New York Post, December 3, 2006

By Ryan SagerÂ

The rich in New York City already have school choice. Parents with means can choose where they live based on the quality of the local public schools.They can choose to send their children to local private schools.

Heck, they can even send their children to any boarding school in the world, if they so choose.

And because these parents are educated consumers with lots of options, the schools that compete for their education dollars know they have to perform.

It’s called the free market, and we know it works - for cars, for clothes, for computers, for practically anything we buy or consume.

When companies have to compete, consumers win.

Yet when it comes to one of the most important products any of us will ever purchase - a child’s education - we treat parents (at least the nonrich) as prisoners instead of as consumers.

The reason? Because a corrupt education monopoly - consisting of the teachers’ unions, the principals’ unions, and public-school administrators - doesn’t want to have to compete.

They want you to go to your zoned school.

They want you to sit down, shut up, and take whatever they dole out to you.

And then they want you to thank them for it.

And they have the political muscle to make you - by thwarting proposals to give low-income parents school vouchers, by capping the number of innovative charter schools that can be started, and by refusing to grant students transfers out of failing schools (even though they have a right to such transfers under the federal No Child Left Behind law).

The result of all of this is a public-school system with wildly inconsistent results.

Sometimes a school succeeds because of a talented principal, a dedicated staff, or a critical mass of bright students and involved parents.

Then everyone fights to get into that high-performing school - clawing their way in through extralegal means if necessary.

The students left behind - well, those are your prisoners, trapped in schools with which they and their parents are simply stuck.

And because these schools have captive consumers, they never go out of business.

These failing schools will continue to thwart the education of generation after generation of New York City children - until we find a way to bring the power of the market and consumer choice down upon them.


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