What Uber and School Choice Have in Common: In Missouri
Late last month, founding president and chief operating officer of the Children’s Scholarship Fund James Courtovich wrote an op-ed in the Wall-Street Journal titled “What Uber and School Choice Have in Common.” He said:
When we began the project [Children’s Scholarship Fund] in 1998, teachers, union leaders and their political benefactors said choice was a threat, much as cabdrivers say now. But as [Ted] Forstmann used to say, “Monopolies invariably produce bad products at high prices.” The 1.3 million parents who applied for the scholarships illustrated the tremendous demand for alternatives.
I reread this article after my trip to Washington, D.C., where I took my first Uber and Lyft rides. Reflecting on my positive experience with the taxicab alternatives, i.e., five-dollar fare, I realized—I’m not used to having choice.
In the Show-Me State, it is the status quo to be educated within your zip code. It is also the status quo to pay $40 for a 10-mile cab ride. Saint Louis and Kansas City are two of the largest metropolitan areas to prevent Uber and Lyft from operating their ridesharing services; and there are no private school choice programs in the state. Is Missouri choice-resistant?
As Courtovich suggested, there’s a parallel between the St. Louis Metropolitan Taxicab Commission (MTC) and Missouri’s school choice critics. The MTC claims to protect rider safety, maintaining the balance between cab supply and demand. School choice opponents claim voucher programs will “destabilize” public education, that choice and competition have no place in education.
The MTC and school choice critics are utterly afraid of change, but keeping the status quo has consequences. Children are trapped in low-performing schools, and cab fare is high. Missouri should follow the lead of states that have embraced choice in any context, because as Uber’s tagline suggests, “Choice is a beautiful thing.”