Americans have learned to trust free markets. Republican or Democrat, we believe the unimpeded exchange of goods and services will yield better solutions than five-year plans set by even the most well-meaning public servants. Free markets have sometimes led to excess — reality TV and supersized soft drinks come to mind — but have also given us incredible innovation, a remarkable degree of choice and the world’s strongest economy.
And yet free markets are absent from K-12 education. We grant each school district a geographic monopoly, which creates a monopoly on how students within the (sometimes arbitrary) district lines are taught. Worse, we are setting state and national standards that move steadily toward greater central control of education.
The people who favor that control have the right intentions. Just as doctors don’t extemporize while performing open-heart surgery, why, they ask, should 3 million K-12 teachers be inventing their own ways to teach? We need to figure out what works and then make every teacher do it.
It sounds so simple, but consider these facts: