schools lack competition
Fultz is a freshman history and political science major from Indianapolis,
No one can deny
that our public school system is in trouble. Decreasing achievement,
increasing violence, and general apathy seem to affect everyone involved.
Parents tend to be uninvolved and students cynical about their prospects
for success. Extra money and regulations have not solved the problem,
especially for inner city schools with children who are often drawn
into lives of crime. America has one option that could help solve
these problems: eliminate the monopoly of the public school system.
As consumers, we naturally hate monopolies. Monopolies have no need
to improve the quality of their product, increase efficiency or lower
prices in order to attract more customers. A monopoly can charge more
money from its customers and provide less in return. The public school
monopoly continues to grow, affecting 69 million consumers in the
United States in 2003.
The solution to this problem lies in school vouchers. School vouchers
are direct payments from the government to individuals to help them
purchase an education on the open market. The voucher could be used
by parents to pay tuition at a public school in another district,
a private school or a religious school. State-enacted voucher programs
currently exist in Colorado, Washington D.C., and Cleveland.
The ideas behind vouchers are the same ideas that have built America
into the nation it is today: capitalism and free choice. Currently,
neither is in our public school system. The plan is to put voucher
checks into the hands of low-income students so that they can take
that money to whatever school they choose. By giving low-income students
the chance to transfer out of failing schools, we give them the opportunity
to pursue a good education, and by taking money away from bureaucratic
school districts we encourage them to improve and attract more students.
When schools have to compete for students they will model themselves
more like corporations: efficient, effective and motivated.
Research has shown the benefits this competition can produce. In areas
where public and private schools compete for the same students, Harvard
economics associate professor Caroline Hoxbys research showed
academic improvement. Among students transferring from public to private
school, Hoxby found a 12 percent increase in future wage gains and
a 12 percent increase in the probability of college graduation. Hoxby
also found an 8 percent improvement in the test scores of the students
who remained in public schools. Such research proves that competition
can improve public schooling.
Opponents argue that the financial state of underfunded public schools
will only grow worse, but vouchers will merely encourage such schools
to eliminate bureaucracy and become more efficient. In New York City,
administrative populations have increased by up to eight times the
rate of new student enrollment. Couldnt that money be better
spent on students than on administrators?
The Bush administration is behind this innovative program and hopes
to expand it. Opposing him are teacher and administrator unions; worried
that a little competition might force them to work harder for their
money. Vouchers can improve schooling for Americas children,
and isnt that what they deserve?