I received feedback on my column Separation and Coalescence , in which I wrote about the elimination of state schools. A very concerned reader asked me what the alternative was. Won't all our children grow up to be ignorant?
In lieu of public education, the free market would provide a variety of solutions. Religious private schools and secular private schools would continue to exist. Homeschooling would obviously grow.
As far as who would shoulder the expense of education, it depends. If you happen to believe in today's sick system of government greed and high taxes, the best solution would be tax credits'not vouchers (which are unconstitutional in most states). Just like you get tax credits today for spending money on things like day care or health care, you would get them for spending money on school. We don't consider such current tax breaks unconstitutional, even if you use the money to go to a Catholic hospital or send your children to a Methodist day care.
Education is relatively expensive today because the theft (taxation) level in the United States is outrageous. Suppose the federal income tax and local real estate taxes (the form of funding for most state schools) were eliminated. Most families could then easily afford sending their children to non-statist schools.
Grants, corporate sponsorships, scholarships, student loan programs, and discounts would exist. Universities would sponsor promising high school students; private high schools would sponsor middle school children; middle schools would sponsor elementary school children. You would even see schools that children could attend for free, run by people with big hearts. Developers would create elementary schools in new neighborhoods to attract parents of young children.
There is a fundamental error in assumption by those demanding 'free' statist education for everyone. Classic school-based education is not appropriate for everyone. We fail a great number of children who would do better in a home-schooled environment, for example. In the absence of forced state education, you would find parents willing to donate time to help educate a handful of children, not just their own, in their home. These kids would often be far better off.
Public school is a one-size-fits-all solution that just doesn't work for some percentage of children, particularly for those with learning disorders such as ADD. And most certainly, children who don't put forth any effort (and whose parents don't push them to try) do not deserve a free education, particularly when their 'education' is at the expense of others.
You deserve what you earn. Neither health care nor education should be free. Making them free leads to waste, inefficient management, higher costs, and ultimately poorer results for everyone. Basic economic principles back this up. If health care and education are 'basic human needs,' as I've heard some suggest, then why not food? Why not transportation? Why not comfortable clothing? Why not quality entertainment? And so on. I can argue that just about anything that I currently pay for relates to my personal welfare. It's a slippery slope, one that quickly leads to pure socialism.
The advocates for statist education claim that many children would be left out, particularly the poor. There's also the concern that children would be brainwashed by religious schools. Then there's the claim that lack of rigorous standards would lead to poor results.
Dismissing the last claim is easy. We already have poor results. The quality of public school education has been steadily declining over the years. We've tried the government solution of throwing money at the problem. Oddly, the left has this greedy notion that (other people's) money solves all problems. Taxpayers spend over $10,000 per student in DC, yet DC schools produce some of the worst results in the country. Here, in Colorado , it's around $6,500 per year per student, and the quality of education is much higher. Some private schools spend $3,500 per student and produce even better results.
Competition in the free market will produce results in accordance with what you end up paying. In statist systems, the lack of competition allows waste and poor results to be the norm.
With respect to brainwashing by religious schools, I'm far more concerned about the opposite: statist brainwashing. But there is little I can do about it. Things like the Pledge of Allegiance  appall me. Anti-religious hatred is also abundant in the public school system. I'm not particularly religious, but I find this distressing. With a non-statist system, I have choice; with a statist system I don't (making me pay twice for my child's education, once through forcible taxation, is not a choice).
Secular private schools do exist. They would flourish in the absence of statist schools. Too many wealthy secular humanists would make sure this happens. People like George Soros could put his obscene amounts of money to far better use than blowing it on replacing one puppet with another. Children in secular schools would be free to not practice religion; children in religious schools would be free to practice religion. Indoctrinating children in secular schools, and stifling religious speech in the process, is a violation of their basic human rights.
No more children would be left behind than we leave behind today. We destroy the lives of so many children today through inadequate public education. Children in many inner cities have no choice but to go to a dangerous, poorly managed public school.
We try to solve the problem through ridiculous means. Federal education programs are a worthless scam, perpetrated through theft by those in central power. The pretense that Bush or any other dictator can help improve education through massive government programs is outrageous. Fundamental economic principles state that you, not some bureaucrat two thousand miles away, know best how to allocate funds for educational resources.
Some of the positives of non-statist education:
Today, the wealthiest people still manage to get the best education, even though government-sponsored education should have put people on a level playing field. Under a private system, the wealthiest people would still get the best education, but at least they would be paying their fair share. The non-wealthy would have far more choices and opportunities to ensure their children received a quality education.
There would no doubt be failures in a non-statist system. But at least there would be no opportunity for those in power to add insult to injury like they currently do, by ramming their political agendas down the throats of impressionable children. I'd rather have the choices that the free market system ensures, as opposed to the poor odds that the statist system offers.
Many parents today simply don't care about the quality of education their children receive. Apathy often sets in after choices disappear. Even when parents do care, they are often rebuffed by the politically-motivated education machine and told to mind their own business. In a non-statist system, people will work their ass off to make sure their children have the best opportunity available to them. And the marketplace will listen.