- - Thursday, July 14, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Israel Teitelbaum (and many others) miss the boat when they focus on liberty and “freedom to choose” as the key justification for charter schools, vouchers and the Education Freedom Accounts Act (“‘A Republic — if you can keep it,’” Web, July 12).

Freedom to choose is important because without it suppliers have few incentives to innovate and improve their product or service. Innovation comes from the supply side of the economic equation, not the demand side. The supply side responds very differently to government dollars than it does to customer dollars.

Government dollars can only be spent using a rule book. Every action to spend government dollars requires written authorization, supplemented by written regulations to clarify and refine the written authorization.

Vouchers that allow “freedom to choose” remove all the barnacles from those encrusted taxpayer dollars and convert them into genuine customer dollars. Customer dollars allow failing entities to disappear when customers ignore them. No act of Congress is required to stop an activity that fails to attract customer dollars. (Charter schools that fail to serve students can simply disappear, an option not available for public schools.)

Yes, it is good to put parents in charge of the money spent for their children’s education, but the reason is not simply “freedom to choose.” The real reason is that education is a field desperately in need of innovation and creativity, not more spending. Innovators and creators tend to be stifled under rule-book spending required by government dollars, whereas they are free to innovate and create (and go out of business) when responding to customer dollars.

GORDON O.F. JOHNSON

Alexandria


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