By George Johnson, JMI Intern & FSU Senior in Economics
Last week, The James Madison Institute and school choice advocates everywhere celebrated the first annual National School Choice Week, a campaign that I find bittersweet. It’s certainly wonderful that groups across the nation are banning together for the cause, but a bit saddening that school choice is something that actually has to be campaigned for in a so-called free country.The government’s near monopoly on education has resulted in inefficient bureaucracies and regulations that result in kids being stuck in failing schools with nowhere else to go. The real problem with government-run schooling is that it destroys the market mechanism of something that is a creation of the market–the incentive for one to get an education is born from the demand of businesses for skilled labor and their willingness to pay for it.While demand for educated employees is consistently strong, the school system is in shambles because of the fallacy that the only way to make school accessible to everyone is for the government to provide it for free. This is untrue. A formal education is a relatively inexpensive “normal good,” i.e., good for which demand increases when income increases and falls when income decreases. It requires classroom space, an educated instructor, and a few supplies–none of these things are particularly expensive or difficult to come by. Government control of schooling has created the false idea that every school must have an extensive fine arts program, varsity athletics, and diverse course offerings. If education was left in the hands of the private sector, plenty of schools would offer these things for a certain tuition. Other schools would offer a more narrow academic education, e.g. English and math, for a very low price. This would be a great option for struggling low income families, as the school would also be much more effective in its goal, thanks to competition, than many current public schools.The price of education would be brought down as a whole in a free market. Because the demand for education is so prevalent, the profit motive would attract numerous entrepreneurs into the market, ready to provide attractive education opportunities for families. Innovation and low tuition costs would become the tools for schools to attract students. Perhaps most importantly, families and students would have the choice to seek out a different school should their current one no longer meet their needs. That choice is what we are fighting for—last week, this week and beyond.