Pethokoukis, Economics, U.S. Economy

Please, sending your kids to private school doesn’t make you a bad person

Image Credit: shutterstock

Image Credit: shutterstock

I am actually reluctant to comment on Slate’s trolling-masquerading-as-analysis piece “If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person.” And I certainly don’t want to spend much time refuting writer Allison Benedikt’s fact-free, data-free “argument”: If more upper-middle class and wealthy parents — a.k.a. Slate readers, I guess — sent their kids to their local public schools, the US education system would suddenly improve.

1. So I asked AEI’s Michael McShane for his two cents:

Because public schools are by and large residentially assigned, the rich have their totally awesome (and essentially private due to the home price in the school’s catchment area) public schools and poor people are trapped in failing schools because they can’t move away. That’s what leads to Balkanization. You choosing to send your kids to a suburban public school does nothing for the kids in SouthEast.

Private schools, especially with public support, break the connection between residence and schooling, which holds more potential for desegregation and a mixing of students from different background than residential assignment of public schooling.

2. Aren’t the “bad people” — to use Allison Benedikt’s language — here the ones who would trap lower-income and poor kids in their local education monopoly? Or as Alex Tabarrok puts it: “Barricading parents into the poor schools their government offers them is like barricading people into communist East Germany.”

Tabarrok also notes that merely having more activist parents inside a school monopoly might not change much without competition: “When you complain of delay where is your voice more likely to be heard; at a restaurant or at the department of motor vehicles? It’s the threat of exit that makes people listen.”

3. Oh, by the way, do we have any data on the educational impact of helping lower-income and poor kids escape the public education monopoly? Like, say, data from the District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program? Well, the US Education Department’s OSP study found the program, McShane points out, “produced $2.62 in benefits for every dollar spent on it. In other words, the return on public investment for the private-school voucher program during its early years was 162 percent.” What’s more, “The OSP increased the high-school graduation rate of students by 12 percentage points if they were lucky enough to win the annual scholarship lottery.”

4. One more from McShane:

It’s also a proud tradition in America (since Pierce v. Society of Sisters in 1925) to recognize that children are not instruments of the state. They do not exist to promote the goals of the government or the community, they (and their parents) are free to (within limits) to be educated as they best see fit.  Obviously this person has no idea about the anti-Catholicism and anti-immigrant racism that lead people to make the same argument that she is making, albeit 100 years ago.

Choice won’t fix everything wrong with America’s school, but choice and competition create the environment where change is possible.

 

26 thoughts on “Please, sending your kids to private school doesn’t make you a bad person

  1. It’s never clear in these tomes where the funding comes from for the “poor” kids going to a “choice” school.

    In some states, state funding to the public school is based on ADA – average daily attendance. If the kid is not in public school – the funding is reduced.

    Local funding is often not based on per kid funding.. just a pot of money goes from the locality collecting property taxes to the public schools in that county.

    The public schools don’t care if a kid goes elsewhere – UNTIL their parents want to bring them back to the public school system and the public schools have to figure out if the kid is on grade level or not.

    People ALWAYS have school choice. They are ALWAYS free to send their kids to schools that are not public schools or even to homeschool their kids.

    The rub comes when someone wants tax dollars to send their kid to a non-public school that may or may not have standards equivalent to the public schools.

    There is absolutely no shortage of “choice” schools that would gladly take tax dollars especially is they did not have to meet the academic standards of public schools.

    Your kids “graduates” and you have no idea if they met the state standards or not.

    that’s why, at some point, most folks transfer their kids back to the public schools – especially if they want to get in to college and college requires proof of academic competence.

    • Your first couple statements are all variables that can be controlled. States fund schools largely through property taxes, but they also have funds at the state level to offset any shortfalls. Most voucher programs create a mechanism to provide that voucher fnding.

      Now, the whole reason that they provide a tax voucher is so that the program will be accessible to lower income people that need the voucher system the most.

      The key is, that people don’t always have school choice. Efforts are made to not allow people to send their kids to alternate schools and homeschooling is not always an option if you’re a single working parent.

