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.