Milton & Rose Friedman's Legacy of School Reform


"We have a simple problem in this country," says Robert C. Enlow, president of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. "And that's a monopoly. It's not the people in the system. It's the system itself."

How bad is the problem? Consider this: Since 1970, direct per-pupil spending on K-12 public schools has more than doubled in inflation-adjusted dollars while educational outcomes for graduation high school seniors have remained flat at best.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman (1912-2006) introduced the concept of school vouchers in a 1955 essay and, with his wife Rose (1910-2009), created the foundation that bears their name in 1996. Based in Indianapolis, the Friedman Foundation promotes "universal school choice as the most effective and equitable way to improve the quality of K-12 education in America."

Despite resistance from teachers unions, legislators, parents at well-funded and high-performing schools, and other entrenched interests, school choice is booming in the United States, with the Wall Street Journal dubbing 2011,"the year of school choice."

Last year, eight new programs were created and 11 existing ones were strengthened or expanded, meaning that students and parents in a total of 12 states plus the District of Columbia could participate in school choice programs that have access to some $1 billion in funds. Charter schools—publicly funded schools of choice that receive a fraction of the per-pupil spending given to traditional schools in exchange for greater curricular freedom—didn't exist until 1996. Now, over 2 million students are enrolled in charter schools, which claim higher than 10 percent of total enrollments in over 100 cities. Nearly 2 million children are home schooled and innovative new choice programs including virtual schools, blended learning, and education savings accounts, where a parent can spend their students education dollars on multiple providers, are becoming an everyday reality.

School choice is winning not just in the marketplace of ideas but in the marketplace for education.

Robert C. Enlow is the president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation. Reason sat down with Enlow at the start of National School Choice Week in New Orleans to talk about Choice has made. 

Reason Foundation's education archives are here. Reason magazines education coverage is here.'s education videos are here.

About 6 minutes.

Filmed by Tracy Oppenheimer and Sharif Matar; Edited by Sharif Matar.

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  1. “It’s not the people in the system. It’s the system itself.”

    That’s the thing about malicious truths. They are true.

    Public education is the only industry that puts serving the customer – kids, taxpayers, communities – AFTER catering to the employees.

    1. Yes, we do have a problem.

      1. Yeah! We can’t all agree which board game White Idiot wants to play!

        1. White Idiot did it in the Tipi with a(n) bow and arrow.

          1. No not this one I can’t spell good!

            1. If we were in the wilderness these lettered cubes could only have been made from highly polished bone!

            2. If we were in the wilderness these lettered cubes could only have been made from highly polished bone!

              1. Hungry, Hungry Hippos. Come on. Have you seen Godesky?

    2. “Public education is the only industry that puts serving the customer – kids, taxpayers, communities – AFTER catering to the employees.”

      This is the basic premise of pretty much ANY unionized environment but particularly in the public sector it seems.

  2. BC teachers go on strike.

    No talk of school choice here, I’m afraid. In fact, bringing it up marks me as some kind of “right winger” in these parts.

    1. Seattle is a short drive away, dude. Flee.

      1. Waiting for my anchor baby to turn 18.

      2. Isn’t Seattle still in Washington?

      3. Seattle? That’s not much of an improvement over Vancouver. How about Spokane? However, don’t show yourself to be a nonlocal by mispronouncing the name. It’s “Lumberjack.”

        1. I used to play hockey tournaments in Spokane as a kid.

          I recall it being quite the hole.

          1. I’ve never been there. Just Seattle and some of the mountains around there. Oh, and I drove to Vancouver while out there.

    2. I was watching the news and the head of the union was saying that in “keeping with the movement to crackdown on bullying in schools the union was going to stand up to bullying from the government!”

      And the headline along the bottom of the screen was “BC Teachers Union Demands 15% Raise.”

      That’s like some jerkoff saying that the kid who he steals lunch money from is refusing to give more money and therefore is bullying.

  3. Thank God Milton Friedman for withholding income taxes.


    1. To his credit he has admitted it was his biggest mistake of his professional life.

  4. If you’re interested in Friedman, his “Free to Choose” video series is stream-able on line:

    Some great stuff in there.

    1. Yeah– I’ve been watching Friedman’s “Free to Choose” on Youtube as of late. (Also a bunch of good Thomas Sowell videos from LibertyPen–)

  5. Ontario teachers are having a fit because the government wants to put a two year freeze on wages, instead of the usual 8.5% raise. 8.5%!. Plus the usual 20 bankable sick days a year, up to 200 which can be cashed out at retirement for 46000.


    1. And I thought the education system was *only* fucked up here (the US).

    2. I see no reason why sick days should be “bankable” in the first place. To discourage people from taking unwarranted paid sick days today… so that they may instead do so tomorrow?

      1. it’s a tough one to defend by anyone.

        I can see a set amount of no questions asked sick days. 20 seems high already, but to bank them up is ridiculous.

  6. Vouchers are bullshit.

    If we feel guilty that the poor can’t afford something, then give them the cash to buy it. Getting in between their money and their purchase (i.e. the parent’s choice to educate and how to educate their child) is the cause of all the mess in education and vouchers won’t fix that.

    1. Curious if you feel the same way about food stamps and public housing?

      1. Yes, of course.

    2. the proletarian masses would just piss away the cash and ignore their own children.

      1. you must define “piss away cash” and “ignore their own children” that isn’t just an elitist rephrasing of “spend money on things I would not” and “raise their children differently from me”.

      2. Have you ever tried just turning off the TV, sitting down with your children, and hitting them?

        1. Congratulations (if that’s what’s in order) on getting elected!

          Hackers Elect Futurama’s Bender to the Washington DC School Board

          1. More High Quality computer hacking!

          2. You can all kiss my shiny metal ass.

    3. Vouchers do exactly that.

      1. No, they don’t. Can I use my voucher to put my child in a school not approved by the state?

  7. legislators, parents at well-funded and high-performing schools

    These guys believe vouchers will result in two different realities.

    The legislators, usually from the left, believe vouchers will result in suburban schools taking away the brightest from the inner-city classrooms, and then no sane teacher would go near the remnants of the inner-city classroom.

    The parents believe just the opposite. They expect vouchers to result in suburban schools filling their child’s classroom with uncouth thugs from the projects.

    Both of those cannot be true.

  8. I resent the term uncouth, I’ll have you know my daily routine includes three hours of listening to Mozart while reading the works of Confucious.

  9. Typical bought and paid for politicians!

  10. vouchersvouchersvouchersvouchersvouchersvouchersvouchersvouchersvouchersvouchersvouchersvouchers

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