Glenn Reynolds: Home Schooling Will Increasingly Threaten Government Education

In a USA Today op-ed Tuesday, Glenn Reynolds, author of the popular blog Instapundit, reported that government schools are seeing ever higher competition from private and online schools and homeschooling. He writes:

Americans across the country—but especially in large, urban school systems—are voting with their feet and abandoning traditional public schools, to the point that teachers are facing layoffs. Some are going to charter schools, which are still public but are run more flexibly. Some are leaving for private schools. But many others are going another step beyond traditional education, and switching to online school or even pure homeschooling.

In his upcoming book, The K-12 Implosion, Reynolds predicts that government schools are going to see an enormous outflow of students in the coming years. As the brightest students opt for alternative education options, the “notoriously inadequate” government schools will become “even more notoriously inadequate” and government “funding—which is computed on a per-pupil basis—[will dry] up.”

Reynolds does not predict that this “implosion” will cause the end of government schools but, rather, that government schools will need to change and adapt in order to prevent their obsolescence. In the meantime, any weakening in government control over education is a positive change and an encouragement for abolitionists to continue pushing for the end of government education.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/rationaljenn Jenn Casey

    The following is a consolidation of two comments I left on this link on my Facebook page:

    I’ll have to read this book. If Reynolds does indeed predict that “government schools will need to change and adapt in order to prevent their obsolescence,” then I think he might overlook the fact that this would be true only in a free market of education.

    Instead, I predict that the governments (state and fed) will tighten their grip on private schools (which includes charter schools to a certain degree, perhaps) and homeschools. If they can’t adapt to compete with what others are offering, they can–and I think, will–rid themselves of this problem by simply removing the competition. WAY easier to do, especially when you have the power of the government behind you.

    And they will make it enticing, too. They will dangle tax breaks and other such things in front of us. I hope all homeschoolers resist this temptation, especially when (not if) it comes from the federal government.

    Maybe Reynolds addresses my concerns in this book. And I’m certain he’s right to a certain extent…that the public schools will experiment with new things. But if the competition really does ultimately remove too many children from their schools, they won’t simply do what other companies do in those situations-close stores, consolidate, lay off staff. They will find ways to “encourage” and compel people to put their kids back. And they have the means to do it.

    Borders bookstores didn’t have the means to force more people into its stores and so they went out of business. Government-run school systems have the means to increase their “customer base.” And I will be very, very surprised if they don’t use those means.

    • Ross England

      Hi Jenn,

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Your point is well taken–I agree that the government will likely try to “change and adapt” in a way that includes increased initiation of force. I’m eager to see what Reynolds has to say on this point and I look forward to reading his book. I think different states will react differently depending on what their respective constituents readily accept. I’m inclined to think that the increasing numbers of families opting for home schooling and the obvious superiority of the education in most cases *can* be turned into an opportunity for fighting government education, though whether that opportunity will be realized remains to be seen.

    • Anonymous

      I had the same feeling when I read the blog post. The Government has a number of approaches that can be implemented to either close non-public schools or drive them to becoming proxy-public schools. In some sense, the forces involved are: Government actors (bureaucrats pushed by politicians pushed by teachers’ unions and the needs of the less-well-off) vs. freedom activists (i.e., capitalists, or “freedomists”). The problem is that the Government actors can draw upon the wealth of all the other actors (including their opponents) to fuel their actions, whereas their opponents have only their ideas.

    • http://bastionofliberty.blogspot.com/ Francis W. Porretto

      As Instapundit himself might say, “Indeed.” In fact, the principal means of counterattack by the government-run schools is already in place: school property taxes. If these rise sufficiently high, there will be very few families who’ll be able to afford them and simultaneously some private educational alternative.

      School tax rates have already put a terrible squeeze on Catholic grammar and high schools. The probability that they’ll be used to thwart online and homeschooling is rising as we speak. Government-school teachers might be lazy, vicious, and venal, but they aren’t stupid…and they beling to some of the most powerful unions of all time.

