While the great economist Milton Friedman made immense contributions in the fields of monetary policy, macroeconomics, economic methodology, and consumption theory, Dr. Friedman and his wife Dr. Rose Friedman, chose parental choice in education as their legacy. Dr. Friedman is widely known for his 1955 and 1962 school voucher proposals. In his 2005 “personal retrospective” on school choice, he wrote this of his original school voucher proposals:
With respect to education, I pointed out that government was playing three major roles: (1) legislating compulsory schooling, (2) financing schooling, and (3) administering schools. I concluded that there was some justification for compulsory schooling and the financing of schooling, but “the actual administration of educational institutions by the government, the ‘nationalization,’ as it were, of the bulk of the ‘education industry’ is much more difficult to justify on free-market or, so far as I can see, on any other grounds.” Yet finance and administration could readily be separated. “Governments could require a minimum of schooling financed by giving the parents vouchers redeemable for a given sum per child per year to be spent purely on educational services.… Denationalizing schooling,” I went on, “would widen the range of choice available to parents…. If present public expenditure were made available to parents regardless of where they send their children, a wide variety of schools would spring up to meet the demand…. Here, as in other fields, competitive enterprise is likely to be far more efficient in meeting consumer demand than either nationalized enterprises or enterprises run to serve other purposes.”
Dr. Friedman wanted to divorce the taxpayer subsidies for K-12 education and the requirements that young children be offered an education from direct government provision of schools. That is, Dr. Friedman believed that government operated “public” schools are not the best means to deliver appropriate instruction to children.
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