Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Private vs. Public vs. Both

My mother has a subscription to WORLD Magazine, and I read it, too. One of my favorite "departments" is the weekly column by Joel Belz, the founder. He always has something interesting to say. This week, he offers a theoretical solution to the poor quality of government-financed and -operated "parts of the infrastructure."

Belz begins with the recent collapse of the heavily-trafficked bridge over the Mississippi River that connects Minneapolis and St. Paul. He says that, almost counterintuitively, there are private companies who would like to buy the damaged property, rebuild it, and operate it. In fact, the same is true for damaged roads across the nation. Belz gives statistics about the state of Indiana autioning off the Indiana Toll Road and getting more than twice as much as they expected from private operators. But this concept is not just limited to the transportation system. Belz writes,
The real point of all this, however, is not about bridges and roads. ... The issue is instead how folks should respon when the government demonstrates that it doesn't have a clue how to handle the important facets of our lives that have become so badly broken.

Belz mentions several of these "important facets," including one that I deeply care about - a "shattered educational system." Reading that made me think about what it would be like if public education in America became privately owned and operated. Allow me to consider the possible ramifications.

Obviously, many thousands of private schools are currently in operation in the United States. (I am going to one starting in eight days, in fact.) Private schools can be and are efficiently run, with qualified faculties, responsible financial procedures, and strong success rates. But private schools are not completely subject to the standards set by the government. Most private schools, on the whole, meet or exceed these standards anyway to attract students, but there is little parents can do to change policies of which they do not approve.

And I agree that there are some problems in public education that lead back to the government. A combination of poor financial resource management and too many legislative loopholes that allow underqualified candidates to secure teaching posts are just two of the factors. But public schools do have a good point. They are affordable. Some families are not able to afford costly, if quality, private education. If education were privatized across the board, families would be exchanging part of their property taxes for tuition bills, but tuition would undoubtably be higher. That circles back around to educational vouchers, and you haven't really solved a problem if it just takes you to another one.

So, would privatizing education work? Let me say, first, that I do not think Mr. Belz is suggesting that to an extreme. But I do not think that privatizing all educational institutions would help when all the ramifications are considered.

This is Rubio, over and out.

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