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Our public schools have grown up in a competition-free zone, surrounded by a very high union wall. Why aren’t we shocked at the results? After all, teachers’ unions are motivated by the same desires that move the rest of us. With more than 85 percent of their soft-money donations going to Democrats, teachers’ unions know they can count on the politician they back to take a strong stand against school choice.
Our public schools are capable of providing a more competitive product than they do today. Look at some of the high school tests from earlier in this century and you’ll wonder if they weren’t college-level tests. And we’ve got to bring on the competition—open the schoolhouse doors and let parents choose the best school for their children.
Education reformers call this school choice, charter schools, vouchers, even opportunity scholarships. I call it competition—the American way. ...
Defenders of the status quo insist that parental choice means the end of public schools. Let’s look at the facts. Right now, nine of 10 children attend public schools. If you look at public education as a business—and with nearly $300 billion spent each year on K-through-12 education, it’s a very big business indeed—it would set off every antitrust alarm bell at the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. When teachers’ unions say even the most minuscule program allowing school choice is a mortal threat, they’re saying: If we aren’t allowed to keep 90 percent of the market, we can’t survive. When Bell Telephone had 90 percent of the market, a federal judge broke it up.
Who’s better off? The kids who use vouchers to go to the school of their choice, or the ones who choose to stay in public school? All of them. That’s the way it works in a competitive system.