NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Dupont: Failing Public Schools Need Dose Of Competition

November 19, 1997

Public schools need competition to improve their low marks on educational quality, says former Delaware Gov. Pete du Pont. Surveys show parents are not pleased with the public school system:

  • According to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 94 percent of Americans want significant change in the public education system.
  • Sixty-nine percent want more control over their children's education.
  • In a separate poll by Public Agenda, six of 10 parents with children in public schools said they would provide private education for their children if they could afford it.

Other industries show that competition improves quality and drives down price:

  • Since the breakup of AT&T, a number of long-distance providers have been competing for customers through improved services and lower prices.
  • The U.S. Postal Service has significantly refocused its resources on the customer since Federal Express and UPS began competing for its customer base.

There are also real life examples in education that competition through private school vouchers can improve public schools.

  • A concerned New Yorker offered private school scholarships to students attending Giffen Memorial Elementary School in Albany -- believed the worst public school in all of New York.
  • At first, the Albany school system attacked the offer as a political stunt.
  • It then took action by replacing personnel, including the principal, and coming up with $125,000 in new funds for books, equipment and teacher training at Giffen.

Giffen Memorial and other such examples show competition can work to improve public schools. But for competition to work, the heavy hand of the education bureaucracy must first be removed.

Pete du Pont (National Center for Policy Analysis), "Competitive Path to Better Schools," Washington Times, November 19, 1997.


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