School Choice

School Choice More Popular Than Ever—Thanks to Libertarians

Take that, Paul Krugman.

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A recent New York Times piece heralding the arrival of the libertarian moment has triggered a backlash—well documented by Reason writers here and here—from some noted anti-libertarians determined to rain on our freedom-loving parade. The most predictably awful response came from Paul Krugman, who went full Krugman and declared that libertarianism is an answer to "problems we don't have." 

Nobody paying even cursory attention to the news could actually believe that, but in case you've been living under a rock, Reason's J.D. Tuccille recently listed five policy areas where libertarianism is making people's lives better.

I'd like to suggest another: education. School choice—a concept popularized by libertarians like Milton Friedman—is liberating students from the oppressive failures of traditional public schools by empowering parents to get their kids into classrooms with teachers who actually care. To create innovative learning environments, entrepreneurs need room to breathe, and school choice gives them just that. Some charter schools may fail, but taken as a whole, the U.S.'s limited experiment in unshackling its classrooms is a success worthy of celebration.

Want evidence that the libertarian movement is here? The libertarian approach to education is more popular than ever. Even Democrats—once ironclad allies of notoriously freedom-hostile teachers unions—are increasingly on board with liberty-friendly reforms. (Union bosses, having embraced some of the angriest and ugliest rhetoric imaginable, have no one to blame but themselves.) In the recent Vergara v. California decision, for instance, the Supreme Court agreed with the plaintiffs that California's unconstitutionally broad protections for teachers were "handcuffing" schools. Arne Duncan, President Obama's Education Secretary, released a statement in support of the ruling.

Libertarian-leaning Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), a likely presidential contender, has made school choice a paramount issue—and one he uses to chart new territory among minority communities that have been skeptical of the limited government message in the past but are nevertheless excited about school choice. Those who take the opposite view, that inner city students should be condemned to languish in failing public schools, are increasingly outside the mainstream.

The horizon isn't entirely bright for libertarian education reformers, given the threats of increased centralization and nationalization posed by the Common Core curriculum. But even on that front, a weird mix of people with almost nothing in common other than a basically libertarian skepticism of standardization seem to be winning the fight.

Take that, Krugman.

More from Reason on education reform here.

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  1. This is one of those issues where there should be literally no opposition from anyone outside of a union… I’m not sure if this one is even possible to fuck up now.

    1. Oh it’s totally possible. There is nothing government can’t fuck up.

    2. You would think so. But if you concede that the government is not the solution to a particular problem–or worse, that the government is causing a particular problem–then you open yourself up to the horrifying idea that there are things in this world that government can’t or shouldn’t control. Some people are unable to cope with that idea.

      1. gasp!

      2. I concede.

    3. The arguments I most commonly hear against it are

      1. it treads close to violating the separation of church and state since a lot of voucher money ends up going to religious and church schools

      2. it might lead to a type of ‘crony capitalism’ where you and me pay for C to get rich educating D’s kids

      3. like social security its a system that only ‘works’ when everyone is tied to the same system, people opting out will lead to those parents who don’t care to opt their kids out having their kids concentrated in some truly terrible schools

      I think what should be done is to just end public schools and let the market take care of it.

      1. You forgot Acosmist’s, “They cherry pick the students.” canard.

        1. They don’t usually “cherry pick”, but the students are different. That’s why lotteries don’t show significant test score improvement.

          1. That’s not true; at least not in Massachusetts. Using school data collected over a period of 10 years, this working paper purports that “one year in an urban lottery charter middle school boosts scores dramatically, by 0.34 standard deviations in math and 0.14 standard deviations in English. In contrast, non-urban charter schools appear to degrade performance. Although, as the authors note, “most non-urban students do reasonably well in any case,” the causal effect of a year of non-urban charter attendance is a substantial reduction in achievement in all levels and subjects, on the order of 0.16 standard deviations in middle school with almost a quarter of a standard deviation decline in high school math.

            The researchers conclude that the relative effectiveness of urban lottery charter schools can be explained by over-subscribed schools’ embrace of the No Excuses approach to education.”

            1. Maybe I’m trying to apply statistics I learned in the physical sciences incorrectly, but those improvements don’t sound significant at all. In fact, they sound consistent with the natural variance of the data. Am I missing something?

