The Case for Private School Vouchers

If you had a choice between two identical cars, would you choose one that costs $7,500 or one that cost $15,000? The $7,500 one would be a better value, of course. Now, if you had to pay $15,000 for a car because an organization lobbied Congress to force you to do so, would you be angry? Yes, of course.

What if I replaced every instance of the word “car” in that last paragraph with “schools,” would you still have the same reaction? This is what we face in America’s education system. Which organization imposes this forced purchase? Teachers unions—the National Education Association (NEA) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT)—which adamantly oppose school choice and other substantive reforms that could help struggling schools improve, and get kids out of failing ones.

The NEA likes to quote studies showing that public schools have comparable academic achievements to private ones. While that strikes me as unlikely, let’s just say it’s true. Even then, the costs per student at public schools are twice that of some private schools! Once again, given two identical products, with one being half the cost, which would you choose?

Monopolies are undesirable. In addition to charging high prices, they produce inferior products. Why then are we so willing to accept the monopoly of government schools? The opposite of monopoly is a competitive industry. Competition means choices. And choices mean that competitors have to provide a superior product at the lowest price possible.

Ever notice how our university system is world-class, but our primary and secondary schools are considered second-rate among developed nations? What is the primary difference between the universities and the primary and secondary schools? Choice. When competition prevails, society wins. When monopoly exists, society suffers.

A monopoly controls the supply of its products. This allows them to charge a higher price and to produce lower quality goods. Unions are the labor market’s equivalent to monopolies. Unions control the supply of labor, which allows them to charge a higher price for labor, i.e., wages.

Quality in teaching is compromised by the lack of incentives that unionization engenders—outstanding teachers do not get additional compensation, while subpar teachers face little chance of dismissal.

That is why teachers unions fear school choice so much. If most public schools were truly comparable to private schools, then why would parents ever choose to use voucher programs to send their children to private schools? Public schools need to compete. The private school voucher system would allow us to reinvigorate our educational system and cut government spending simultaneously.

Photo Credit: Tncountryfan’s Flickr Photostream