Conventional wisdom says that government should run schools. This idea is intuitive. It is also wrong. The free market would do a much better job.
This week in my syndicated column, I compare the public school system to the cars produced by governments:
The Trabant was the best -- the pride of the Eastern Bloc. It was produced by actual German engineers -- known for their brilliance. Yet even the Trabant was a terrible car. Drivers had to put the oil and gas in separately and then shake the car to mix them. Trabants broke down and spewed pollution. When government runs things, consumers suffer.
Our school system is like the Trabant. Economist Milton Friedman understood this before the rest of us did. In 1955, he proposed school vouchers. His plan didn't call for separating school and state -- unfortunately -- but instead sought a second-best fix: Give a voucher to the family, and let it choose which school -- government-run or private -- their child will attend. Schools would compete for that voucher money. Today, it would be worth $13,000 per child. (That's what America spends per student today.) Competition would then improve all schools.
50 years later, school vouchers are finally becoming a reality, although the education establishment still resists them.
Ronald Holassie, a graduate of the Washington, D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, came on my Fox Business show last week to talk about the dramatic difference between a government school and his private school:
"In the public school system when I was in there, (there were) lots of fights. There were shootings, stabbings, and it was really unsafe -- drugs." ... But he got the voucher and a good education, and now he's in college.
Despite the data showing that voucher kids are ahead in reading, the biggest teachers union, the NEA claims: "The D.C. voucher program has been a failure. It's yielded no evidence of positive impact on student achievement."
Holassie asks: "How is it a failure when the public school system is failing students? I don't understand that."
I don't either.
The rest of my column here.