              1. They’re significant. 0.34 SD is about 5 IQ points.

                1. But assuming scores are Gaussian distributed (not sure if that is a good assumption), you’d expect to see differences of 0.34 SDs something like 74% of the time just due to random noise in your data. What I am getting wrong here?

                  1. sample size?

                    1. sample size?

                      For the non-lottery charters urban was n = 6625 and non-urban n = 8316 for the lottery n = 4126 for urban and n = 1963 for non-urban.

                    2. “Sample size” is the thing I think he’s missing.

                  2. What’s the standard error of each mean?

              2. In educational statistics the standard p-value is < 0.05; however, and this is where social “sciences” (it’s science like soy “milk” is milk, we just don’t have a better word for it) research can turn bad…the effect sizes and such can be played around with a lot. For example, opening up G*Power, the default Pearson’s r is set to 0.3, which I assume would be crazy-talk in most of the hard sciences, but I don’t know. What are the “rules of thumb” in your field?

                1. I’m in astronomy and I’ve never seen anyone quote Pearson’s r. I think we tend to be concerned about different things. Namely, I have noisy data and I think I have a signal. What are the chances that is due to random noise? Under the assumption of Gaussian noise (which is usually a good assumption for us), somewhere between 3-5 sigma significance is usually where people start taking claims of a detection seriously. I realize using “sigma” in this way makes actual experts in statistics cringe, but that’s how it is.

                  So maybe the better question to ask is, how should I interpret this claim of a 0.34 SD difference? How does that map to a probability that the difference isn’t due to random variation?

                  Causality, of course, is a whole different question.

                  1. Guesstimation: the 99% confidence interval is 0.34 +/- about half that.

            2. HM, by that logic, Head Start works. It’s well-established that locking poor kids in schools all day will raise test scores. Until that improvement shows up for 17 year olds, I’m skeptical.

              1. @Sidd

                It’s well-established that locking poor kids in schools all day will raise test scores. Until that improvement shows up for 17 year olds, I’m skeptical.

                Fair enough. Personally, I see nothing wrong with “cherry-picking” students to begin with. I’d also be interested to see if the degradation of performance in non-urban charters holds true for other states. My gut tells me it wouldn’t.

                1. I went to a magnet high school so I certainly don’t have a problem with cherry picking. I was just pointing out that Acosmist is basically right.

                  It seems to me that the quality of charters varies immensely. There’s clearly many doing well. OTOH I’ve never heard of anything in public schools as fucking weird as the Gulen movement.

                  1. But at least with a charter school, the parent knows what they are getting their kids into and puts them in on purpose.

                  2. No, he’s not, or at least the answer is mixed. Lotteries have shown comparable performance for charters and they have shown improved performance, and that includes studies with virtual twinning. So the blanket statement that it’s the cohort is simply wrong. In fact some studies show superior performance even with a “worse” cohort. The bottom line is that if you’re going to claim cherry picking, then you need to show some data to back up that claim.

            3. The researchers conclude that the relative effectiveness of urban lottery charter schools can be explained by over-subscribed schools’ embrace of the No Excuses approach to education.”

              Is “No Excuse” a way to say that they can expel students? Send them back to non-charter schools if they do not perform? The curricula is basically the same, the teachers are still unionized and they still have to teach to the lowest common denominator. They just have the ability to get rid of students that don’t want to be there.

              Will Charter schools be subject to Common Core were it to be enacted?

              1. Is “No Excuse” a way to say that they can expel students? Send them back to non-charter schools if they do not perform?

                From the article “As discussed by Thernstrom and Thernstrom (2003) and Carter (2000), No Excuses principles include a strict disciplinary environment, an emphasis on student behavior and comportment, extended time in school, and an intensive focus on traditional reading and math skills. Seventy-one percent of urban charter administrators identify somewhat or fully with No Excuses, while no non-urban charter identies with this approach” (p. 5).

                Will Charter schools be subject to Common Core were it to be enacted?

                If I remember correctly, yes. The charter school is responsible for having its students meet the Common Core State Standards, but they can choose the curriculum and teaching methods that will get them there.

                1. Thanks.

                  No Excuses principles include a strict disciplinary environment, an emphasis on student behavior and comportment, extended time in school, and an intensive focus on traditional reading and math skills

                  Oh HELL no, that is just crazy talk!

