The Rotten Apples — Why Public Schools Are NOT Accountable To Parents

By: Joel Turtel

Here’s another argument that public-school bureaucrats use to “justify” their monopoly control over our children’s minds and lives. They claim that we cannot trust the free-market to educate our children because too many free-market (private) schools are greedy for profits, cheat parents and students, take their money, make wild promises, or go out of business.

Look at the trade-school scandals a few years ago, they say. Phony trade schools cheated students with bad teaching and empty promises. This is typical of the free market, they say.

No, it is not typical — rather, the opposite.

The few bad apples in any field in the free market are just that — the exceptions. The free market has a harsh task master called competition. Fierce competition in an education free market acts the same way it does for any product we buy, whether cars, food, or computers. Fierce competition forces al competitors to keep improving their product’s quality, lowering the cost, and giving better service to their customers, or risk going out of business.

To succeed, a free-market school owner must prove that his school is better than his competitors. All free-market (private) schools have to prove their excellence to skeptical parents — their customers. If a school does not live up to its claims, parents are merciless. Like switching channels on TV, parents can and do switch to a better school, for they love their children and want their money’s worth. Yes, there are always a few rotten apples in any field, but competition forces the vast majority of apples in the barrel to be healthy.

Parents are not stupid or fools. They would quickly see if Johnny reads better or worse. It does not take four years of meaningless education courses in a so-called teacher college to figure that out. Like a rising tide, fierce competition would force all educational boats to rise. Computers get faster, cheaper, and more powerful every year. Similarly, in a free-market education system, educational quality and innovation would explode, while competition would drive down the cost of tuition.

In a fiercely-competitive education free-market, your child would quickly learn the basics in safe, competent, innovative schools, rather than wasting twelve years in violent, drug-infested, chronically-incompetent government schools.

Also, what hypocrisy for the rotten orchard of government schools to point their finger at a few bad apples in the “private” sector. For in these monopoly government schools, the situation is completely reversed. The whole system, the whole government-controlled barrel is rotten, and the education for our kids is abysmal at worst or third rate at best. In a free-market school system, the bad schools would be the exception. In a government-controlled school system, the good schools are the exception.

You see, government (public) schools are a never-ending education disaster because they have absolutely NO accountability to parents. The schools’ teachers, principals, and administrators are civil-service government workers who are paid by their local State or city government, not directly by parents (as is the case with private-school owners). Yes, there are some good, dedicated teachers in the public schools, but the system breeds mediocrity on a massive scale, and it is the system that parents have to put up with.

Year after year, compulsory taxes prop up these schools, no matter how bad they are. Compulsory school taxes also pay teachers, principals, and administrators’ salaries, no matter how bad or mediocre these tenured government employees are. So, no matter how bad these schools are, or how miserable the education they give our kids, parents are impotent to make changes in the system. That is also because every state has compulsory attendance laws that force parents to bring their children to these government schools (if they cannot afford a private school), whether they like it or not. In effect, these schools are government-enforced education prisons, both for parents and their children.

The difference between government and free-market schools is this — when government schools are rotten, when they dumb-down our kids with nonsense education theories that fail, 45 million children can suffer for twelve years, without parents having any recourse. If and when an entrepreneur-owned free-market school is bad, only a handful of children suffer for a few months while parents shop for a better school — with parents having full recourse and freedom of choice.

Public-school apologists criticizing private-schools for allegedly not being accountable to parents is a sick joke, but a joke that is tragic for our children. To education bureaucrats who point to alleged bad apples in the “private” education sector, we can only say — “Doctor, heal thyself.”

Joel Turtel is an education policy analyst and syndicated columnist. He is also the author of “Public Schools, Public Menace: How Public Schools Lie To Parents and Betray Our Children” and “The Welfare State: No Mercy For the Middle Class.” Contact Information: Website: Email:, Article Copyrighted © 2007 by Joel Turtel. NOTE: You may post this Article on

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