It’s Difficult To Compete With Free
If it were your decision and you could select any type of school, what type of school would you select in order to obtain the best education for your child? This question was posed to 660 Missourians in a poll that the Show-Me Institute and the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice released this week. In their responses, Missouri voters overwhelmingly demonstrated that it is difficult to compete with free.
Only one-third of respondents indicated they would select the regular public school system. Thirty-nine percent indicated they would select a private school, making it the most common response. Another 21 percent indicated they would choose to homeschool their children or send them to a public charter school.
These responses stand in stark contrast to reality – nearly nine out of 10 students in Missouri attend public schools. Why this mismatch between preferences and actual choices? Cost and access.
Public charter schools are only located in Saint Louis and Kansas City and are limited on where they can expand. Private schools cost additional money. As anyone with a cursory knowledge of basic economics knows, demand decreases when cost rises. In other words, many parents are more likely to choose a free public school than they are to pay for a private school – regardless of preference.
But public schools do not have to be the only option for parents. Currently, 24 states and Washington, D.C., have school choice programs. Kansas became the most recent state to adopt a private school choice program with the creation of a tax credit scholarship program.
There is a clear desire for expanded educational options in Missouri. Yet, there is entrenched opposition to school choice from education establishment groups. These groups claim to oppose choice because they want to protect students. It seems obvious, they actually oppose school choice because they want to protect their advantage over the costly private competition. That is why economist Milton Friedman once said:
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.
Paul DiPerna, the research director at the Friedman Foundation, and I discuss the new poll on this segment of Choice Media’s Reform School.