The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Breaking the Blue Model Monopoly in Education

Last week, thousands of parents, students, and teachers rallied in cities across the country for National School Choice Week. Discussing the event, columnist Richard Garnett writes,

It is not only wrongheaded, but also morally wrong, for our communities and governments to pretend that public education—that is, the education of the public—only happens in government-run schools, and wrong too to deny low-income parents meaningful choices regarding their children’s education. After all, public education is the goal, and this goal should not be equated with, or reduced to, the interests of those who are employed in state-operated schools.

How would low-income parents afford more choice? One method is school vouchers, which would allow parents to apply tax money to private school tuitions. Though they have been proposed and even implemented in some states, opponents claim that vouchers would direct resources away from schools in need. Teacher’s unions have also, unsurprisingly, pushed back.

But there are many other options, and we should be trying them all on for size. At VM, we think the public school system, locked in by districting and by powerful public unions, is far too rigid. The process should be opened up to creative solutions and experimentation. Let vouchers roam, let parochial and private schools stay open, let a group of stay-at-home moms open a school even. Free the system up.

It’s no secret that American public schools are struggling, and minorities and low-income students are hurt the most, while their more fortunate peers are whisked away into the country’s best private schools. But education could be a great equalizer.

There is no logical reason why students should be forced to go to a failing school, simply because they happen to live in a bad district and don’t have the money to go elsewhere. The government’s job is to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to get an education—not to prescribe how it’s done.

Published on February 7, 2013 3:10 pm