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.

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About 6 minutes.

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

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