James V. Shuls
Friedman - ed bureaucracy against competition

The Kansas City Star recently ran a piece with the headline, “Private school provision could doom Missouri student transfer bill…” It certainly is possible that Missouri Senate Bill 493, which “fixes” the problems with Missouri’s student transfer law and creates a small private school choice program, could fail to be passed and signed into law. If this happens, the blame undoubtedly will be heaped upon the tiny school choice aspect of the bill. In truth, the blame should fall directly on the education establishment, whose all or nothing approach is bent on stopping school choice rather than creating an effective public education system for kids.

Saint Louis area school leaders have boldly claimed that choice and competition work everywhere, except in education.
In the private sector, choice does create competition in the marketplace. It works there. But is [sic] does not work in public schools, at least not in Missouri.

That statement was not made based on careful examination of the evidence or grounded in any factual proof. It was pronounced on the basis of protectionism.

Of course, the establishment’s opposition to school choice is not surprising. In 1975, noted economist Milton Friedman wrote, “There is no doubt what the key obstacle is to the introduction of market competition into schooling: the perceived self-interest of the educational bureaucracy.”

As it currently stands, the proposed private school choice program would allow students to transfer to a handful of small non-religious private schools that are located within the boundaries of an unaccredited school district. When I testified before the Missouri House Education Committee about this matter, I pointed out that state representatives from these districts were debating whether there are one or two private schools that meet the criteria for inclusion in the choice program. If anyone is being intractable or uncompromising on this issue, it is not the school choice supporters. It is the education establishment.

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.