      2. True, but since there is no limit, other than political feasibility, to what government can take, allowing that notion to stand would allow for the eradication of religion simply by instituting a 100% tax coupled to a voucher system for goods and services.

        Any rational person has to oppose at least one of the following:
        1) freedom to practice religion,
        2) separation of church and state,
        3) big government

        Not to suggest progressives are irrational on this subject. I think we know where they stand.

        1. That’s how I put it years ago:

          http://users.bestweb.net/~robg…..gious.html

      3. The best thing about private/charter schools is that only the people with kids in that school pay for them.

        1. Not charter schools. Most, if not all of them are publicly funded.

      4. The objections that I’ve heard from middle class people are purely tribal.

        the want to take money away from my kid’s school

    4. Nope. I’d say it’s 50:50 It’s just that now there are so many good examples of it working that it is much harder to fear monger. And with some luck, it could improve more. But, still a tough road ahead.

      Charter schools are an easier sell than vouchers.

  2. “Some charter schools may fail, but taken as a whole, the U.S.’s limited experiment in unshackling its classrooms is a success worthy of celebration.”

    The question is what happens to a charter school if it fails? Most likely, it closes. A regular school, if it fails, would get extra money.

    1. If a program is working, it deserves more funding. If a program isn’t working, it’s because it needs more funding.

  3. Vouchers are still funded by the theft of taxpayer earned income. Some “libertarian” position that is.

    If some GOP Govnah had some gonads he would just end the public school system and return it to the Free Market since there is no federal mandate to provide education to the unwashed.

    TENTH AMENDMENT!

    1. My momma taught me to read. I never knew she was racist.

    2. If some GOP Govnah had some gonads…

      I’d love to see just one who actually did.

      Vouchers are still funded by the theft of taxpayer earned income. Some “libertarian” position that is.

      Nope. But better (less evil).

    3. So moving in the direction of more choice vs. total gov monopoly (except for the wealthy) is a bad thing?

      Yes, PB, the goal would be getting the gov out of education entirely, but charters and vouchers are a step in the right direction.

    4. Since when do you care about taxpayers for anything other than a source of revenue to spend on addressing your personal pet peeves?

    5. Education tax credits beat vouchers. The money never goes into the public fisc so the politicians never get a chance to distribute it.

    6. Oh, come on. You can’t be serious.

      We know that the real answer to our problems is three words:

      One. Big. School.

      1. Briannnnn

    7. there is no federal mandate to provide education to the unwashed.

      My state has a constitutional mandate to educate the “unwashed”. (you do realize pretty much everyone baths right? Rich or poor.)

      I imagine many states do.

      God forbid the libertarian push for school choice might also be federalist in nature.

      Oh wait school choice also opposes common core…gee so I guess you are a COMPLETE idiot now.

  4. Why not have vouchers for choice on health insurance? Oh, shit. Romney already built that.

    1. Because going from less govt control to more is bad. Going from more to less is good.

    2. You’re mixing up pragmatism and selling ones soul. I’m pretty sure most libertarians would prefer a market system to vouchers.

      1. How long have you posted here? You really need to learn about the LP Purity Test.

        It is a bitch.

        1. Libertarian Purity may be a bitch, but she sure does feel so good.

        2. Let us know when you can pass the, “What is your name?” question.

        3. Its only a bitch because you do not think like a free human being. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8ju_10NkGY

    3. As with education above, getting the government out of healthcare would be the goal, so moving from 1/3 private to some national voucher system is a step in the wrong direction. Now stay with me – moving the VA program out from under monopoly would be a step in the right direction.

    4. What year did Romney run on the LP ticket?

    5. “Why not have vouchers for choice on health insurance?”

      Why not, indeed?

      “Oh, shit. Romney already built that.”

      He what now?

    6. vouchers for choice on health insurance? Oh, svouchers for choice on health insurance? Oh, shit. Romney already built that. Romney already built that.

      WTF are you talking about?

      1. He’s talking about Romney-then-Obamacare, saying Romney ‘built’ the ACA with his Massachusetts model and that it is a system of taking money from A and B to give it to C and D in the form of subsidies (vouchers) to be used to buy insurance from a private insurer.

        1. I should refresh more often before posting…

      2. I think what may be going in the fevered delirium of PB’s “thought process” is that Obamacare was based on Massachusett’s Romneycare system, therefore Obamacare is all Romney’s fault? Maybe? It’s getting harder to tell what the fuck he’s babbling about.

