Interesting analogy from Cafe Hayek …
Suppose that we were supplied with groceries in same way that we are supplied with K-12 education.
Wealthier residential areas would enjoy higher quality items in more pleasant surroundings. Eventually, the quality of grocery stores would influence property purchases and values. Folks who might be upset by the mediocre quality of the public grocery stores would call for privatization, and this would be fought by those invested in perpetuating the public system, justifying that it provides “access” for all.
Although the analogy is flawed in part (for example: I know within hours if I’ve bought mediocre food and want to change my purchasing habit – not so for education. Its quality is notoriously difficult to assess – just look at the current controversy over NCLB/ESEA), it does provide an interesting point for conversation. Bottom line: if all education were privatized, with supports for the poor to insure their access (hmmm … sounds like some other systems) – would the quality of education improve across the board? Everyone seems to think that this is inherently so. However, there are a vast number of “for profit” educational institutions (highly competitive, and ergo should be higher quality) that provide services that look remarkably like traditional public institutions.