Imagine for a moment the reaction if the State of Texas decided to open government grocery stores. What if the Texas Grocery Agency determined what products would be on the shelves? What if the cost of groceries purchased at those stores was subsidized by imposing a tax on property owners? What if Texans were assigned a grocery store in their neighborhood, and if they wished to shop at another government store they would have to ask for permission? What if government regulators dictated the quantity and types of shopping carts private stores could have?
Many of the consequences of such policies are easy to identify. Competing grocers would lose business because of the subsidies for shopping at government grocery stores. Texans who prefer a different grocery store would pay more than those shopping at the official state grocer. Adding insult to injury, those who shop at HEB, Kroger, Whole Foods, Aldi, or some alternative would be paying, not only for their own groceries, but also part of the cost of the food purchased by others. Complying with government shopping cart regulations would add to the cost of doing business, and thus, the cost to consumers.
This might seem like a farfetched idea, but it is precisely what the state does in regard to education. The Texas Education Agency determines what textbooks are on the shelves and what curriculum is taught. The cost of government schools is socialized through taxes, including property taxes. Parents who desire a private school or home schooling for their children are forced to pay twice—once through their taxes and then again through the tuition or other costs for the alternative education. Students are assigned to a neighborhood school, and a parent wishing to transfer his child to a different government school must seek permission. From the labeling of bottles to the type of ground covering under playground equipment, government regulations impose demands on private schools that add to the cost of doing business, and thus, the tuition charged to parents.
If the state took the actions mentioned above, government grocery stores would essentially become a monopoly. Many families would begin shopping at those stores simply because they could not afford an alternative.
The state has taken these actions regarding education, and in the process, the government has a monopoly in education. Many, perhaps most, families have little choice but to send their children to government schools. Indeed, about 90 percent of Texas students attend government schools. If a private company attained such a market share, it would likely be prosecuted under the antitrust laws.
While some Texans may welcome government control of grocery stores, many would not. They would prefer to have alternatives. They would prefer to buy their groceries at a store that offers the products that best serve their needs, desires, and budget. They would object to having their choices arbitrarily limited.
Defenders of government grocery stores might argue that parents would still have choices—they could transfer to a different government grocery, they could pay the additional cost of shopping at a private alternative, or they could grow their own food. While these do provide choices, it is an arbitrarily limited list of options. If permission is not granted, the individual is stuck with his local store. Because of the taxes he pays, he may simply not be able to afford a private school. He may not have the skills or land to grow his own food.
Similarly, while some parents welcome government schools, many do not. They would prefer alternatives. They would prefer to be able to send their children to a school that best meets their needs, desires, and budget. They object to having their choices arbitrarily limited.
Defenders of government schools argue that parents do have choices. They can request that their child be transferred to a different government school or a charter school. They can pay the additional cost of a private school or home school. While these are choices, it is from a list that is arbitrarily limited. If permission is not granted, the parent is stuck with the local school. Because of taxes, he may simply be unable to afford a private school. He may lack the skills, space, money, or time to home school.
Some argue that the Texas Constitution requires the “the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.” But the fact that the Constitution contains a particular provision does not make it proper, moral, or just. As an example, the Texas Constitution of 1836 legalized slavery, but that did not make that hideous institution proper, moral, or just.
Most Texans would recognize the folly of a government grocery monopoly. It is time that we recognize the folly of the government education monopoly.