Social Choice and the Educational Monopoly

David L. Brennan

October 1, 1993

In America individual choice is the cornerstone of our society. Yet, in one important area choice is denied. According to our public policy, every child must be educated at stated expense. But it is the government that dictates what school the child must attend. Other than moving, the family has no say in the matter. No regard is given to whether a particular place is the one that would best nurture an individual.

Every parent should have the right to choose to send his or her child to the school that the parent believes is best for the child. Presently any parent can do this if he or she is able to pay the tuition at a private or parochial school. We feel that the same right should be given to every parent of every school in the country.

We are not setting up this program to turn our backs on integration. Rather, as they now are, all private and parochial schools will be required to be non-discriminatory, and to admit 20% of their students from low income families.

It is our wish to save the public schools by making them places of real learning, supported by a community that chooses to support them, and to have their children attend those schools because of the jobs they are actually doing. Only by providing choice to parents will those who attend the schools be satisfied with them.

Free choice of schools, paid for in part with tax money, will change the educational system in this country. It will revitalize education because the focus would switch from defense of the system to the promotion of learning.

Simply being able to choose among public schools will not accomplish revitalization. Non-public schools must be included in this program to increase the supply of classroom options sufficiently to drive down cost and drive up quality. We must unleash the great American innovative spirit to address this enormous problem. Under the present structure, public schools have no incentive to change. For financial reasons, most children most children must attend their local public school regardless of its caliber.

The Governor’s Commission on Educational Choice proposes that we do Pilot Programs, limited to several districts in Ohio, utilizing a Scholarship Plan that permits parents to take 45% of public school costs as a voucher to the private school of their choice. It is essential that we have meaningful district-wide Pilot Programs to test the true measurable conclusions of our Commission.

1) Private school choice will substantially increase parental involvement, which all agree enhances the educational result.

2) The Commission concluded that including private school choice will result in between 20% and 50% of public school students transferring to private schools; the economic result of such a transfer of students will substantially decrease the overall cost of education.

Legislation was introduced recently providing for these Pilot Programs. Established groups of educators are resisting this enormously. They are apparently more interested in protecting the system they control than offering choices to parents.

On April 22, 1992, Governor George Voinovich created the Governor’s Commission on Educational Choice. David Brennan, an Akron businessman, was appointed to chair the commission.