September 10, 2015
Chris Dock | LPMN Chair
Students have returned to class, and another back-to-school shopping season has come to an end. While parents have nearly endless choices to be made on school supplies, clothing, etc. the most important aspect of going back to school is still not a choice for most families – which school their child will attend.
Currently, Minnesota does not provide a voucher system to assist parents who want to make a choice of schools for their children. Some other states do have voucher programs, but they are laden with restrictions and requirements – students have to attend public (government) schools for a period of time before they are allowed to opt out, the school must have been in existence for a certain period of time before they are allowed to accept vouchers, etc. But for the most part, parents who want to explore an alternative to government schools can either foot the bill themselves for a private school, or try to register for homeschooling (assuming there is a parent who can stay home with the child). For most families, economics and work schedules make these options essentially unavailable.
Critics of voucher systems claim they remove money from government schools that need the funding. If a government school is providing quality education to its students, it doesn’t need to worry about losing the funding – parents will keep their children in that school. The only schools that need to worry about an exodus of students (and the funding that goes with them) are those that aren’t properly educating the students – and those are the schools that should lose their funding.
The problem at the core of government schools is that they remove the educational decision-making from the parents and hand it over to bureaucrats. In the name of quality education, the bureaucrats then mandate a one-size-fits-all approach to education, providing incentives to school districts to comply by dangling federal funding dollars if they adopt their latest and greatest ideas. But one-size-fits-all just doesn’t apply to how parents want to educate their children, because we don’t all have the same beliefs and goals for our children. For every issue that has two sides, a government school makes the decision of what they think is right – which is convenient for parents who agree with that decision, and tragic for parents who do not.
A current example of this is the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. I personally do not like Common Core – but that is my opinion, and there likely are parents that think Common Core is a positive thing. The real issue is that if our children attend the same government school, they will be exempted or subjected to Common Core based on a bureaucrat’s decision, not on what the parents want for their children.
In private enterprise, the government prohibits a company from having a monopoly on an industry to ensure the public has access to the best quality products at competitive prices. We say that our children are our greatest asset, and that investing in their education is the most important investment we can make. Yet when it comes to which schools they attend, we allow the government to maintain a monopoly, even though we know that monopolies lead to lower-quality products and inflated prices.
Why are we allowing this to continue? School choice should be given back to the parents. If government schools really are the best option, parents will keep sending their children to them. If government schools fall short of expectations, then parents will have an option to make the right choice to improve their child’s education. With school choice, parents and children win; the only potential losers are the schools that under-perform. Why would we sacrifice the education of our children to save the bureaucracy of the school system?
Concerned about the expansion of government control and the erosion of individual liberty? Please consider joining and becoming active with the Libertarian Party of Minnesota. Libertarians support liberty on all issues, all the time! Libertarianism is a philosophical and political movement to promote personal freedom, strong civil liberties, a genuinely free marketplace, and peace.