It is important for all of us to understand the public good of public education.
There is plenty of research on the significance of public versus private goods. Some describe private goods as being excludable, meaning that particular goods and services can be excluded from one’s budget (for example) based on the available need and one’s financial resources. Gourmet foods, luxury cars and jewelry are a few examples of private goods.
Public goods are not as excludable, and typically, no single payer of the goods or services can be clearly determined. These public goods are available to all members of our society, and include such things as streetlights, highways, police officers and public education.
One premise posited throughout the election was the need to privatize some public goods and services in the hopes of making them better or more useful to our citizens (and profitable for some other citizens).
Services such as Social Security, Medicare, and public schools are among those that have been bantered about as being considered within the realm of private goods.
The argument of privatizing public schools is not new; many states employ this strategy through charter schools and other forms of contract schools. Although I am not arguing against charter or contract schools, at times we don’t understand that there are many things in our society that cannot simply be improved or salvaged by turning them over to the free market.
Perhaps the reason we continue to debate about privatizing education is that we continue to grapple with the role of public schools.
So what is the role of public education? If you think public schools are there to create workers or consumers, then perhaps privatizing education would be the way to go. However, if you believe, as I do, that public schools are here to create citizens who can function effectively in a democracy as workers, consumers and creators, then you would see the value of building and maintaining strong public school systems.
Although there is great need in the educational field to revisit, re-evaluate and refocus our thinking to support the needs of our students, simply turning education over to the free market may not address the needs of all students, and may not create the citizens our society needs.
Our society should provide certain goods and services to all citizens. Among them is a rigorous and high quality public education.
There are excellent teachers, students, parents and administrators who run our schools and provide a public good like no other country. We provide this service to all students.
We must be careful not to propose quick fixes for complex problems if they undermine the ultimate promise of equal and excellent educational opportunities for all students.