Saturday, April 19, 2008

Another brick in the wall...

I think my “A rant” post generated a good deal of interest. It is clear that everyone has strong feelings about how to fund public schools. Hayduke also weighs in on the matter on his blog, which is well worth a read. Hayduke is a smart cat and he obviously put a lot of thought into this issue. I think most people are fatigued with the discussion, but I want to throw out some very brief final thoughts.

The foundation of Hayduke’s argument is that there are many positive externalities associated with education, which makes public education worth some level of taxpayer subsidy (how much subsidy is not clear). I am not totally opposed to some level of public education subsidy, but I think the subsidy should be very low. In fact, mandating that all children receive some form of education, making sure poor children receive an education, and guaranteeing that there are schools in rural areas that might not otherwise support them should be the extent of the subsidy. Subsidizing all public schools 100% is WAY overboard.

Even if we accept the argument that the government should provide some subsidy for education (and I think we should as noted above), the current method that the government has chosen to do so is clearly wrong. In Howard County and most other counties, public schools receive a 100% subsidy while private schools that provide many of the same positive externalities receive a 0% subsidy. Therefore, in an attempt to eliminate “free riders” the government has created an education monopoly. Monopolies bring their own set of problems, and in any other context such a situation may warrant government intervention to break the monopoly. Ironic.

Furthermore, if you want to eliminate free riders, you should charge folks on par with the benefit that they receive from the service in question. By charging the same level of taxes to the childless guy who takes pictures of birds on the school playground as they charge the guy with three children in public schools, the government has created another class of free riders. A simple way to match up the charges to those who receive the benefit would be to charge fees directly to parents for each child that they have in public schools.

Anyway, that's where I am coming from.


Anonymous said...

One of the best things about private school is that private institutions perform well or they're out of business.

And yes, it's a business, and not a commodity. Education shouldn't be treated as a commodity as if there is very little variation.
Needs of communities and individual children are widely variable.

Another thing: If parents don't like what a private school does, they can leave! Try to change public schools - it's like communist China in MANY ways.

Breaking the money grip may be insurmountable, however. The only free market choice is to push for vouchers, but in the short term that would exacerbate gov't funding, in the immediate term vouchers would begin to offset, and in the longer term more people with ability to pay might move to private schools.

But depending on people doing anything long term defies the source of our current economic condition.

Hayduke said...

I was only trying to make a pretty narrow point in response to the "Rant" post: Namely, that there are externalities associated with public education and that asking parents to pay 100 percent of the cost of public education, as you proposed in the "Rant," was unfair and uneconomic.

What I didn't say (and where we disagree) is that I think the costs of education should be shared by society pretty much equally, as the situation is now. Trying to decide who pays what in a new system system would be fraught with difficulties. As you said in your comment on my post, however, this is all pretty much moot pending a dramatic shift in political will (and a change to our State Constitution).

Freemarket said...

If you think that asking people to pay for what they consume is “unfair and uneconomic”, then we will have to disagree. That is almost like saying that markets are unfair and uneconomic. Many of the positive externalities you named had to do with “park” elements of schools (a place to shoot hoops, let your dog to run in 25ft circles, etc.) and have little or nothing to do with education. I don’t think it is worth arguing over whether parents should pay 100% or some other percent, but they should certainly pay something over what a childless taxpayer must fork over. Political impracticalities aside, implementing such a concept would fairly simple. The government seems to have no problem setting fees for other services.

I think it is telling that private schools are not subsidized. As the previous commenter pointed out, education is not a commodity and the needs of children are variable. The government is not doing children any favors by establishing an education monopoly.

Anonymous said...

Do you have an equal concern over government student loans? This is one of the major factors is driving up tuition costs.

That and the unchecked bureaucracy that exists solely to prove the necessity of every employee in the university/college. Much like public school systems.

Anonymous said...

This dialog reminds me of the different positions from Hillary and Obama on paying for health insurance.

Not every necessity should be free or "affordable", particularly when people can pay and would otherwise spend disposable income on materials of lesser priority.

Health insurance should be paid by anyone with the ability to pay - it should be in personal budgets.

This financial mess we have in the housing/mortgage industries is entirely self-inflicted. If we bail out or pay for everything people need, we're not helping them in the LONG TERM. We're creating a sub-class.

The only argument against asking people to pay their way is that the bureacracy through which money flows can suck the life out of any good program.

Hayduke said...

If you think that asking people to pay for what they consume is “unfair and uneconomic”...

I never said that, nor do I think it.

Freemarket said...

HD: "... and that asking parents to pay 100 percent of the cost of public education, as you proposed in the "Rant," was unfair and uneconomic."

Hayduke said...

FM: It's all about the "100 percent."

Eludius said...

I think as a society were need to have public education. However, students being able to attend should be a privilege, not a right. That said, nearly 3/4 of Baltimore City school kids should be put in jail instead of being trucked through a system that has no regard to their actual educational achievements.

jim adams said...

Anon 6:22 mentioned student loans.

I worked at Morgan for a couple of years, and some of those kids are up to their eyeballs in debt, while taking a major that promises no great financial return. Also the loans were not a fixed interst rate.

I think the way the loans are being given out, is going to result in major problems in the next few years.

What a future, well educated homeless debtors. I hope not.