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Government Should Not “Determine Everything” about Education; It Should Determine Nothing about It

New Jersey Capitol

Image: Lowlova

New Jersey’s Election Law Enforcement Commission recently released a study on special-interest spending in that state. NJ.com’s Matt Friedman reports that, between 1999 and 2013, the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), the main teachers’ union in the state, spent more money than any other group, accounting for nearly a fifth of “campaign contributions, independent spending and lobbying [of] lawmakers and the executive branch.”

The union defended its political spending, as Friedman reports:

Ginger Gold Schnitzer—the NJEA’s director of government relations—said it’s no surprise that her union tops the list. . . .

“These lawmakers make really important decision[s] for us. So if our members want to have any influence over these aspects of their personal and professional lives, they have to care a great deal about who holds these positions, and we have to get them information to make good decisions,” Gold Schnitzer said. “They determine everything from (teachers’) salaries, their health benefits and pensions to how many days a year they work, what kind of hours, and what kind of things they spend their time on when they’re working.”

Obviously, the NJEA’s political spending is driven by the fact that government owns and operates most K–12 schools and heavily regulates private schools and homeschooling.

But government has no moral right to run schools, to force people to pay for them, or to regulate how parents educate their children (beyond outlawing criminal neglect and child abuse); for details, see C. Bradley Thompson’s “Education in a Free Society.”

In a free market in education, with complete separation of government and schools, lawmakers would have no power to interfere in schools or to meddle with contracts between educators and parents. The owners of schools would be free to establish their own compensation packages for teachers, their own curriculum and teaching methods, their own admissions standards, and so on. Likewise, teachers would be free to apply to work at schools of their choice, and parents would be free to seek admission for their children at schools of their choice. If a teacher’s union existed in a free market, it would have no power to use government force to achieve its aims.

In short, in a free market, politicians would no longer “determine everything” about education; they would determine nothing about it. And that is how it should be.

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