Carrie Lukas and her husband, who have five school-age children, pay a huge mortgage for a home in a good school district. Three years after they moved in, “county officials are debating rewriting school boundaries, so that our house would no longer qualify for Virginia’s Langley High School, one of the top rated high schools in the state.”
Because it’s so hard for homeowners to move, public schools essentially have a “captive clientele,” writes Lukas, who is president of the Independent Women’s Forum. Education doesn’t operate like a real marketplace, where the customer can take his or her business elsewhere if service is poor or prices are high.
As Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts wrote in The Two-Income Trap, our current system “drives couples to take on bigger and bigger mortgages, in part to gain access to desirable public schools,” writes Lukas.
Of course, everyone wants their kids to go to the best schools. “Prioritizing those who live close by and pay taxes to support the school makes sense,” she writes.
However, Lukas wants to see alternatives.
For example, giving all parents the right to take even just half of their students’ per-pupil spending (which is more than $14,000 in my home, Fairfax County, Virginia) and using it for tuition at an alternative school would increase accountability for public schools, give unhappy parents an escape hatch from bad school systems, and loosen the relationship between location and educational opportunities.
In Arizona, education savings accounts allow “qualifying families to take a portion of the state’s allotted spending on their child’s education and spend it on any number of individualized options, including private school tuition, online services, educational therapy for special needs and even hiring tutors in the home,” writes Lukas.
“A real education marketplace” will help kids learn more, “reduce financial pressure on millions of families and make finding a place to call home a little less stressful,” concludes Lukas.