It is fitting that, in the year that marks Milton Friedman’s 100th birthday, Washington State has Charter Schools Initiative 1240 on the ballot. As one might expect of an economist that championed free enterprise, competition and open markets, Milton Friedman believed in school choice. The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice he established has worked since its inception to improve the quality of K-12 education in America through universal school choice.
The current state of public education in Washington State is long overdue for the type of reforms advocated by Dr. Friedman. The state’s monopoly on public schools has produced a bloated monolith that consumes more and produces less each year. The teachers union has blocked the ability of districts to intelligently staff the schools with tenure requirements and wage and benefit demands. The increasing regulatory control seized by the State and Federal governments from the local school districts has limited them from responding to local conditions. As Dr. Friedman warned “This centralization produces deadening uniformity. It destroys the experimentation that is a fundamental source of progress.”
The Charter Schools Initiative is a modest start in reforming our schools. The creation of up to 40 charter schools will allow a few thousand students (often in areas with failing public schools) to obtain a better quality education. Free from many government rules and regulations, and with more flexibility to determine staff, curriculum and budgets, these truly local schools have the opportunity to exhibit what they can accomplish once separated from the ossified bureaucracy of our current public school system.
What Initiative 1240 provides is an alternative to the public school monopoly. Stuck in a continuing spiral of increasing costs and lower scores, the citizens of Washington State deserve an educational system that offers some opportunity for improvement. This small initial introduction of competition in education will present the option to experiment to provide better results. In following years we can hope to build on the successes of charter schools, expanding them across the state and finally providing real change to the students of our state.
Schools competing to attract students by providing a better education, administrators paying teachers according to their performance, local schools being run locally; these are all policies Milton Friedman believed passionately in. Wouldn’t it be great to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth by passing Initiative 1240 this fall, and starting Washington State down the road of school choice?
Nansen is Washington state director for Americans for Prosperity. Her posts should not be construed as endorsements for a specific candidate and are not necessarily the opinion of NW Daily Marker.