Rebirth of Reason


True Educational Freedom
by Edward W. Younkins

The best school choice plan is the free market. Education should be bought and sold through free-market processes. The separation of state and education would restore intellectual freedom, academic integrity, and individual achievement. The private market can best provide high-quality and efficient education services. Private educational institutions can supply a superior educational product but currently, because of subsidized tuition at public schools, most students select the lower-priced option. When a child attends a private school, the family must pay taxes to subsidize the cost of students in public education and pay the whole cost of education at a private school.

Education is an economic commodity to be purchased in the marketplace according to the preferences and valuations of education consumers. In a free education market parents and students would decide based on the perceived costs and benefits of each option. In essence, the procurement of an educational service does not differ from the acquisition of any other private good.

Outcomes in a consumer-funded education market would be the result of voluntary purchases by educational consumers. The best schools would earn the most income. Profit calculations would permit schools to gauge their performance according to customer evaluations. Parents would choose schools based on performance and reputation. Paying customers value and select competent schools and teachers. Thus, it follows that the consumers of education should be the payers. 

Market-based schools have incentives to furnish quality education at a competitive price. Competition would drive poor schools from the market. Market mechanisms would provide the most efficient allocation of resources. Schools would compete for the best students and students would compete for the best teachers and schools. Teachers’ salaries would be determined by market competition. Schools would provide instruction at a variety of locations with varying philosophies, specialization areas, and costs. Schools would arise to meet the demands of various students’ abilities and needs. Where the demand for a specific type of education arises, an entrepreneur would form the desired institution of learning. With the diversity that exists among individuals, a variety of schools would appear to meet individual educational needs. 

It is critical that parents purchase education directly, when, and only for as long as, they believe their children require it. Only the total separation of state and school can reinstitute parental responsibility, protect parents’ rights, and allow students, schools, and teachers to flourish in a free educational environment. Parents have moral authority over, and responsibility for, their own children.

If school taxes are abolished, parents will benefit by keeping their own money. The money belongs to the parents, not the government. They would then be free to choose their own children’s schools. For example, if parents want their children to have prayer, then they would send them to a school that has prayers. If they don’t want their children to have prayer, then they would send them to a school that has no prayer. Parents should be free to send their children to religious schools, progressive schools, trade schools, home school, or even no school at all. Of course, it is likely that the pursuit of happiness will supply enough incentive for people to want their children to improve educationally. Schools privately funded and freely selected would be mediating associations like churches, corporations, and unions, and would foster a true sense of belonging and identity. 

 In private schools in a free market, failure to provide the promised results would lead to declining enrollments and financial losses. Competition breeds quality. For example, the free market would encourage teachers to improve their skills and would attract others into the teaching profession. Good teachers would be rewarded and poor teachers would be forced to select other careers. The market would also indicate which teaching approaches worked best in given situations and would stimulate creative individuals to produce and market learning materials. True educational businesses would evaluate teachers and their instructional operations to determine whether or not the customers are satisfied and getting their money’s worth of education.

Educational competition would result in the lowering of costs. Competition would make private education more affordable and widely available. This means that poor families would be more able to afford the cost of financing their children’s educations. In addition, if the poor were excused from the numerous education taxes that currently exist, then they would have the funds to pay for private education. It is also likely that private scholarships and charitable assistance will be available for lower income families, especially when the person or organization funding the scholarship knows that he is paying for a superior educational product.

In a free market, consumer demand and choice would determine which schools survive and prosper. A private, noncompulsory educational system would be better able to provide for diverse student needs, backgrounds, interests, goals, and preferences. A system of voluntary, unsubsidized education means rescinding government-compelled financing, attendance, credentialing, accreditation, and curriculum. It means the full separation of school and state.
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