Michigan Schools – Collective or Individual Solutions?

Per Scriptum,

E. Wesley — Mackinac Center Intern

Drastic and collective solutions have drastic and collective consequences.  Everyone knows that the best way to lose a needle is to drop it in a haystack.  Or from nature, the zebra knows that the best way to protect itself from the lion is to group together with other zebras.  The principle is simple: where there is a collective group, the individual loses its distinction.

However counterintuitive this may seem, politics nearly always seems to prefer to deal with issues on a collective level rather than on an individual basis.  As a result, the implications of public policy are often a mixed bag.  Education is no exception.  This Tuesday, the Michigan State Board of Education approved a stricter system for accreditation (Michigan Schools…).  School accreditation entails meeting test score minimums, having certified teachers, etc.  According to the new standard, schools that undergo three consecutive years without accreditation will face penalties, even to the extent of closing.  It is estimated that more than 100 schools will fail to meet the standard.  As is apparent, the consequences of this decision are both drastic and collective.  Some schools live; others die.

There is another way to both raise school academics without closing large groups of schools: privatization.  This is a big word, I know, but it really is very simple.  If we released schools from the chains of collective bureaucracy, we would see more individuality.  If we let individual schools themselves control funding without state funding, schools would be a lot freer to make money as they see fit.  In so doing, our children would get better education.  Teachers would teach better if they knew that getting paid required working hard and not just lobbying for more taxpayer money.  School executives would be careful not to make mistakes in administration, because parents might get angry and withdraw their financial support.  Even taxpayers would benefit.  Right now, $13,378,906,800 of our $43,828,671,300 state budget is devoted to school aid (state budget).  That’s about 33% of all state budgeted spending!  If the state gave all of that money back to taxpayers, on the whole, people would be financially capable of financing their own children’s education at schools who are dedicated to give the best education at the cheapest price (after all, the schools would have to be pretty nice to us, if they wanted to stay alive).  The parents, not the government, would be calling the shots.  Would we prefer to have the government just take our money to spend on education as they see fit, or do we want to be in charge of how our children are educated?


4 thoughts on “Michigan Schools – Collective or Individual Solutions?

  1. If only it were that simple, as to give the money back and have citizens pay for it. You are missing a major problem with that idea- many citizens can not pay for education. Public education is a wealth redistribution scheme, in which all taxpayers are taxed and the money is then redistributed to the schools. Your argument will convince only those who can afford schools- those who can not really like the system, except the part where they have to pay taxes. Soon Michigan will move towards graduated taxes, and then the wealth redistribution will be even greater yet.

  2. Dear Sir or Madam,

    Thank you so much for your professional comment. Your point is very meaningful; the rich pay more for education than the poor, so even if the poor were to get their tax dollars back they wouldn’t be able to pay for education. In short, the logical conclusion from this is that the poor will be dependent on someone either way. They will either be dependent on the government to provide them a free service (i.e. education), or on a charitable organization to help them along. If we were to look at our two options for a minute, we would see one major difference between community organizations and government services: force. Community organizations are groups of dedicated people who voluntarily forfeit time and resources to help others (as a Christian, I speak from experience that my church is dedicated to help those who come to us). On the other hand, government services require involuntary tax and a huge bureaucracy that transition funds to services (like education). As is apparent from our present system, bureaucracy gets tangled, and often burns up good resources that could have been used for the service itself (in this case, education). Personally, I see a private community as the answer to the question of how the very poor get education. The more the tax burden is lifted, the more people will be able to help others. As a college student, I would certainly like to be in a position where I could give to good causes, but I can hardly pay for my own education along with taxes.


  3. Privatization is a great idea, and I like the way you presented it. Necessarily thorough change, however, cannot occur without both the parents taking a sincere and active interest in the education their children receive, and the schools (public, yes—but the private ones involved in privatization, too) taking charge locally to offer the best education in the manner they see fit.

    Public schools, by and large, “educate” the children of mostly apathetic parents who take little interest in their children’s education; and these schools and school boards are increasingly being told by the state and federal governments what is to happen. Both trends are distrubing and negative.

    Privatization without actively interested parents, and local control of education, cannot meet its full potential.

  4. Hello Ken,

    Great addition here! Parents and children need to be convinced that education is worth their time and effort. Our problem then, involves cultural reform as well as policy reform. However, the public sector only encourages sloth. That’s why, as you said, “Public schools… ‘educate’ the children of mostly apathetic parents who take little interest in their children’s education.” As long as people have a “catch all” basket, such as the public schools, there’s no need to reform until the system collapses (which I don’t think the system is sustainable forever). Hence the need to privatize as soon as possible.


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