      Of course, if a parent wants to send their kid to a private school that has different standards than the public school…isn’t that supposed to be their “choice”? If you, as a parent, believe that an education that a private school provides would be better than that provided in a public school, regardless of standards, you should be able to send your kid there. That’s choice.

      • Ideally, voucher programs would produce a better choice than the public schools, but that is far from certain.The nation’s oldest voucher program, created in Milwaukee in 1990, still makes headlines for the wrong reasons. http://www.jsonline.com/news/education/rule-changes-allow-troubled-voucher-school-to-operate-6c5igov-155182395.html
        And the FBI brought fraud charges against a charter school operator n Philadelphia last year.
        That said, I support private schools. When my son was getting lost in a public mega school, we sent him to a small school run by the Cistercian order. It was smartest thing we did as parents.

        Parochial schools should be encouraged to challenge public schools as they once did. But, again in Wisconsin, private schools are quite skittish about an expansion in vouchers that specifically welcomes them. I am too. My son’s school did a terrific job precisely because it had only 300 students.

        I wish I had answers. I don’t.

        • BTW 60 percent of funding for Milwaukee’s program comes from state taxes and 40 percent from local school taxes, which means that expansion means more money spent on education rather than less..

          • In Va – the schools receive about 1/2 funding from the state – on a per kid in public school basis – the average daily attendance.

            therefore if a kid is not at the public- school the public school receives no state money.

            at the local level – all local money goes to the school system.

            so far in Va – charter/choice schools have a hard time getting tax dollars.

            I’d support it as long as those schools have to meet the same academic standards.

            I do not want to see non-public schools take tax dollars and not have standards. It will lead to fraud.

        • if you look at other for-profit schools at the college and for young folks coming out of the armed forces with GI benefits…there is a lot of fraud.

          I’m all for charter/choice as long as there are standards.

      • “Of course, if a parent wants to send their kid to a private school that has different standards than the public school…isn’t that supposed to be their “choice”? If you, as a parent, believe that an education that a private school provides would be better than that provided in a public school, regardless of standards, you should be able to send your kid there. That’s choice.”

        let’s see, you’re taking taxes from other people to educate someone elses child and the public purpose of that is……. what? that the child will receive the right kind of education that will let him become a taxpayer himself?

        are there standards for that?

        what justification would you have for taking taxes from others to educate someone’s child without a nexus to the people paying?

        • “let’s see, you’re taking taxes from other people to educate someone elses child and the public purpose of that is……. what? that the child will receive the right kind of education that will let him become a taxpayer himself?

          are there standards for that?

          what justification would you have for taking taxes from others to educate someone’s child without a nexus to the people paying?”

          The justification you have for that is that there is a law the directs people to put there kids in school. So, if you don’t do it, you’re criminally liable. So, providing tax assistance for such an endeavor should be expected for people that can’t afford to comply with the law.

          I’m sure you’d say (but, they can comply with the law, they just have to send their child to a public school…that has STANDARDS). To which I would say…the public school that fails to educate children properly and not meet those standards?

          The whole issue with setting standards is a bit questionable anyways. They aren’t set based on any actual need to function as a tax payer…if that were the case, they’d at least teach you to balance a checkbook.

          It’s not really choice in education if you have to continually meet government mandated curricula.

          • what justification would you have for taking taxes from others to educate someone’s child without a nexus to the people paying?”

            The justification you have for that is that there is a law the directs people to put there kids in school. So, if you don’t do it, you’re criminally liable. So, providing tax assistance for such an endeavor should be expected for people that can’t afford to comply with the law.

            what’s the rationale for the law that requires public schools to be taxpayer funded?

            I’m sure you’d say (but, they can comply with the law, they just have to send their child to a public school…that has STANDARDS). To which I would say…the public school that fails to educate children properly and not meet those standards?”

            not sure your point. All public schools are subject to standards. For the ones that fail, I’m in favor of some competition form the private sector – as long as they also have to meet the same standards.

            Some private schools will do well. others will not. we already have some idea that just because a school is a “choice” school does not mean it’s a good school and if we go to a system where parents get vouchers and there are no standards – the for-profit, fly-by-nights will flock to it.

