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July 2012 Policy Study, Number 12-6


Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way: School Choice in Iowa


Why School Choice?



The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, founded by Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, works for school choice and provides annual summaries of important actions by the states.


Dr. Friedman wrote and spoke extensively on educational issues, always erring on the side of parental control of children. Dr. Friedman passed away in November 2006, at age 94.[1] Six months earlier he spoke with Dr. Larry Arnn, President of Hillsdale College, on a variety of topics, including school choice.


The key points Dr. Friedman made were:


1. It is not a public purpose to “build brick schools.” The public purpose is to provide education, by whatever means.


2. Economics proves if you want more of something, you subsidize it. By subsidizing the producer of education, not the consumer, we reduce competition. There is no reason for the producer (the government schools) to improve their product because parents, students, and taxpayers have to use the product provided.


3. If schools have to meet the actual needs of the student, in order to convince them to attend that specific school, the product would improve.


4. By allowing schools to pick their students, based on geography or social engineering, you do not generate a good product for anyone.[2]


Additionally, Friedman addressed the historic background of education in the United States, correctly reminding us that 100 years ago Americans could read and write, though they might not have earned a high school diploma. He contrasted that with today, where even after spending millions of tax dollars on education, 30 percent of our children do not graduate from high school and many who do still can not read or write.


For over 50 years the education system has been spiraling downward. Friedman advocated that we take the “amount of money that we are now spending on education, divide it by the number of children and give that amount of money to each parent” and that the result would be better schools and a better education for our children.[3]


Finally, in 2011 and 2012 we are seeing movement toward this goal. On July 31, 2012 — the 100th anniversary of Friedman’s birth — this seems appropriate.



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