When a grocer sells bad milk, customers are free to shop at another store. If there is no other store, a new one will be opened, promising and providing fresh milk. The first grocery store must then either offer fresh milk or lose its customers to the store that provides what is needed.
The message is simple: if you’d like to be a successful grocer, sell fresh milk.
This principle—that people are free to choose among alternatives—operates in almost every aspect of our society. But imagine if this sour-milk grocery store were state-owned, the only grocer in town, and that you were barred from shopping at grocers outside the city limits. Then, imagine that laws barred any new, privately managed grocery stores from opening. In effect, you would be forced to purchase milk at a store that sells bad milk or go without milk altogether. The grocer would have a monopoly on milk.
While such limitations would be ridiculous in the world of groceries, it is all too common in education. For many families trapped in failing schools, the only way to access a quality education is to leave their homes for another district or take on extreme financial burdens to cover tuition at a private school. Across America, children are told that because they live in one area they can only attend one school whether that school is good or bad.
Yet the metaphor between grocers and education is imperfect. People don’t need milk. But without education, citizens of a free society are left without the ability to build a better life, the skills to support their families and communities, and the means to fully participate in the political process.
The overwhelming majority of students stuck in failing schools live in poor areas plagued by immobility and intergenerational poverty. Though a good education offers people one of the best means to prosper in the world, that opportunity is hindered by monopolies of education.
We must break these monopolies of education. Families should have a choice and options, because when parents are provided options, they can send their kids to the best possible school rather than being forced to send their children to the school dictated by district lines.