The underlying assumption in this argument seems to be that so long as some people are satisfied with a monopoly, all people should be stuck with it. The same logic might have an East German commissar saying, before the fall of the Berlin Wall, "Only some people would leave if we took down the Wall, so why should we take it down?" The point is not whether choice is "necessary" or not: The point is that it is everyone's right to choose. The needs of individual parents and students come before the maintenance of a system that, by many accounts, is not performing well for everyone.

The Facts:

  • Can government education really improve on its own? According to Albert Shanker, former president of the American Federation of Teachers union, "It's time to admit that public education operates like a planned economy, a bureaucratic system in which everybody's role is spelled out in advance and there are few incentives for innovation and productivity. It's no surprise that our school system doesn't improve: It more resembles the communist economy than our own market economy."157 The worldwide failure of planned economies supports Shanker's contention that systemic change is needed.

  • Government education is failing to prepare too many students for the workplace. American businesses spent approximately $55 billion in 1996 alone on remedial education for employees who graduated from high school barely able to read or write English.158 The American Management Association determined that the share of companies forced to provide remedial training for employees has soared from 4 percent in 1989 to 20 percent in 1998. In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 65 percent of employers increased spending on training in the three years from 1992 to 1995. 159

  • U. S. students fail to excel in international tests. In the Third International Mathematics and Sciences Study (TIMSS), American high school seniors ranked, out of 21 industrialized nations, sixteenth in general science knowledge, nineteenth in general math skills, and last in physics. William H. Schmidt, an education professor at Michigan State University, remarked, "Put in terms of report card grades, the American seniors earned a D-minus or an F in math and science."160

The point is not whether choice is "necessary" or not: The point is that it is everyone's right to choose. The needs of individual parents and students come before the maintenance of a system that, by many accounts, is not performing well for everyone.

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