The free market is a wonderful thing when it is allowed to operate unfettered by obstacles. Take for instance the world of personal computers. IBM’s first personal computer (pc) was the Model 5120 released in early 1980. It weighed about 100 pounds and came with 64 kilobytes of RAM, a 16 bit processor, a 9 inch black and white monitor and two floppy drives. It did not have a hard drive. It sold for $13,500 which is about $40,000 in today’s dollars! This caused a boom in companies competing to make the best PC. Innovation exploded and as the pcs became more powerful they became cheaper. Contrast IBM’s first PC with today’s PCs that sport a dual core 64 bit processor, 16 gigabytes of RAM, a 128 gigabyte boot hard drive and a terabyte data hard drive, a 27” flat screen monitor and much more for about $2,300.
Now imagine what would have happened if the federal government decided that everyone should have an IBM PC. IBM would have a huge captive market with little or no incentive to change. Costs would go up, not down and quality would decline. There would be little innovation. Does anyone believe that we would be able to buy PCs as described above at 17 times less than the original model in today’s dollars? Not a chance.
This is easy for most people to understand. They see similar stories in other industries such as the television industry. But when it comes to our education system most are blind. The government pays for primary and secondary education for anyone who wants it. The schools are operated by state and local governments and are staffed by teachers unions. The federal government provides funding help to the states which gives them control over the schools. The schools have little incentive to improve since they have a captive market. They block any measure to allow competition in the system. This is due in large part because of the dominance of the unions in the school system. To compound matters, the unions collect dues from their members and use these dues to fund the Democrat Party. In turn The Democrat Party fights any attempts at real reform and competition.
The results are predictable. In the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ‘s 2014 report the US ranked 24th in reading, 36th in math and 28th in science. Even more disturbing is the fact that the trend data show no significant changes in the average performance of U.S. 15-year-old students in the mathematics, reading and science over time. “The Nations Report Card’s” 2013 study revealed that only 34% of 8th graders in public schools are proficient in math as compared to 47% in private schools. Only 34% of 8th graders in public schools are proficient in reading as compared to 57% in private schools.
The left always blame lack of funding for our poor results. The facts are contrary to this oft repeated myth. In 2010 the USA spent $11,826 per FTE student per year. The OECD average in 2010 was $9,803. Of the 35 countries in the comparison only three countries spend more than us. Japan, which ranked 4th in reading and 7th in math spent $9,168 in 2010. Korea, ranked 5th in both math and reading spent $7,396 during the same timeframe. In 2013 the average tuition for private schools (elementary and secondary) was $10,740, about 10% less than the 2010 level of spending for public schools.
The truth is that we are not preparing our children for college or for life. This is especially true for minorities. Only one in four high school students graduate ready for college in all four core subjects (English, reading, math and science), which is why a third of students entering college have to take remedial courses. Only 4 percent of African American students and 11 percent of Hispanic students finish high school ready for college in their core subjects.
So what do we do? How about allowing parents to choose where their children go to school. Competition is a good thing. Parents will choose schools that do the best to prepare students either for work or higher education. Parents who are more affluent do this now, paying private tuition even though they pay high taxes to support public schools. Low and middle class families are unable to afford private schools. A simple idea is to give parents school vouchers to use in their school of choice. As seen above issuing vouchers at today’s spending will open up the choice to most private schools. The Democrat Party, the party of choice, is steadfastly opposed to this for a couple of reasons. First and foremost is that they do not want to reduce the size and level of control of the government. Also they want to protect the teachers’ unions to retain their votes and their funding stream. The biggest losers to this obstruction are Blacks, Hispanics and lower class white families.