These principles have broader implication. The pursuit of the public interest does not always require a public bureaucracy. The proper role of government is to ensure the provision of essential services — not always to provide those services itself.
In the case of children in failing public schools, this argument gains moral urgency. Choice may not be a systemwide panacea. But it remains a disturbing spectacle when teachers' unions count it a legal “victory” when disadvantaged children are returned to troubled, unsafe institutions.
Yet it is probably not the moral arguments that will prevail. The opponents of educational choice are attempting to defend the monopoly of the neighborhood school in a nation where most monopolies and oligopolies have come under pressure. Parents, including suburban parents, increasingly expect educational options such as charters, home schooling, magnet programs and career academies. Customized, online learning will accelerate the trend. The tie between a ZIP code and an educational outcome is being broken — whatever our intentions.
WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP