Policy Market Blog

Ed Choice, Property Rights, and Efficiency

Martin Kennedy - Friday, January 25, 2019
Property rights help determine how a resource or good will be used.  When they’re not clearly defined, things become unnecessarily difficult.  Three case studies…

Case 1:  Rep. Parkinson is proposing a bill that would initiate a dress code for parents (for when they visit school)

Case 2:  Nashville schools could soon offer Kurdish (the language), reported the Tennessean.  The school board voted unanimously to approve a request.  A request?  Yes, Nashville schools can request; the state Dept of Education approves, or not. 

The district’s request entails a justification – the ‘rationale for the course, the district’s justification, how it is designed to teach students and how it will be used.’ 
 
Case 3: TN Dems via twitter (in response to a proposed fetal heartbeat bill):

We also know that comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education leads to lower teen pregnancy and teen abortion rates. California saw a 50% decline in teen pregnancies when the state switched to comprehensive sex education after its abstinence-only program proved ineffective.
 
Some might agree with each – a parental dress code, teaching Kurdish, and so-called comprehensive sex-ed – but need such decisions be adjudicated at the state level?  A good principal might want to exercise judgment regarding the dress code.  Rep. Parkinson’s intent and message is altogether good, but laws constrain and yield unintended consequences. 
    
What if 70% of parents at one school want ‘comprehensive’ sex education but the number falls to 27% at another?  And, what of the 30% at the first school?  Do their views carry no weight? 
         
Shifting authority to the district level might dampen strife somewhat but the essential problem remains.  It is a ‘community’ school.  The teachers and administrators’ work for the district.  Students are assigned to schools.

Having funding follow the student is akin to granting the family a property right.  It empowers by equipping people with the capacity to engage one another with agency.  Wanting your daughter to learn the language of her heritage, Kurdish, is entirely reasonable.  Relying on a local school board to grant permission for the district to ask the state… that’s unworthy of free people.

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