OMG! The Free Market Works!


An unintentionally hilarious piece recently appeared in the Pravda of contemporary progressive liberalism, The New York Times.

This lachrymose report laments the fact that major public school districts around the country are losing customers — oops! students — and the result is layoffs. Of teacher union members, no less! Quelle horreur!

Between 2005 and 2010, Broward County (FL), Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus (OH), Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Bernardino, and Tucson have all lost students, some massively.

The article tells some tragic tales. LA let go of 8,500 teachers in the face of an enrollment drop of 56,000 students. Mesa Unified District lost 7,155 students and had to close four middle schools and lay off librarians — the ultimate evil.

The cutbacks are threatening offerings in art, foreign languages, and music.

But to what do the authors of this mournful article attribute this decline? They mention declining birthrates, unemployed parents moving elsewhere to find work, and illegal immigration crackdowns. But they also mention — tentatively and skeptically — the movement of students from regular district schools (essentially run by the teacher unions) to charter schools (run more or less autonomously, i.e., not under the unions’ thumb).

In Columbus, enrollment in charter schools rose by 9,000 students while enrollment in the public school district dropped by 6,150. One honest parent explained, “The classes were too big, the kids were unruly and didn’t pay attention to the teachers.” So she sent her dyslexic daughter to a nearby charter school, where — GASP! — “one of the teachers stayed after school every Friday to help her.”

In an institution where pleasing the customer is actually important, it’s no surprise that her daughter received the help she needed.

Nationwide, while the number of kids in regular public schools dropped by 5%, the number in charter schools rose by 60%.

Naturally, the public school system special interest groups — greedy unions, self-righteous teachers, callous administrators, and so on — are hysterical. For example, one Jeffrey Mirel, an “education historian” at the University of Michigan, bleated that public schools are in danger of becoming “the schools nobody wants.”

Wrong! Public schools have been for some timethe schools that nobody wants. Before the 1960s, teachers unions either didn't exist or — where they did — didn't exert the control they assumed in the 1970s. Teachers unions run schools for the benefit of their members only. So the problems started accelerating.But what’s happening right now is that some few lucky kids are being given the choice to get out — and they’re taking it.

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Greg Robbins

Obviously, the best free-market solution would be for the parents to pay for their children's education. The next best would be school vouchers, which would operate the same way that food stamps do. (Unfortunately states like Louisiana that are trying vouchers want to control which schools can receive them, and not a few state legislators exhibit the same kind of religious bigotry that "Visitor" from the comments section does.) Next would be the Charter system, which, while not ideal, is certainly an improvement over the totally socialized system we have in place now.

I think we should all applaud these improvements as we work to make the system more ideal.


Greg, You have a little problem here. The 1st amendenment says the US government can not establish a state religion.....Giving taxpayer money to religious schools is establishing a state religion.

No bigotry about that. Just people wanting to be left alone and not support things they don't believe in. If a school can't support itself with private money, it shouldn't exist. You have no need to worry, christainity is by far the majority religion in La. These schools will be funded, quite well, privately.

Jon Harrison

This article is so good, not just because it jibes completely with my own views, but because it's right on the facts. And as a bonus its uses the word lachrymose.

paul thiel

What I find so interesting is the adamant opposition to alternative schools by those who are supposed to be representing teachers. If I were a teacher, I would love a variety of different types of schools because it would present me with a variety of different employment options. Apparently though, all too many teachers have such little confidence in their ability to really earn a teaching job that they would rather cling to the one option they have than pursue a variety of options that a competent teacher would have.

Rob Nabakowski

Excellent point, Paul. It's not like any teacher's job would just go "poof" away. The alternatives need teachers, too. Just not teachers who get guaranteed raises and incredible fringes. Come on school teacher, isn't it about the children?


Not only do the alternatives need teachers, but they need more teachers! Smaller class sizes mean more teachers for a given number of students.


Charter schools have no resemblence to the free market. They are force funded, regulated,etc. by the exact same people who force fund and run the very schools that the author detests.

But where are these students really going? Primarily to real private schools, and to home schooling. Now, almost all real private schools are christian indoctrination schools. Which provide an equally poor education to the government run schools. But its main goal is achieved. Almost all students come out as life long christians. Their SAT's/ACT's are pretty average to low. Resulting in very low rates of further education beyond this indoctrination.

The second most popular, true private school is home schooling. Parents choose this option for the same basic reasons the choose the christian indoctrination schools. With the same results.

True free market solutions to education are not pretty. Not what conservatives want them to be. But they are effective. The US needs christian insurance salesmen who think evolution is a liberal conspiracy. But are quite adept at selling their product to their customers.

Charter schools are not that. They are just government run schools for those that are in favor amongst the current local government. Just yet another vote buying scheme. One that will be successful. As the additional levels of government run schools increase, and increase. In 30 years we will be discussing how we can rid ourselves of these charter schools which are churnning out mindless bureaucratic drones.

Gary Jason

Anyone who looks at the data on parochial and home schooling will simply diagree with you. Parochial schools produce generally a superior result WHEN YOU COMPARE SIMILAR STUDENTS OF THE SAME ECONOMIC BACKGROUND. And home-schooled students are ABOVE average on the ACT tests....which is why all most Ivy League schools have progams aimed at attracting home-schooled students.

Being religious does not mean a person is stupid or ignorant...even an agnostic such as myself can see that. That just seems bloody obvious.

I much prefer voucher to charter schools, but even charter schools are preferable to what we have, as I have documented elsewhere in these pages.


If you refuse to accept the basic science of evolution. If you teach others that the earth is 6,000 years old, contrary to all other evidence. That dinosaurs lived at the same time as homo sapiens....I'd say that makes you stupid, and ignorant.

That is what is being taught in these schools. That's obvious.


Not talking about Catholic schools. Which are very popular in many areas of the US. But not mine. What is popular in my area, (the Southeast) are "christian schools".Primarily schools which are set up by parents in southern baptist, church of God, and etc. evangelical sects. Which are, to be honest, pretty poor excuses for schools.

In the southeast what is comparable to Catholic schools in the northeast and out west, are the country-day schools. Which are very good schools. But, the enrollment of these schools is a tiny, tiny fraction of the southern baptist, and evangelical christian schools.

But, I'm curious. Does the childless person get a voucher for not using tax payer money in your ideal?

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