Skip to comments.Milton Friedman and School Choice
Posted on 08/07/2012 9:28:10 AM PDT by MichCapCon
Milton Friedman is considered by some to be the father of todays education reform movement. While this is a bit of a stretch, Friedmans ideas have been extremely influential within the school choice movement and are frequently used to make both the economic and moral case for expanding parents freedom to choose the school they think is best for their children.
Friedmans 1955 classic The Role of Government in Education was important for a number of reasons. First, it bluntly spelled out the problem with the public school system in the United States: monopolies that lack consumer-driven incentives. In short, the benefits of markets that Friedman had studied throughout his professional career were largely absent from the public education sector.
Second, public schooling was not seriously studied by many economists before 1955. Friedmans piece can be seen as an invitation for economists to study education, encouraging them to apply economic principles to this field. Today, there are entire university departments dedicated to the economic study of education, including ones at Harvard, Stanford and the University of Arkansas.
Friedman advocated using vouchers to bring market-like principles to the public school system and reform its monopoly and lack of incentives for performance. He is often credited with creating the idea of vouchers, but in reality, vouchers had been in use in places like the Netherlands and, to a lesser extent, in Vermont and Maine, too.
Incidentally, the best test case of the implementation of Friedmans ideas doesnt come from the United States; it comes from Chile (which Friedman once famously visited and whose leader he advised). Chilean parents may choose from a large number of schools, including voucher-funded independent schools. The results of this experiment are impressive: According to a new Harvard study, Chile made the second-largest gains in student achievement among 40 developed countries between 1992 and 2011.
The United States has tried only modest voucher programs in places like Milwaukee, Cleveland and Washington, D.C., for example. The empirical evidence on the effectiveness of these limited programs has been somewhat underwhelming when it comes to boosting student achievement, but all of them deliver slightly better or similar results at a fraction of the cost of government-run schools.
While a full-fledged voucher program has yet to be tried in the United States, some of Dr. Friedmans principles, to a certain degree, are evident in the charter public school and online learning movements. Fundamentally, these schooling alternatives are meant to provide more learning opportunities to students and enable some level of competition to prompt education providers to better meet the demands of students and parents.
Overall, the school choice movement that Dr. Friedman helped energize is arguably stronger than its ever been. The Wall Street Journal called 2011 The Year of School Choice. Voucher and tuition tax credit programs (superior to vouchers in many ways) are being expanded and popping up anew in many states. And an increasing number of people are recognizing the inherent problems associated with providing schooling through government-run monopolies. Further, economists and policymakers from all sides of the political spectrum are endorsing market-based reforms to address these shortcomings.
While Dr. Friedman may not have been the originator of the concept of educational freedom, his legacy has turned out to be long and powerful for the school choice movement.
If Romney wants to put a dent in Obama’s lead with minority voters, he ought to ask minorities why urban elite hypocritical democrats such as Obama, Pelosi, Rahm Emmanuel and the Kennedy family “choose” good private schools for their children. Yet they deny vouchers to urban minorities. For the past three generations urban minorities have been herded into failing urban public schools, staffed of course by union Democrats, and have had miserable inadequate educations. Was this to keep them docile and ignorant? He might also ask why the Liberals situate abortion clinics mostly in minority neighborhoods.
Enough with the entitlement mentality in this country.
My son started school in Baton Rouge. The public schools were largely a nightmare in terms of academics and safety. But we got him into a charter school through a lottery system. It turned out to be an excellent school - as good or better than any private or parochial school and it didn't cost additional money since it was publicly funded. They had a great Gifted and Talented program under the banner of Special Ed. School choice worked to allow some lucky students to opt out of their designated school and attend a much better school.
Then we moved back to TX in Austin. We chose to live in an area that had top ranked schools - a less flexible school choice method. I've been very happy with the education provided (Austin ISD has it's problem schools like any other big city, which means there is a need for a better system of school choice). AISD doesn't have as good of a Gifted & Talented program and they don't start 2nd language training early enough, but what I see in public schools today is quite a bit better than what I had to suffer through.
Enough with the entitlement mentality in this country.
"The United States has tried only modest voucher programs in places like Milwaukee, Cleveland and Washington, D.C., for example . . . all of them deliver slightly better or similar results at a fraction of the cost of government-run schools."
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