Tuesday, January 17, 2017

School Choice and Efficiency: A Note

The nomination by Donald Trump of Betsy DeVos for Education secretary has put school choice and vouchers back in the forefront of the national debate about school reform.  Vouchers are often touted by more conservative groups as a way to bring competitive pressures and market discipline to education by empowering families to make choices regarding their children's education.

This is simply a note to point out that a key, even crucial, component of market efficiency is complete information.  Consumers must know everything about the product they are purchasing including hoe beneficial it is to themselves, the prices of all goods in the market and so on.

Education is far from this.  Education experts are still trying to figure out the critical components of educational outcomes, how can uninformed families, who only observe schools from the tousled make well-informed decisions for their kids?  Simply put, they can't.  Thus there is absolutely known reason to believe that we will improve efficiency through the introduction of vouchers, school choice or charter schools.

This is not to say that there could not be beneficial outcomes from such reforms, I remain open-minded, but don't tout the creation of an education market as the answer for it is likely to be inefficient.  

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