            The whole issue with setting standards is a bit questionable anyways. They aren’t set based on any actual need to function as a tax payer…if that were the case, they’d at least teach you to balance a checkbook.

            they are indeed. they are base on the skills that the workplace needs to compete for global jobs.
            that’s the only legitimate purpose to pay for it with taxes in my view.

            It’s not really choice in education if you have to continually meet government mandated curricula.

            the issue is – if you are going to use tax dollars – should there be standards.

            I havre no problem with someone spending their own money or homeschooling on their own dime but if we are going to collect taxes for schools – it has to have standards…. oriented to the goals of a public education which is to create taxpayers not entitlement takers.

    • …You do realize that charter school students have to take the same tests, right? But I guess not. You’re just giving your gut reaction and pretending it’s evidence.

      How well are public schools doing in, say, Detroit? Less than 10% of Detroit high schoolers read on grade level. And you REALLY think the bigger danger is possible low standards of a charter school?

      • The “G” in Larry’s name might as well stand for “Government.” He can always be counted on to regurgitate the public sector line, no matter how idiotic.

      • ” You do realize that charter school students have to take the same tests, right? But I guess not. You’re just giving your gut reaction and pretending it’s evidence.”

        no… they don’t necessarily. But let me turn this around – I have no problem with choice schools if they meet the same academic standards for public schools OR they meet NAEP or Common Core standards. Any rigorous academic standard that is on par with the other countries we compete against for global jobs.

        Our kids need to grow up, be able to get one of the global jobs, pay taxes and not have to receive entitlements.

        “How well are public schools doing in, say, Detroit? Less than 10% of Detroit high schoolers read on grade level. And you REALLY think the bigger danger is possible low standards of a charter school?”

        Some schools are terrible. Most are not. I’m all for kids in terrible schools to go to better schools – not schools someone says is better – but schools that are demonstrably better AND meet standards.

        frying pan into the fire is not a solution – especially with tax dollars.

  2. But how can we achieve social justice without it?

    “I have heard two teachers expound the theory that, as social mobility reinforces the existing social structure, it delays the achievement of social justice by depriving the lower classes of militants and potential leaders. Thus to encourage an individual child to escape his heritage of continual soap opera and pop music, tabloid newspapers, poverty, squalor, and domestic violence is, in the eyes of many teachers, to encourage class treachery. It also conveniently absolves teachers of the tedious responsibility for the welfare of individual pupils. ”

    Full text here:
    http://www.city-journal.org/html/10_3_oh_to_be.html

  3. The government has no business operating schools. I proudly vote against public school bonds every time they are on the ballot.

    Public schools are a tool for imposing social control and conformism, in exchange for which they bestow on children the lowest common denominator level of education.

  4. The failure of government schools is the lefts greatest failure, and also achievement.

    It is a failure because complete leftist control of schools has completely decimated most urban and large city school systems. They are no longer functional, and the students who do pass thru them are incoherent sloths destined for failure.

    It is the greatest achievement of the left that in destroying public education, they have indoctrinated millions of children and completely eliminated any possibility of critical and independent thought, especially toward government. The extent of that brainwashing is now so great that a generation of government slaves has been created – a base of the population with incorrect and insipid views of government which directly contradict the libertarian principles upon which the country was founded.

    Sending your kids to government-run public schools makes you a bad person, and a bad parent.

    • Every OECD country in the world has public education.

      While the US ranks 25, we have not degraded, we just hve not advanced as other countries have.

      Massachusetts, a teacher union state, ranks 7th in the world.

      90% of funding for publics schools comes from states and localities not the feds.

      People at the local level WANT public schools. IN many states they pay more in property taxes than is actually required to meet standards.

      On the right wing wacko birds are attacking “public” schools.. most everyone else wants them to continue but to get better.

      Every parent has the right to NOT send their kids to public school – to send them to private school and many states allow them to homeschool.

      but everyone pays taxes to support pubic schools even if they do not have kids.

      The requirement for public schools is actually in the Constitution in many states.

