Com­pe­ti­tion gives par­ents more for the ed­u­ca­tion buck

Austin American-Statesman - - VIEW POINTS -

Re­cently, due to tremen­dous mo­men­tum, the is­sue of school choice has be­come front and cen­ter in ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy de­bates around the coun­try. With the largest and most suc­cess­ful Na­tional School Choice Week ever, and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is­su­ing a procla­ma­tion sup­port­ing school choice, the is­sue has been gen­er­at­ing a lot of at­ten­tion. Many peo­ple are still learn­ing about school choice — and the more they learn, the more the sup­port it.

While school choice has sup­port from con­ser­va­tives, lib­er­als, and mod­er­ates, many of us in the move­ment have got­ten in­volved partly due to our po­lit­i­cal philoso­phies and eco­nomic prin­ci­ples. We all want to help chil­dren get the best ed­u­ca­tion pos­si­ble, but dif­fer­ent ad­vo­cates come from dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives.

I hap­pen to be a con­ser­va­tive that be­lieves in lib­erty, free mar­ket com­pe­ti­tion and lim­ited gov­ern­ment. My sup­port for school choice is based on these prin­ci­ples and on help­ing ev­ery child suc­ceed with a great ed­u­ca­tion.

For my fel­low con­ser­va­tives, school choice is a no-brainer.

The ba­sic con­ser­va­tive prin­ci­ple of lib­erty is in­te­gral to the idea of school choice, which was first pro­posed by No­bel Prize win­ning econ­o­mist Mil­ton Fried­man. Con­ser­va­tives be­lieve that par­ents should have the free­dom to choose which school their chil­dren at­tend.

We par­ents al­ready can choose which gro­cery store we shop at, whether we buy a Ford or a Chevy, and whether we go to Star­bucks or Dunkin’ Donuts. Why can’t par­ents de­cide where to send their chil­dren to school? For those of us who be­lieve in lib­erty, we know that the sta­tus quo is in­de­fen­si­ble.

Sec­ond, con­ser­va­tives know that free mar­ket com­pe­ti­tion im­proves the qual­ity of the prod­uct be­ing sold or the ser­vice be­ing ren­dered. We know that when com­pa­nies are com­pet­ing for con­sumers and mar­ket share, they have to work hard, in­no­vate and pro­duce a su­pe­rior prod­uct or ser­vice to beat their com­peti­tors. When con­sumers can choose be­tween Ama­zon and Wal-Mart, these com­pa­nies lower their prices, of­fer spe­cial deals and pro­vide faster ship­ping or bet­ter cus­tomer ser­vice.

The same is true of our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. In places where par­ents can act as con­sumers of ed­u­ca­tion ser­vices, the schools must com­pete for each child — and the dol­lars that fol­low that child. This im­proves out­comes for all stu­dents, whether in pub­lic schools and pri­vate schools. If par­ents in Texas had more choices, then the schools in their com­mu­ni­ties would com­pete for ev­ery child and would have to find ways to ap­peal to par­ents — the con­sumers of ed­u­ca­tion ser­vices.

Fi­nally, con­ser­va­tives be­lieve in lim­ited gov­ern­ment. We know that when gov­ern­ment is too big and un­wieldy, the ser­vices it pro­vides de­cline in qual­ity. Con­ser­va­tives of­ten point to the in­ef­fi­cien­cies of the United States Post Of­fice or gov­ern­ment-run health care as ex­am­ples.

These types of one-size-fits-all ap­proaches to mail de­liv­ery and health care also ap­ply to our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. The ed­u­ca­tion bu­reau­cracy and gov­ern­ment-run schools have in­creased their bud­gets with­out pro­duc­ing any sub­stan­tial in­creases in aca­demic out­comes.

Con­ser­va­tives know that we can­not fix the prob­lems in ed­u­ca­tion by sim­ply spend­ing more money. We must re­duce the size and scope of the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion, re­turn power back to lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, and en­sure that ed­u­ca­tion dol­lars are spent in the class­room. We must also en­act a bold school choice pro­gram that al­lows par­ents the free­dom to de­cide how their chil­dren are ed­u­cated.

We live in a glob­al­ized econ­omy — and Tex­ans are now com­pet­ing with peo­ple from around the world for jobs. We must im­prove our ed­u­ca­tional out­comes in this state, and as con­ser­va­tives, all we need to do is re­mem­ber our first prin­ci­ples: lib­erty, free mar­ket com­pe­ti­tion and lim­ited gov­ern­ment. If we ap­ply these prin­ci­ples to our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem in Texas, we can and will im­prove the lives of mil­lions of Tex­ans. And that is a noble and just cause that ev­ery con­ser­va­tive should sup­port.


Gov. Greg Ab­bott speaks Jan. 24 at a School Choice Week rally at the Capi­tol. If par­ents had more choices, then schools would com­pete for ev­ery child and would have to find ways to ap­peal to par­ents, writes Bren­dan Stein­hauser.


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