Arizona Set to Strike a Huge Blow Against the Government’s Education Monopoly

More states should follow their lead and start funding students, not failing systems.

If there’s one thing Americans seem to agree on lately, it’s that they hate monopolies.

“America Has A Monopoly Problem,” claimed Forbes. “America Has A Monopoly Problem—And It’s Huge” says The Nation. “Why Monopolies Are Threatening American Democracy,” posed The Washington Post.

Lawmakers have capitalized on this, grabbing onto the populist sentiment fueling distrust of large companies to introduce various antitrust bills. But in all the ruckus, it seems few have taken the time to examine the economy and determine where the actual monopolies are located. And when you really get down to it, there’s only one, long-lasting monopoly in this country: the government.

Nowhere is the government’s monopoly power more obvious—and more dysfunctional—than in education. 

For over 100 years, the US government has seized control of the K-12 education system. All Americans are forced to fund it, regardless of whether they like it or even use it. Over 90% of students are stuck in this system, with only the wealthiest and most privileged families able to basically pay double (taxes + tuition) for private, home, or alternative school options.

The result? 

Abysmal test scores, entire generations lacking basic civics knowledge, citizens with no understanding of basic finances, bullying, abuse, and corruption. All for an enormous price tag! Americans spend an average of $15,000 per year, per kid on this nonsense—which is significantly more than the average private school tuition in most states.

Thankfully, education advocates have made incredible headway with the school choice movement in recent years. Leaders like the American Federation for Children’s Corey DeAngelis have effectively argued that funding should follow students, not systems, and that parents should have more say over their children’s education than teachers’ unions or bureaucrats off in DC.

COVID-19 elevated this message as schools closed needlessly at the behest of teachers’ unions and implemented ridiculous protocols that harmed children’s development and educational outcomes. 

The Department of Justice poured fuel on the flames of parents already angry about these injustices when it worked to label parents who protested these policies at school board meetings as “domestic terrorists.” Increasingly, informed and intelligent parents are demanding competition in the education market. School choice policies stand ready to provide it.

In an exciting recent development, Arizona is passing a comprehensive school choice program that will expand options to every K-12 student in the state. DeAngelis labeled the bill the “biggest school choice victory in US history.”

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey seems poised to sign the legislation and tweeted, “Arizona has long been a pioneer in education choice. Now, with this historic expansion of ESAs, we’ll continue to charter the path for others to follow suit.”

“ESAs” refers to education savings accounts. This has quickly become the most popular model for school choice. Under such a system, parents receive an ESA account (kind of like a health savings account) where a portion of the tax dollars already being spent on their kid’s education will be deposited. 

They then have the power to allocate these dollars towards the educational services best for their unique, individual child. If they like their public school they can reinvest there. But if a different pathway would be better for their kid, they can use those dollars to homeschool, hire tutors, pay for private school, do online courses, or some kind of combination.

Like DeAngelis says, the money follows the student—not the system. 

This is excellent news for parents and children in Arizona. And this will boost competition in their school system at large, which is desperately needed. A lack of competition allows costs to run too high and for quality to dwindle, as evidenced by the public school system, where a lack of options has led to consistently worse and worse results.

Let’s hope other states quickly follow in Arizona’s footsteps and end the government’s dreadful monopoly on education.

Correction: This article was updated to reflect that Governor Ducey has not yet signed the legislation. 

WATCH: How Public Schools Are Making Us Dumber

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Hannah Cox
Hannah Cox
Hannah Cox is a libertarian-conservative writer and co-founder of BASEDPolitics. She's also the host of the BASEDPolitics podcast and an experienced political activist.