        1. …”It’s getting harder to tell what the fuck he’s babbling about.”

          Team blue and BUUUUUSH. Pretty much covers the extent of turd ‘thought process’.

    7. That sounds like a good idea for Medicare, Medicaid, and the VA.

    8. Mittens is a bad man.

      Insurance companies add no value.

      Let’s have universal single-payer coverage for catastrophic care.

      And ban insurance for all other types of healthcare.

    9. FUNNY FUNNY FUNNY Turd.Burglar.

  5. My daughter starts at an awesome charter school next week. It goes from K-12.

    For the next 6 years, the Elementary School is good enough. But what I’m really happy about is the far future. The Middle and High Schools she eventually would have gone to are “A” schools according to the state, but are mediocre at best in reality. The ones she’ll end up going to are very well received, and the High School is among the best in the nation.

  6. libertarian moment

    Is this sorta like a senior moment?

    Cop: Stop recording me beating this person and give me your phone right now or I will arrest you for obstruction of justice!

    Me: I have a right to film public servants in the course of their duties and this is my private property!

    Cop: …..

    Me: Sorry, just had a little “Libertarian Moment” there. Forgot where I was. Won’t happen again.

    1. Cartman: (beats the shit out of Dances-with-Trolls shins with his night stick) Do not question mah authoritah!

  7. So Krugman says the libertarians are mistaken about what they see as problems. No shocker from the guy who thinks inflation is a good thing, deflation a bad thing and that debt is never too high, ever, no matter what, ever… unless a republican is in office. He never met a government regulatory power he didn’t like and never met a populist talking point he wouldn’t claim to be an iron law of economics.

    1. So, if I understand you correctly you’re saying Krugman is a retarded proggie schill.

  8. full Krugman

    Never go full Krugman.

    1. He is possibly the dumbest Nobel recipient of all time

      1. Barrack Obama?

  9. “Libertarian leaning Sen. Rand Paul (S-Kentucky)”?

    Robert Wenzel has been all over Rand like Goose on Gannon and he’s been right: Rand was for liberty before being against it.

    1. You just went Full Retard.

      1. That all you got?

        1. It’s all you and your kind deserve. Go back to LewRockwell.com already.

          1. This is a libertarian forum, not one for nutty neoconmen.

            1. Oh, he isn’t a neocon, but a full on fascist/Nazi.

              He regularly declares living human beings as not being “persons” and thus morally acceptable to kill.

    2. “leaning” allows for lots of wiggle room, doesn’t it?

      1. Perhaps, but the more precise conception, as I have always understood and have applied, is that the word leaning is a modifier which shapes and contours therefore excluding, as a matter of logic, the proposition that such shaping and contouring allows for “lots” of wiggle room.

        But, in Rand’s case, he has recently demonstrated a propensity to flip-and-flop in addition to his previously ill-defined, murky semi-friendly to liberty positions.

        1. Translated: Rand hasn’t suicide-bombed Congress and is therefore a traitor. *Cue jacking off to sense of holier-than–thou purity*

    3. Wenzel interviewed Gary Johnson and ambushed him with questions about the exact composition of Murray Rothbard’s farts and recipes for Mises’s preferred strudels. Seriously, RW was a complete dick and an embarrassment.

      (Hell is other libertarians.)

      1. No, he was not.

        If you claim to be a libertarian and you cannot articulate a coherent conception of what it is to be a libertarian and you don’t know jack shit about one of the leading libertarian philosophers and figures in the history of the liberty movement and you want to be President, you should be exposed for the fraud that you are.

        Gary Johnson was a fraud.

        1. Are you a sock? Again: go back to LewRockwell.com and clown around with your True Scotsmen asshole friends there. How pathetic.

  10. libertarianism is an answer to “problems we don’t have.”

    Once you understand that “we” refers to cronies, sycophants, courtiers, and miscellaneous hangers-on who are (a) pretty well off and (b) pretty well-connected, then this statement makes perfect sense.

    1. Correct.
      He doesn’t have to send his kids to a crappy school. He doesn’t have that problem.

  11. David Frum’s response was probably even worse. Just as evil but more inept. Comically inept, which is what we’ve come to expect from Frum and Frummer.

