RE: Debate whoppers

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From: Zhang, Yangkun (Yangkun.Zhang@FMR.COM)
Date: Fri Oct 06 2000 - 09:15:10 PDT

How is Bush's education plan a "premeditated, long-running scam"? Here's an
op-ed by Milton Friedman:

Why America Needs
School Vouchers

By Milton Friedman. Mr. Friedman is a senior research fellow at the Hoover
Institution, a
1976 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics, and the author, with his
wife, Rose, of "Two
Lucky People: Memoirs" (University of Chicago Press, 1998).

Much current discussion of educational vouchers takes it for granted that
their primary aim
is to improve education for low-income students in urban areas. That would
indeed be one of
the effects of the full-fledged adoption of vouchers, and it is certainly a
worthy objective,
but it is very far from the major objective, at least to this supporter of

I have nothing but good things to say about voucher programs, like those in
Milwaukee and
Cleveland, that are limited to a small number of low-income participants.
They greatly
benefit the limited number of students who receive vouchers, enable fuller
use to be made of
existing excellent private schools, and provide a useful stimulus to
government schools. They
also demonstrate the inefficiency of government schools by providing a
superior education at
less than half the per pupil cost.

Proper Scale

But such programs are on too small a scale, and impose too many limits, to
encourage the
entry of innovative schools or modes of teaching. The major objective of
educational vouchers
is much more ambitious. It is to drag education out of the 19th century --
where it has been
mired for far too long -- and into the 21st century, by introducing
competition on a broad
scale. Free market competition can do for education what it has done already
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
consumers of educational services -- parents and their children.

What is needed for a truly competitive educational industry is an
unrestricted voucher of
substantial size, such as that put forward in Proposition 38, scheduled for
the ballot this
fall in California. That proposition provides for a scholarship of $4,000,
or half of the
average per pupil funding in government schools, whichever is greater. The
scholarship will
be available to all students in government schools in the first year after
the proposition is
passed, and will be phased in over four years for students already in
private schools, so
that it will cover all students in the state.

For the first time, tax money dedicated to educating the children of
California would go to
the intended beneficiary -- the student -- to be controlled by the people
most interested in
the student's welfare -- the parents -- and not to an intermediary
institution, such as a
school or school district. Instead of schools choosing students, as they do
now for the 90%
of students who go to government schools, students and their parents would
choose the school.

What would a competitive educational industry look like? I do not know, nor
does anyone else,
any more than anyone could have predicted what would happen to the
industry after the break-up of Ma Bell.

One thing we can be sure of is that a competitive educational industry would
be very
different from the present private school industry. That industry is selling
something for
which a competitor -- a government school -- is offering a close substitute
without specific
charge. Only two kinds of schools have been able to succeed under those
conditions: (1)
highly expensive elite schools, some for-profit, others non-profit, and some
highly endowed;
and (2) parochial and other low-tuition, non-profit schools.

The elite schools appeal to the very rich who can easily afford to pay twice
for schooling
their children, once in taxes and again in tuition. The parochial and other
non-profit schools are in a position to subsidize the schooling they provide
and -- by
keeping tuition fees low -- can attract parents who are so dissatisfied with
schools that they are willing to pay twice out of their meager incomes for
schooling their
children. (There is also a sizable home-schooling industry. Incidentally, is
there any other
case in which the homemade "product" is greatly superior to the professional
product? What an
indictment of the government school system.)

Neither of these segments has any incentive to be innovative and
experimental. The passage of
Proposition 38 would change that situation completely. It would create a
potential market
with millions of potential customers able to pay at least $4,000 -- which is
more than most
existing private schools charge. That would attract the kind of innovative
private enterprise
that has been so productive in every other field. Schools would be
established that
specialized in meeting every kind of substantial demand.

Innovative uses of computers and the Internet would offer new paths to
learning. New methods
of teaching would replace old, and costs would go down just as surely as
quality would go up.
This happened when parcel and message delivery was opened up to competition,
when the
telephone monopoly was dismembered, when air travel was deregulated, when
competition forced the U.S. automobile industry to change its ways, and on
and on. Government
schools would have to meet the competition or close up shop.

The teachers' unions that today control the government school monopoly would
not relish that
competition, even though they would have twice as much per pupil to spend as
the size of the
voucher. That is why they are going to such lengths to oppose Proposition
38, spending
millions of their members' money on frantic political opposition.

Indeed, they are almost the only ones who stand to lose from a competitive
market. The potential winners are far more numerous. Students would benefit
from an
improvement in the quality of their education. Teachers, and especially good
teachers, would
benefit from the wider market for their services. Existing private schools
would be in a far
better competitive position, and could use the additional funds to improve
still further the
education they provide. Educational entrepreneurs and their financial
backers would benefit
from the new field opened to their talents.

Taxpayers would benefit from a decline in government spending on schooling,
since vouchers
equal only half of spending in government schools. Employers would also
benefit from a larger
pool of better-schooled potential employees. Finally, institutions of higher
education would
benefit as the need for remedial courses for entering students declined.

Every technological and economic advance since time immemorial has ended up
benefiting the
poor disproportionately. That would be no less true of the educational
revolution that would
be triggered by the passage of Proposition 38. As fewer youngsters in the
inner cities
dropped out of school and more acquired the skills needed for remunerative
economic levels would rise, street violence decline, and crime become less
attractive to the

Social Impact

Failing schools are not the only reason for the parlous state of the inner
cities, but they
have played an important role. Far and away the biggest winner from an
educational revolution
would be society as a whole. A better-schooled work force promises higher
productivity and
more rapid economic growth.

Even more important, improved education would narrow the gap between the
wages of the
less-skilled and more-skilled workers, and would fend off the prospect of a
society divided
between the "haves" and the "have-nots," of a society in which an educated
elite provides
welfare for a permanent class of unemployables.

URL for this Article:

-----Original Message-----
From: []
Sent: Thursday, October 05, 2000 7:09 PM
Subject: Re: Debate whoppers

I find Gore lies a lot less dangerous than the lie of subverting an entire
educational system to get the numbers right for political gain. Gore's
misquotes, exaggerations and "whoppers" (what's two years into a program
started 25 years ago? I call that "inception." and the lullabye "lie" -
everyone now recognizes that as Gore-humor) are off the cuff. Bush's
education plan is a premeditated, long-running scam perpetrated on his own

By the way, don't you wonder what's up with his brother Jeb's conspicuous


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