The Milwaukee voucher experiment has brought to light one unmistakable truth; Vouchers have not resulted in either an improvement in public or private schools. While private schools are half the cost of public schools, which is just the opposite of Friedman's "high quality education," they have fallen short or only matched public education. To understand Friedman's flawed thinking, a quick look at his voucher theory says it all. Here’s what he wrote in 1995, and my counterpoints.
"The most feasible way to bring about such a transfer from government to private enterprise is to enact in each state a voucher system that enables parents to choose freely the schools their children attend. The voucher must be universal, available to all parents, and large enough to cover the costs of a high-quality education. No conditions should be attached to vouchers that interfere with the freedom of private enterprises to experiment, to explore, and to innovate. About 90 percent of our kids now go to so-called public schools, which are really not public at all but simply private fiefs primarily of the administrators and the union officials."Friedman pretends that we will never see the development of large private chains, or fiefdoms, gobbling up the smaller schools. He pretends that corporate influences would never enter into the privately developed curriculum's with their own set of agendas, free from local parental input and accountability. And what if "innovation" doesn't happen at all, or worse, is simply a word used in their sales pitch?
"We all know the dismal results: some relatively good government schools in high-income suburbs and communities; very poor government schools in our inner cities with high dropout rates, increasing violence, lower performance and demoralized students and teachers."Friedman is oblivious to his own admission that “very poor government schools are in inner cities, while “good government schools” are in the “high-income suburbs.” Maybe economic factors play a more important role in education than Friedman would like to admit. If he did admit it, he couldn't blame government schools exclusively for not keeping up.
"Nothing else will destroy or even greatly weaken the power of the current educational establishment--a necessary pre-condition for radical improvement in our educational system. And nothing else will provide the public schools with the competition that will force them to improve in order to hold their clientele."Did you get that? Friedman wants to “destroy or even greatly weaken” public schools to “force them to improve.” Not only would that would be a nice trick, but demonstrates the down-the-rabbit-hole logic of this free market huckster.
"No one can predict in advance the direction that a truly free-market educational system would take."Another words, “I could be wrong.” But it would take a generation of experimentation to find out how wrong or right he might be, and I doubt there are many parents willing to test Friedman’s theory and use their kids as “free market” guinea pigs. And those adults that are willing to throw away their kids only chance for a good education on an ideological whim, well, we can’t do much about bad parenting can we.
"Vouchers can promote rapid privatization only if they create a large demand for private schools to constitute a real incentive for entrepreneurs to enter the industry. That requires … that the voucher, though less than the government now spends per pupil on education, be large enough to cover the costs of a private profit-making school offering a high-quality education. If that is achieved there will in addition be a substantial number of families that will be willing and able to supplement the voucher in order to get an even higher quality of education. As in all cases, the innovations in the "luxury" product will soon spread to the basic product."First, requiring that vouchers be “large enough” for a “high-quality education,” which runs counter to our current half price vouchers, is the exploitable flaw in the system. Just as we’re hearing now that higher taxes penalize those who are successful, we will also be told that holding back voucher increases will stifle innovation and quality. Before long prices will sky rocket, and parents will be advised to open education accounts to pay for K-12 education. If you don’t have the money, you can always go to the cheaper lower rated, less desirable private schools. Or, as Friedman puts it, you can go to a “destroyed or greatly weakened” public school. As for the crazy idea that a “luxury product” will spread to the basic product; does a typical $16,000 car have the same “luxury” features of a $30,000 to $40,000 car? Didn't think so.
"For this image to be realized, it is essential that no conditions be attached to the acceptance of vouchers that interfere with the freedom of private enterprises to experiment, to explore and to innovate."Like all corporate and free market advocates, accountability is not a desired requirement. Friedman again mines the endless amount of falsehoods from his rabbit hole of ideas and assumes private enterprise will never cut a corner or game the system. In this case, gaming the system at the expense of a child’s education should be a none starter.
It's time to throw out Friedman's old business theories.