Teacher's desk
James V. Shuls

In the pages of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I recently made the claim that the same opportunities given to public schools should also be given to parents. Public schools partner with private organizations to provide services to children—they outsource. As I argue in the piece, school choice is a similar arrangement:

Time and again we see benefits from outsourcing public services to private companies. Yet, many fail to see how private school choice programs, such as vouchers or tax credit scholarships, could yield the same benefits. Indeed, the same principles apply to both situations

After my piece ran in the paper, I received an email from a former public school teacher who didn’t much care for what I had to say.  In his email, he asked me an important question: “What is the purpose of public education here in Missouri?”

In response, I had to ask him a question: Can you define public education for me?

Before we can begin to discuss the purpose of public education, we have to know what public education is. Our words have to have the same meaning. My suspicion is that the gentleman who emailed me would define public education as synonymous with public school districts. As I wrote in my piece “Redefining Public Education” a few years ago, that is not the case. School districts are not public education; they are a delivery method. Public education is simply an idea, that everyone has a right to an education financed at public expense. How we deliver that education can vary.

 A school choice system, in which parents get to direct public dollars to the school that they want their child to attend, is perfectly in line with this definition of public education.  

About the Author

James Shuls
James Shuls
Distinguished Fellow of Education Policy

James V. Shuls is an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and Distinguished Fellow in Education Policy at the Show-Me Institute.