Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Case Against Public Schooling in America

Education is a right every citizen of the United States must have. Not only does universal education benefit the individual, it benefits society as a whole. It is therefore imperative to ensure all Americans access to a comprehensive education, without exceptions. Simply having an education, however, is not enough – especially for a country with as high standards as the United States. All Americans should and must receive the best education possible, regardless of their socioeconomic status or ethnicity.

Unfortunately, the public schooling system present in the United States does not work. The national graduation rate from public high schools in America was 72% in 1991. In 2002, the graduation rate was 71%. What is more grievous – that almost 30% of public high school students nationwide did not graduate in 2002, or that the graduation rate is worse than that 10 years ago- is debateable, but both points reflect gravely the failure of the American schooling system.

Furthermore, the United States federal government will spend 90 billion dollars on education in 2007. And that is just the federal government. In California, government spending on K-12 education amounts to one third of all government expenditures. In total, the United States spends over 500 billion dollars annually on public education. Such an overbearing burden on the taxpayer to fund a program that does not produce desirable results is unjustifiable and in dire need of reform. Relying on the government to institute effective changes is irresponsible, however. The government has proven itself incapable of educating America’s youth.

Instead of using the taxpayer’s money to provide schooling, the government should leave the task to the mechanism that best produces efficient institutions: the free market. Private schools in the United States already fare far better than do their government-run counterparts; the problem lies in their exorbitant costs. It is then government’s duty to assist those not able to afford private schooling.

A voucher system, whereby families unable to pay for their children’s educations would receive funding from the government to do so, is a far more efficient way to educate the populace. Opening education to the free-market, and thus eliminating the educational monopoly the government has at present, would result in both better and cheaper schools.

Such a system would greatly reduce the amount of money the government spends on education while at the same time improving the education standards in the United States. Of course, great practical difficulties exist in implementing such a drastic change. The process would have to be gradual, as currently not nearly enough private schools exist to accommodate all American students. Additionally, teachers unions would have to be assuaged, as they would surely be enraged over the potential turnover that such a change would entail. And finally, vast amounts of public school facilities would have to be auctioned off in a manner that does not create monopoly, as privatization often does.

Nevertheless, such problems must be overcome if America is to have a system of education befitting of the country’s might and importance. Central planning has been proven not to work in governance, and as the American public schooling system has shown, it does not work in education either. The free-market solution to education would cure, if correctly and gradually implemented, all the problems that public schooling presents.