Dr. Mary Ruwart is a leading expert in libertarian communication. In this column she offers short answers to real questions about libertarianism. To submit questions to Dr. Ruwart, see end of column.
QUESTION: If the private sector can provide education better and cheaper than the government, why aren’t they doing it? Nothing is stopping private industry from providing better service than government schools to poor children. They can do this right now and it is 100% legal. So why don’t they?
MY SHORT ANSWER: Actually, providing education to poor or even middle-class children is NOT 100% legal. Parents who send their children to school are required by law to utilize schools that meet specific requirements, such as certified teachers, accreditation, and specific types of curricula.
Even home-schoolers must abide by regulations, which differ from state to state. If parents don’t follow these regulations, their children can be taken from them by Social Services, even if the children can ace every standardized test.
In spite of these hurdles, the private sector already does provides better education for many poor and disadvantaged. The typical Catholic inner-city school takes 88% of all applicants, many of whom are not even Catholic. About 20% of Catholic schools accept students expelled from public schools. Even after adjusting for race, family background, and social class, the average Catholic high school student gained three years of learning above that of the average public school student. The educational gap between minorities and whites narrows for minorities in Catholic schools. Read more