      The main funding that comes from the Feds is what is known as Title Funding – virtually all of it directed at special needs education.

      • The complete failure of public education rests squarely on the shoulders of the left. Union control of schools and school districts has resulted in total collapse of standards.

        Using your own information and criteria Idiot Domain, in OECD countries, with the exception of Switzerland, the US spends the most in the world on education per student between ages 6 – 15, and gets the worst results. As you are so fond of saying in the healthcare arena, how can these other OECD countries achieve better results with lower funding?

        More numbers:
        “During the last 40 years, the federal government has spent $1.8 trillion on education, and spending per pupil in the U.S. has tripled in real terms. Government at all levels spent an average of $149,000 on the 13-year education of a high school senior who graduated in 2009, compared to $50,000 (in 2009 dollars) for a 1970 graduate.”

        http://reason.com/archives/2011/02/22/losing-the-brains-race

        Schools are not getting better. They are getting worse, because of people like you. The amount of funding thrown at schools, especially failing schools, has been astronomical, with negative results.

        Only insane far left bureaucrat apologists like you find this acceptable.

        • The complete failure of public education rests squarely on the shoulders of the left. Union control of schools and school districts has resulted in total collapse of standards.

          Massachusetts, a union state, is 7th in the world.

          Using your own information and criteria Idiot Domain, in OECD countries, with the exception of Switzerland, the US spends the most in the world on education per student between ages 6 – 15, and gets the worst results. As you are so fond of saying in the healthcare arena, how can these other OECD countries achieve better results with lower funding?

          the point is all the OECD countries are also PUBLICLY FUNDED

          “More numbers:
          “During the last 40 years, the federal government has spent $1.8 trillion on education, and spending per pupil in the U.S. has tripled in real terms. Government at all levels spent an average of $149,000 on the 13-year education of a high school senior who graduated in 2009, compared to $50,000 (in 2009 dollars) for a 1970 graduate.”

          http://reason.com/archives/2011/02/22/losing-the-brains-race

          all true.

          “Schools are not getting better. They are getting worse, because of people like you. The amount of funding thrown at schools, especially failing schools, has been astronomical, with negative results.”

          not in other OECD countries… but even in this country – it’s not a “complete” failure. It’s a failure to get enough of the kids to graduate with a globally competitive education.

          “Only insane far left bureaucrat apologists like you find this acceptable.”

          I find it totally UNACCEPTABLE and I think we need to adopt the standards and methods used by the OECD countries – nationalized curriculums and nationalized testing.

          what do you want to do? Kill the public schools. Right?

          • Detroit is a union city, too. That worked so, so well.

            The public education apparatus needs to be dismantled and reorganized to have total local control and competition. The Department of Education needs to be eliminated.

            The NEA will never allow that. Unions have killed education.

          • Detroit is a union city, too. That worked so, so well.

            The public education apparatus needs to be dismantled and reorganized to have total local control and competition. The Department of Education needs to be eliminated.

            The NEA will never allow that. Unions have killed education.

            there are good and bad schools in Union states.

            90% of school funding and control is at the State/Local level.

            Primarily what the Feds fund is about 1K per kid for “Title” which is for at risk/special needs kids.

            http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/esea02/pg1.html

            I’m all for local “competition” including “choice” but you have to have the same standards apply if you really want to measure achievement and progress.

            otherwise – you just go from the frying pan into the fire.

            we have lots of problems right now with for-profit schools that prey on armed service personnel with GI benefits (vouchers).

            we’ll just be replicating that same problem at the K-12 level if we don’t require academic standards.

            ” Study: Majority of U.S. charter schools perform equal or worse than traditional schools”

            Our problem is that the rest of the world advanced on education and we did not.

            our schools have not gotten worse – they just never go better.

            ” The myth of declining U.S. schools: They’ve long been mediocre”

            you can find these links by searching on the entire phrase

            The reason we lose to OECD schools is that they require critical thinking and problem solving in addition to core academic skills.

            These are the kinds of “word” problems in back of Algebra books that most American kids cannot do… never could…but OECD kids – can.

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