NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Vedder's Opinion: Choice Would End Education Monopoly

August 18, 1996

What are American taxpayers getting for all those dollars spent on public education? Not nearly enough, according to education analysts.

  • By one measure, the productivity of public school employees today is about one-half what it was in 1950 -- while overall output per worker in America has about tripled.
  • American school children are registering disappointing scores on standardized reading, math and geography tests -- despite billions spent on increasing teachers' salaries.
  • In 1950, there were 1.55 non-teaching employees for each 100 students attending public schools -- compared to 5.28 by 1993.

Public schools are essentially government monopolies, shielded from the need to innovate in order to compete and from the forces of supply and demand. Privatizing schools -- through use of publicly funded vouchers that parents could use to send their children to the competing private school of their choice -- represents the single most encouraging reform on the horizon, according to many educators.

  • Average per pupil costs of private schools in America are markedly lower than those for public schools and most evidence demonstrates higher performance levels in private institutions.
  • Private school teachers earn about one-third less than their public school counterparts, but report they are more satisfied with their jobs and their students' performances.
  • Thus since 1991, private school enrollments have risen faster than those of public schools.
  • Public school teachers in big cities disproportionately send their own children to private schools.

Despite all the evidence, privatization of education has moved forward at a snail's pace, educators note, because of the political stranglehold of teachers' unions, the national PTA, school boards and administrative organizations, as well as some colleges of education. In fact, observers say, the best represented group among delegates to the Democratic National Convention is typically the National Education Association.

Source: Richard Vedder (Center for the Study of American Business), "School Vouchers to the Rescue...or to the Ruin?" Washington Times, August 18, 1996.


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