  • http://rationaljenn.blogspot.com/ Jenn Casey

    The following is a consolidation of two comments I left on this link on my Facebook page:

    I’ll have to read this book. If Reynolds does indeed predict that “government schools will need to change and adapt in order to prevent their obsolescence,” then I think he might overlook the fact that this would be true only in a free market of education.

    Instead, I predict that the governments (state and fed) will tighten their grip on private schools (which includes charter schools to a certain degree, perhaps) and homeschools. If they can’t adapt to compete with what others are offering, they can–and I think, will–rid themselves of this problem by simply removing the competition. WAY easier to do, especially when you have the power of the government behind you.

    And they will make it enticing, too. They will dangle tax breaks and other such things in front of us. I hope all homeschoolers resist this temptation, especially when (not if) it comes from the federal government.

    Maybe Reynolds addresses my concerns in this book. And I’m certain he’s right to a certain extent…that the public schools will experiment with new things. But if the competition really does ultimately remove too many children from their schools, they won’t simply do what other companies do in those situations-close stores, consolidate, lay off staff. They will find ways to “encourage” and compel people to put their kids back. And they have the means to do it.

    Borders bookstores didn’t have the means to force more people into its stores and so they went out of business. Government-run school systems have the means to increase their “customer base.” And I will be very, very surprised if they don’t use those means.

    • Ross England

      Hi Jenn,

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Your point is well taken–I agree that the government will likely try to “change and adapt” in a way that includes increased initiation of force. I’m eager to see what Reynolds has to say on this point and I look forward to reading his book. I think different states will react differently depending on what their respective constituents readily accept. I’m inclined to think that the increasing numbers of families opting for home schooling and the obvious superiority of the education in most cases *can* be turned into an opportunity for fighting government education, though whether that opportunity will be realized remains to be seen.

    • karlostj

      I had the same feeling when I read the blog post. The Government has a number of approaches that can be implemented to either close non-public schools or drive them to becoming proxy-public schools. In some sense, the forces involved are: Government actors (bureaucrats pushed by politicians pushed by teachers’ unions and the needs of the less-well-off) vs. freedom activists (i.e., capitalists, or “freedomists”). The problem is that the Government actors can draw upon the wealth of all the other actors (including their opponents) to fuel their actions, whereas their opponents have only their ideas.

    • http://bastionofliberty.blogspot.com/ Francis W. Porretto

      As Instapundit himself might say, “Indeed.” In fact, the principal means of counterattack by the government-run schools is already in place: school property taxes. If these rise sufficiently high, there will be very few families who’ll be able to afford them and simultaneously some private educational alternative.

      School tax rates have already put a terrible squeeze on Catholic grammar and high schools. The probability that they’ll be used to thwart online and homeschooling is rising as we speak. Government-school teachers might be lazy, vicious, and venal, but they aren’t stupid…and they beling to some of the most powerful unions of all time.

  • M.R. Gedge

    There was an op-ed recently (Dec 10) in the WSJ in which the boss of the AFT was advocating a “bar exam” for teachers, on the grounds that they are “professionals” too. It included the usual drivel about improving the quality of teachers.
    This ploy of combing teachers and lawyers under the same
    concept, “professionals”, is aimed at producing a law prohibiting teaching without a license c.f. lawyers. It is yet another attack on home schooling.
    The Unionocracy which is the government school system will never change except for the worse. It must be ended.

  • M.R. Gedge

    There was an op-ed recently (Dec 10) in the WSJ in which the boss of the AFT was advocating a “bar exam” for teachers, on the grounds that they are “professionals” too. It included the usual drivel about improving the quality of teachers.
    This ploy of combing teachers and lawyers under the same
    concept, “professionals”, is aimed at producing a law prohibiting teaching without a license c.f. lawyers. It is yet another attack on home schooling.
    The Unionocracy which is the government school system will never change except for the worse. It must be ended.