Ending Government Schools Does Not Mean Ending Public Education

Published September 11, 2017

My dream of a nation free from government schools and odious teachers unions, wherein parents responsible enough to bring another human into this world are also responsible enough to ensure that human is educated without the government’s help, is unlikely to soon become reality. However, further limiting the influence of our current, failing, monopolistic education system would move us closer to the educational vision imagined by our Founding Fathers.

Teachers unions insist anyone who favors giving parents educational freedom regarding how and where to educate their children is out to destroy public education. But it’s important to note “government schools” are not synonymous with “public education.” Yes, school choice advocates typically favor a very broad understanding of public education, but most rarely, if ever, argue for rolling back public education opportunities or funding.

That hasn’t stopped advocates of the status quo from accusing innovators of being public education haters—at least, when it’s not the establishment making the changes. Missouri’s largest school district recently made the bold decision to offer education to the public in a way the public actually wants: online.

“To meet the soaring demand for online learning in Missouri — and beat for-profit virtual schools to the punch — Springfield Public Schools has come up with a home-grown solution,” The Springfield News Leader reported. “The state’s largest district announced a plan to take more than 40 courses it offers and make them available to students throughout southwest Missouri and beyond.”

Springfield Public Schools (SPS) is hardly acting altruistically. As the News Leader noted, it wants to attempt to “beat for-profit virtual schools to the punch.” Superintendent John Jungmann told the News Leader, “with private companies looking to expand in the state, it was important to come up with a local solution.”

The fact that SPS is being forced to compete and innovate to gain and retain students—and making many families happy in the process—proves why public education, even if taxpayers are paying for it, should act and be treated as though they are companies in the private sector.

SPS’s online offerings will still align to the state’s learning standards, which means they’ll likely be limited in what they can teach and how, and they’ll have to comply with the silly left-wing ideologies of government school administrators. But at least fewer kids will be forced to spend time in government school buildings, where time is often wasted and bullies cause unnecessary harm.

Jungmann sees the value of government schools mimicking the merits of choice schools. He told the News Leader the new online program is “Missouri’s solution for course-access issues for school districts and families in need of flexible and personalized learning options.”

Ironically, to acknowledge that families need “flexible and personalized learning options” is also to recognize traditional government schools are, at the very least, not always the answer. What SPS offers in online classes could, and likely will, be offered by for-profit companies at a fraction of the cost and probably at a higher quality. And “flexible and personalized learning options” are what school choice programs are all about.

Delivering families access to alternative forms of education—whether it be in the form of online classes, learning therapies, homeschool textbooks, tutoring, or private schools—is the purpose of tax-credit scholarships, education savings accounts, and vouchers, all of which are forms of “public education,” since public tax dollars fund the programs.

I don’t doubt the same people who denounce school choice supporters as public education haters will rejoice at the options the Springfield Public Schools is offering families—while at the same time completely ignoring the fact SPS is embracing the principles of private enterprise.

We can have public education without government schools, and with the elimination of government schools, families will also enjoy the end of a whole lot of corruption and wasteful government spending. The public school elites know this, which is why they are doing everything they can to resist change—until, that is, they have to because the private sector is luring away too many of their students.

[Originally Published at Townhall]