  12. Sounds like a solid plan to me dude.

    http://www.AnonWays.tk

  13. Anyone else get the impression that at the last Reason staff meeting, everyone decided to try repeating things until they become true?

    Does anyone else not really have a problem with it?

    1. What do you mean? In my own personal interactions, the only people who I have met who weren’t balls-to-the-walls in favor of increased school choice are public school teachers…and I know of at least one who is enthusiastically trying to find employment in a charter school because she believes so much in their mission.

        1. My father’s wife was a public schoolteacher for about 30 years until she retired after this past year. The whole time that I’ve known her, she’s ranted about charters, talking about how much they take from public schools. She was somewhat angry when finding out her step-granddaughter would be going to a charter.

          After retirement from the public school system and after looking into things, she’s now looking for employment with a charter school.

      1. All the recent articles claiming that libertarians deserve credit for this or that policy change. I’m suspicious of that. I think the support for a lot of these things (pot legalization, gay marriage, charter schools) is only superficially libertarian. But I’m OK with that. And I think I might be OK with libertarians claiming credit for them anyway.

        1. I see. If you mean the LP, then of course I agree with you. However, I do believe there is something in the zietgiest that lower-case libertarians are responsible for.

          1. I’m not sure how much even small l libertarians deserve credit. I think the policy alignments present valuable opportunities to engage people and show that libertarians aren’t cooky. But I’m skeptical about how much the shifts we’ve seen are due to a principled stance on individual liberty.

        2. No one’s principles survive contact with political reality.

  14. J.D. Tuccille recently listed five policy areas where libertarianism is making people’s lives better.

    I’d like to suggest another: education.

    2 bloggers, 6 policy areas, and no mention of the obvious hands-down winner: TAXES??!

    1. In what fucked up fantasy world do you live in that libertarians have effected taxes?

      You may as well claim libertarians have been effective at reducing spending.

      1. Libertarians used to be prominent in getting tax cuts passed, as for instance in the “tax revolt” in the USA in the late 1970s & early 1980s. But not only in the USA and not only that recently; heck, we used to put regents’ heads in the noose over taxes!

  15. I think it’s great that school choice is popular, but I don’t know how much credit can be attributed to a “libertarian moment”. As if the term has any objective meaning.

    1. Seems to be kind of a coincidence then that school choice, pot legalization and gay marriage, all of which libertarians have advocated for for decades while almost no one else did and were all very unpopular, suddenly became popular.

      “Oh so that guy who has been screaming on the street corner like a mad man for 40 years…turns out he was right all along….though he had nothing to do with it. herp derp”

  16. I don’t particularly like Krugman, and I’m not about to read anything in The Times (nor perhaps here if things don’t improve), but surveys for decades now have shown that, when self-selection is factored out, there’s no difference in results obtained by charter and public schools. And the divisive tendency of private schools was one of the primary reasons for developing the public school systems, and remains so.

    1. “surveys for decades now have shown that, when self-selection is factored out, there’s no difference in results obtained by charter and public schools. And the divisive tendency of private schools was one of the primary reasons for developing the public school systems, and remains so.”

      Cites missing.

  17. who went full Krugman and declared that libertarianism is an answer to “problems we don’t have.”

    “Everything is working great…that is why we need an 8 trillion dollar stimulus package.”

    – Krugman

    1. Krugs is a tragic figure.

      He has always thought himself smarter than everyone else, but he didn’t care too much about getting involved in policy fights.

      Then his wife came along and partisaned him up but good! And he expected his brilliance to shine into the minds of the foolish, converting them to his obvious infallibility.
      But, lo, the heathens could not see as he saw.
      He expected to be praised as a great intellectual ushering in a new age of wisdom…only almost no one cared what he said. At least, no one of policy importance cared.
      He knows and even admits this now. SO he has decided the best way to spend his days is slaying conservative strawmen or beating up on the hypocrisy of the right. He is not at the center of any dynamic intellectual activity, he performs theatrics for those already convinced of his rectitude, yet incapable of even understanding the arguments, were he to actually explicitly make them.
      He is like a Bill Maher, wallowing in self loathing that a great man such as himself has to entertain his embarrassing demographic.

  18. Please explain how taking money from me to pay to educate the children of my neighbors, in whatever form it may be, is libertarian?

    How about everyone pays for the education of their own children and the government stays out of it.

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