Cal Thomas: The ABC’s of school choice

  • By Cal Thomas
  • Saturday, April 5, 2014 5:33pm
  • Opinion

When people speak of a legacy, they usually mean something other than what the late economist Milton Friedman and his wife, Rose, left behind, namely the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice (edchoice.org).

The foundation has just released a small book entitled “The ABC’s of School Choice: The comprehensive guide to every private school choice program in America.”

The Friedman philosophy can be summed up in two sentences, which are posted on their web page: “School choice gives parents the freedom to choose their children’s education, while encouraging healthy competition among schools to better serve families’ needs. School choice lets parents use the public funds set aside for their children’s education to choose the schools — public or private, near or far, religious or secular — that work best for them.”

Choice, competition and what works best for them, not what works for unions and school administrators. Choice and competition work in business, politics and virtually every other area of life, but not in the monopolistic public education monstrosity where the lack of same limit educational achievement for many and often rob children of a brighter future.

One other benefit to school choice was mentioned in a column written by Dr. Friedman on Sept. 28, 2000 for The Wall Street Journal. About school voucher programs, Dr. Friedman said: “They also demonstrate the inefficiency of government schools by providing a superior education at less than half the per pupil cost.”

On more than one occasion Dr. Friedman has noted that modern public education remains based on a 19th-century model with children from different backgrounds brought together into a single melting pot. That doesn’t work in the 21st century. In The Wall Street Journal column, Dr. Friedman wrote, “Free market competition can do for education what it has already done for other areas, such as agriculture, transportation, power, communication and most recently, computers and the Internet. Only a truly competitive educational industry can empower the ultimate consumers of educational services — parents and their children.”

The only counter arguments to this are based on everything besides what benefits the children.

In the “ABC’s of School Choice” is listed the state of education choice from Alabama to Wisconsin. It’s a mixed bag with some states offering vouchers and others alternatives such as Education Savings Accounts, tax-credit scholarships and individual tax credits/deductions.

These would be used at a parent’s discretion for private schools — secular or religious, charter public schools, homeschooling, or online learning.

While Dr. Friedman acknowledged that school choice would benefit poor and minority students, he maintained that all boats would be raised because competition would force every school — public and private — to compete for “customers.” When businesses compete for customers the quality of their products must improve in order for them to stay in business. Not so with the public school monopoly that gets taxpayer money with few requirements, except in a few states, that they improve their product.

Various studies have shown there is little difference so far between public and alternative schools when it comes to test scores, but these studies acknowledge that testing alone is not the only standard by which education success can be measured.

According to a 2006 report by the Public Policy Institute of California, which studied the San Diego Unified School District, “Black students were twice as likely as others to apply for an alternative school under one of four programs. And test scores were not the primary factor in influencing the decision to try an alternative school. Overall, the choice programs in San Diego are increasing the integration of whites and nonwhites, and decreasing very mildly the integration of students with low and high test scores.”

Minority parents have shown strong interest in transferring their children from failing public schools into schools that are safer and the academics stronger.

Parents want choice, students want choice. Only the unions and certain politicians stand in their way.

Cal Thomas’ latest book is “What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America” is available in bookstores now. Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribune.com.

More in Opinion

Apayauq Reitan, the first transgender woman to participate in the Iditarod, tells the House Education Committee on March 30, 2023, why she opposes a bill restricting transgender rights. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: The imaginary transgender sports crisis

House Bill 183 is a right-wing solution to a problem that doesn’t exist now and never will.

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, a Nikiski Republican, speaks in favor of overriding a veto of Senate Bill 140 during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Session ends with budget, dividend and bills passed

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

The Alaska State Capitol. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Listen to PAs; support Senate Bill 115: Modernizing PA Practice in Alaska

Health care is rapidly evolving, demanding a more flexible and responsive system

Mount Redoubt can be seen across Cook Inlet from North Kenai Beach on Thursday, July 2, 2022. (Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion file photo)
Opinion: Hilcorp Alaska: Powering Southcentral Alaska — past, present and future

Hilcorp Alaska has and will continue to fully develop our Cook Inlet basin leasehold

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, a Nikiski Republican, speaks in favor of overriding a veto of Senate Bill 140 during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024 (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Collegiality matters

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Juneau Empire file photo
Larry Persily.
Opinion: Alaska might as well embrace the past

The governor, legislators, municipal officials and business leaders are worried that the Railbelt will run short of natural gas before the end of the decade

The Alaska State Capitol on March 1. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Opinion: Physicians oppose Alaska Senate Bill 115 — Independent Practice for PAs

Alaskans don’t want access to just any health care, they want access to high quality care

Norm McDonald is the deputy director of Fire Protection for the Alaska Division of Forestry & Fire Protection. (Photo courtesy Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service)
The Swan Lake Fire can be seen from above on Monday, Aug. 26, 2019, on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Alaska Wildland Fire Information)
Opinion: This wildfire prevention month, reflect on ways to protect each other and our communities from wildfire

Alaskans saw what happened in Canada last year, and they know it can happen here too

Jason Sodergren and retired veterinarian Ralph Broshes capture and attend to crane shot with an arrow, July 9, 2023, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo provided by Nina Faust)
What happened to the ‘Arrowshot Crane’?

In many animal rescues, the outcome is fairly quickly known, but the… Continue reading