An Argument for Privatizing Public Schools
by Bruce Walker
The New American
July 27, 2012
Do we need public schools? Lew Rockwell writing for the Ludwig von Mises Institute raises a serious policy question. Some public schools are good, Rockwell notes, and some are bad. (It should be noted that Rockwell’s assessment considers academic achievement alone and ignores the further problem of what sort of values are inculcated in the various educational systems.) There is a common element to all public school systems, however: taxpayers support these systems. A predictable corollary to this fact is that the average cost per school, Rockwell writes, is twice that of private schools. This runs counter to conventional popular opinion, which believes that private schools are for the rich and famous while public schools are the only resort of the poor and middle class.
Rockwell notes that the absence of market forces allows public schools, even with the best of intentions, to price themselves out of what a private sector educational system would cost. As a result, public school system costs per pupil are often comparable to the most elite private schools. Parents who send their children to these private schools, however, end up paying their children’s cost of education twice, in the tuition that the private schools costs, plus the taxes they pay to support the public school system.
Privatizing education, beginning with a few districts, would open up the door not to one private competitor but to the whole range of competitors that free markets provide. Rockwell acknowledges that the process may intimidate some Americans, particularly those with happy school memories and those who recognize the vast infrastructure constructed by government around education — buildings, school buses, etc. He points out that this privatization could be accomplished on a very small scale by an amendment or other appropriate state policy change to allow a willing community in a state to privatize.