While the benefits to consumers of free market competition are obvious in virtually every sector of the economy, one vital institution remains resistant to competition — K-12 public education. In America, state and local governments, supported by the federal government, run a near monopoly. Though funded by an individual’s taxes, the vast majority of families have little choice but to send their students to the traditional public school.
The role of government is to provide for the public good, and the point of collecting taxes and spending it on schools is to ensure everyone has the same opportunity to access a quality education. However, whether we are succeeding in this is another story.
The U.S. ranks 26th in the world in K-12 student achievement, getting lapped by China, which places first overall as well as in each major individual academic area — math, reading, and science.
However, the U.S. outspends nearly every other country in the world on K-12 education — 35 percent more per student than the average developed country — spending which has tripled in constant dollars since the 1970s while achievement has stagnated. Yet government and education leaders remain fixated on the notion that our education system is underfunded.
As the pandemic forced parents to take a greater look and involvement in their child’s education, they became more of a watchdog, thus spurring an increase in children attending charter, private, homeschool or microschools.
In a country that likes to be #1, would competition in our education system produce a better result for our children?