A Bright Spot in Louisiana: Privatizing Education

Amidst the doom and gloom of the most recent economic meltdown, combined with the abysmal unemployment numbers, and topped with Bloomberg’s idiotic plan to prohibit the sale of sugary sodas larger than 16 ounces (I hope and plan to write about all these in the near future), there remain a few bright spots on the political and social landscape of the country. One such bright spot can be found in Louisiana, where Republican governor Bobby Jindal along with the legislature is working to get government out of the way and let the private sector work. I’m referring to Louisiana’s major step towards privatizing public education.

According to Reuters, this fall thousands of families will be given vouchers which they can use for private education options. Of course, this is not the first attempt at a voucher program; ten states already have voucher programs. But the program in Louisiana is by far the broadest yet tried. Currently, about 170,000 students are on a voucher program of some kind. The Louisiana program will make some 360,000 students (over half of the state’s student population) eligible to receive vouchers this fall and drop out of public schools. Every time a student drops out of a public school, that school district will lose the funding associated with one student (about $8000), and that money will go to the student’s private school.

Now, this program is not without problems. For one thing, children in families who make too much money are not eligible for the program. This is clear discrimination against the rich, but then again, what else is new? But its flaws aside, this program is a major step in the right direction. Why is this program such great news? Let me explain.

First, we must remedy a common misconception. It is truly amazing how many people have the mistaken idea that the way to fix schools is simply to pour more money at them. Guess what? It doesn’t work. I have personally seen schools which receive an obscene amount of state money every year and turn out some of the most under-qualified students in the nation (assuming their students even graduate). This may be a newsflash for some of you, but here it is: throwing money at public schools is not the solution to education problems.

Let’s think for a moment about the idea that we ought to give under-performing school districts more money. What type of school does the government reward if it follows such a policy? The underperforming schools! By simply throwing more and more money at schools which do a bad job of educating students, the government simply encourages ineptitude and dysfunctionality in the school systems. After all, why would an under-performing school ever want to improve, if their only reward would be to lose their source of funding?

This is what happens when the government runs something. The government, unlike the free market, is incapable (or at least grossly incompetent at) creating solutions to problems. When the government funds anything, whether it be schools, the DMV, or healthcare, it encourages laziness and underperformance. The solution to education problems (and probably most other problems relating to the government’s involvement in business) is not more spending and more taxes, but privatization and competition. And that’s exactly what the Louisiana voucher program encourages.

Now, back to Louisiana. This fall, underperforming schools will have to face the prospect of losing students and their associated funding. This will force them to either improve, or shut their doors. At the same time, new private schools will be started by educators who see an opportunity to make money, while existing private schools will expand. And those private schools will be able to tailor their curriculum to the religious and philosophical beliefs of their customers, the parents, without the government breathing down their necks. With privatization of schools, public schools will be forced to be better, private schools will flourish, and parents will be allowed to choose schools with curricula compatible with their worldviews. And, as a side bonus, thousands and thousands of kids who otherwise would have gotten a next to worthless education in some dumpy public school will now have a chance of getting a quality education from a private school. And all of this will be a result of the private sector and free enterprise being allowed to work as they were intended to.

So if the news about Obama or Bloomberg has got you down, and you feel like the nation’s headed down the toilet, take refuge in the fact that there are still conservatives out there fighting to preserve freedom.

2 thoughts on “A Bright Spot in Louisiana: Privatizing Education”

  • Oh God, NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    NEVER privatize education. It is a right, not a business. Government: your job is to provide education and health care and to put our taxes to good use! Do it or expect to be fired.

  • TRP

    Thanks for the comment! Let me try to respond…

    First of all, you seem to misunderstand what Louisiana is doing. They’re not making it so that anyone has to pay for education; it’s still free. Every child in Louisiana, no matter how poor, will either be able to go to a public school or receive a voucher to go to a private school. So no one’s being denied access to education, the only difference is that now parents have the chance to choose how they want their child to be educated.

    Second of all, I’d love to see a quote from the Constitution, Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, or any other founding document where either education or healthcare is declared a right. As a matter of fact, free public education is relatively new; it wasn’t widely available until 1870 in the United States. And free healthcare is even newer—less than one hundred years old for sure. So healthcare and education are neither historically nor fundamentally “rights,” rather they are privileges. And yes, it IS a business, and the government has no role trying to run it. (If you think education being run like a business is so bad, then perhaps you could explain why private school or homeschool graduates on average do far outperform their public schooled counterparts in college…)

    Finally, you seem dismally and perhaps hopelessly confused about the purpose of government. Government was not created nor was it intended to provide services like healthcare or education. Rather the role of government is and always has been to protect us from those who would violate our liberties (NOT to protect us from ourselves, by the way), and to promote peace, tranquility and prosperity. If you don’t believe me, try turning off the liberal media for half an hour, and actually read through our Constitution and other founding documents. You might be shocked by what you find.

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