Creative Destruction in Education

School ChoicePeople I’m talking to during the campaign tell me that property taxes are the top issue they want to see fixed in McHenry County. They all understand that the real driver of high property taxes is the cost of education.

When I’m asked by voters how I intend to change the way education is funded in Illinois, I tell them that it’s time to put the responsibility for paying for education squarely where Article X, Section 1 of the Illinois Constitution says it should be:

“The State has the primary responsibility for financing the system of public education.”

In an earlier post I said:

     “We can start the process by describing our current system of government schools, and the medieval guild that runs it for what it is: bloated, self-indulgent and counter to the needs of us, our children and our country. Rather than complain about the current state of education, we should tear it up, root and branch. Schumpeter’s notion of “the perennial gale of creative destruction” is no less applicable to education than it was to the buggy whip industry after the introduction of the automobile.

Of course, there’s another constituency that would benefit from having our government schools churned up by a wave of creative destruction: the long-suffering taxpayer who is being taxed out of his house to pay for that sclerotic system.”

So what would I replace it with? Five states: Arizona Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi and Nevada have enacted laws which give parents control over the funding received for their children’s education. It’s the Nevada program, called the “Educational Choice Scholarship Program” that interests me the most. Signed into law in 2015 (and challenged in court by the usual suspects), the program provides that education funds will be allocated on a per-student basis and will be deposited into an education savings account. Parents can then use that money toward expenses approved by the state’s treasurer’s office, such as tuition, textbooks, tutors, test fees, transportation, and therapy for students with special needs. Money left unspent rolls over and can even be saved to pay for college tuition.

(Side note: My Con Law professor at dear ol’ UGA said that if you examine the case law to determine what expenses may be paid to private schools with public funds without violating the Constitution, you’ll find that all of them start with the letter “t”).

The only stipulation for eligibility is that a student must have been enrolled in a public school for 100 consecutive days. That means 93 percent of students in the state will be eligible for the new program, according to the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation, said in a statement:

“Nevada is the first state to make the vision of dollars following every child to the school that works best for them a reality.”

So what’s so special about this program? Is this just another voucher program? No, the exciting thing about the Nevada ESA is that the money allocated to each student is truly portable. Unlike vouchers, which merely give parents the ability to shop for a single solution for their kids’ needs, thus allowing schools to ratchet up the cost of their programs to suck up the entire value of the voucher, this program allows parents to choose among a smorgasbord of options that are available across a wide platform of educational providers. If you want to put your kid into a private school or homeschool and he or she has special needs that are better provided in another program, the money can be allocated across those separate platforms. If you’re a homeschooler and your son wants to play football for the local district school, the money can be used for the participation fee.

Programs such as the Nevada ESA provide something that’s sorely lacking in the discussion of K-12 education: competition. It’s not a coincidence that those entities which we rely upon the most and which most consistently fail us are run by a monopolistic government.

If you want one more reason to support this program, it’s this: Hillary Clinton is against them.


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