Opinion: Do We Need Public Education At All?
Public schools are struggling with chronic absenteeism, increased mental health issues for students and teachers, concerns of safety, and mismanagement or lack of funding. Public education costs Americans over $600 billion in combined federal and local taxpayer funding coupled with individual families spending dozens of dollars in school supplies every year. For a variety of reasons, private schools overwhelmingly see better education and safety standards while being well-funded and maintained. As a result, there is a growing faction of America declaring that the U.S. public education system is a disaster. Regardless of country, the centrally planned public school system inherently wastes money, decreases education quality, stifles creativity, and reduces freedom. Both of my parents have been teachers at public schools; transitioning to a private, consensual system would simply translate public sector jobs to private sector job equivalents. If the system was privatized, essentially every student would have access to a variety of quality education for free via nonprofits, corporations, and local communities.
If public schools didn’t exist, the vast majority of students would be able to afford to attend traditional schools, possibly for even better value quality. There would likely also be hundreds of nonprofits and corporations offering free/affordable physical school courses and tuition waivers. Many of these programs exist today in companies like Smuckers and McDonalds, but can be limited due to the abundance of regulation in our education system and high taxes we are already forced to pay for schools. Nonetheless, when public schools fail us, voluntary and charitable organizations always fill the void. Even if you truly cannot find free/affordable school at first, there are almost always schools, some even more expensive, that recruit potential by funding lower-income families. Furthermore, there are numerous private scholarships, tuition waivers, or grants that are offered by organizations and communities all across the USA and the world. If traditional schools are not preferable, there are thousands of high-end courses and tools available online free of charge.
Virtually everyone in the U.S has reliable access to the Internet [if they want it] and about 8 in 10 Americans own personal, internet-connecting smartphones according to Pew Research Center data. With 5G networks now established in the United States, and nation-wide coverage provided in 2020, high-speed connection to websites is getting even cheaper, faster, and more widespread. On the Internet alone, there are dozens of popular and affordable services that can completely replace [or supplement] K-12 grade school classes for almost any specialized sectors of English, math, science, and social studies. The following websites are already familiar to millions of students, and combined can often provide more resources than a typical public high school or college: Khan Academy, CalcChat, Investopedia, CrashCourse, Duolingo, Academic Earth, Coursera, Wikipedia, etc. All of these can be used at no charge at all or have free versions available. These services collectively have been used by billions of students and casual consumers that pursue knowledge over the last decade.
Free online college courses and materials offered by schools like MIT, Stanford, Yale, Rice, and Harvard also often give university equivalent education for no charge on dozens of subjects; these services are available across the world. Some of these programs, like Rice’s online courses, have over 95% of people reporting they achieved their goal along with average ratings exceeding 4 out of 5 stars. Organizations offer these high quality classes for zero dollars because they desire brand awareness, validation through popularity, and well-educated students. They can also sometimes make money through advertisements, data collection, or on-site purchases of premium features. For these organizations and many others, it is affordable and beneficial to be charitable. Outside of the big name schools, most cities even have local schools or companies that offer free/affordable physical courses for numerous other hands-on subjects.
There are literally hundreds of organizations, websites, and communities dedicated to whatever one would want to learn. Not all of them are perfect for everyone, but ultimately these are complimentary services that can be utilized just as effectively (often more effectively) as a traditional school. It is important to note that this is all accounting for the poorest of the poor in America; most people have families willing to teach themselves or pay for affordable tutors/schools. Even for the impoverished, with all of the taxpayer money saved and education restriction lifted as a result of the public education system disappearing, it would be even easier to purchase additional services as well as fund or donate to, these services.
Many people fear-monger that privatizing any service will mean only rich people will be able to obtain those services. As we can see, simply a few minutes of inspection or research quickly debunks this notion. It’s like saying only rich households will be able to have a microwave, personal vehicle, air-conditioning system, or television since the government doesn’t own and distribute it. In reality, over two-thirds of even the lowest-income households have most of these conveniences.
Will there ever be a perfect education system? Will school always be fun for students? Will every student be motivated to advance their education? Of course not. However, we should strive for a voluntary education system that doesn’t forcefully take money from residents, many of which never directly use the system. The current public education system not only assumes government bureaucrats know how one should be best educated, but they determine what you are required to learn while ignoring interests and unique characteristics of individual growing children and adults. Central planning and lack of competition have always been economically inefficient. Completely privatizing education seems to be the best way to have accessible, high-quality, and affordable education while, most importantly, preserving individual liberties and freedoms.