needed to finance this education, they have a definite end date.

There are 49.6 million children in 97,000 public elementary and secondary schools in this country. The cost per child is $9,969. (Source here.) This means that $494.46 billion is spent on public education. I haven’t seen any figures on the average value of physical plant, but assume that selling off the schools would bring in $1 million per school. That is $97 billion to the public purse. The true figure is probably higher, particularly for urban schools where the cost of real estate is higher.

So here’s the proposal.

  1. Sell off the public schools.
  2. Use the proceeds to establish a private corporation that receives no public funding or administration subsequent to its establishment. Its purpose is to provide needs based funding to any parent who qualifies and who wishes to send his child to any school in the jurisdiction.
  3. Reduce state and local taxes. Eliminate the Department of Education at the federal level

This will:

  1. Create individual privately owned schools that are not subject to block actions by unions. Each individual school must be struck by the unions, not school systems as a whole.
  2. Lower administrative costs, and therefore costs per student, which will result in a lower tuition burden.
  3. Lower taxes for all, and cause education to be treated as a cost borne by the consumer rather than a lifelong burden to all.
  4. Allow private schools to set standards for teachers and for students.
  5. Allow parents to select schools that teach according to their beliefs without occurring additional costs.
  6. Weaken the education unions.