Robby Soave, a senior editor at the libertarian Reason.com, offered us a ‘lemonade’ opportunity yesterday, by suggesting we “defund” public schools if the teachers’ unions decide to seize their moment and ensure even less work for their members in the face of the COVID pandemic. And, in keeping with the leftists’ philosophy regarding defunding and OPM, he offered alternatives for that money.

Today’s Left loves to talk about “free” this and “free” that, and nakedly panders to younger voters with promises of “free” college and absolution from already-incurred student loan obligations. After all, Sweden and Denmark, the examples they always point at when the rest of us assert (correctly, by the way, and the Nordic model is nothing like what the Democratic Socialists are proposing) that socialism never works and is always a recipe for human misery, provide “free” education to their citizens.

Of course, they never tell you that this “free” school comes with a couple hitches: first, that everyone in those nations gets taxed up the ying-yang, not just the rich; that you can’t simply decide you want to major in intersectional hemp origami studies and have it paid for; and, the kicker, that primary and secondary school in those nations is 100% vouchered. Parents can choose where to send their kids (and that even includes private schools!).

Yes, those supposedly socialist paragons embrace a system that is so utterly loathsome to the puppet masters in the teachers’ unions that Democrats, who have been taking cautious steps in support of charter schools (wildly popular among minorities), have been back-pedaling, hard. Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City and self-styled champion of progressivism, has said that he “hates” ‘privatizers’ (no matter that charters are publicly funded), and has worked hard (well, hard for him) on killing them in NYC despite their massive and obvious success and enormous popularity.

School choice has been on the libertarians’ agenda for a long time. Libertarian grandmaster Milton Friedman made school choice a cornerstone issue, as did other great thinkers. As a solution to the half-century malaise of public education, which has seen constant-dollar spending per student triple, with no improvement whatsoever, introducing some market forces into a monopoly situation has already been demonstrated to work.

That the Left’s dream nations embrace “backpack funding,” where the money follows the student, should inspire progressives to emulate the idea, given that they’re supposedly the ones who care most about “the children.” That the Left loathes monopolies, and wants the State to smash them wherever they seem to exist, should also motivate progressives to break up the public education cartel.

Of course, it won’t happen. If we know one thing about todays leftists, it’s that they’re utterly beholden to the big unions, and the teachers’ unions are among the biggest.

But, the rest of us can go Alinsky on them, and hold them to their own rules. If they think that defunding is the way to fix problematic public structures, let’s echo Soave’s suggestion. I can think of no better to improve public education than to switch to backpack funding. In properly leftist “defunding,” the money remains in the public domain, rather than being returned to taxpayers. It simply gets spent differently.

Just as police unions have come under deserved scrutiny for their role in resisting improvements to policing, we should put teachers’ unions under the same scrutiny. They are the reason public education has failed so many children, and we’re at the point where tearing the system down and rebuilding a new one. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans switched to a 100% charter system. Graduation rates improved, to no one’s surprise.

It can be done, and this time of upheaval may be the chance to do it. All it will take is the Left growing a spine on the subject, and the rest of us can push them along in that direction. If they truly care about kids, make them prove it.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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