The government school system in Fairfax County, Virginia (where I live) is suffering problems because population in that county – as reported in today’s Washington Post – “is growing swiftly but unevenly.” According to Fairfax County school official Denise James, “Some schools continue to be overcrowded and others are well under capacity. Neither is a good environment for learning.”
But why don’t supermarkets, restaurants, churches, apartment complexes, clothing stores, dog groomers, and other service providers in Fairfax County encounter the same problems that plague the school system? After all, the county is growing just as fast and just as unevenly for these merchants as it is for Fairfax County Public Schools. Yet we never hear that some coffee shops or department stores continue to be overcrowded while others are well under capacity. Why might this be?
Might this mysterious malady afflicting the government school system, but not private enterprises, have something to do with the fact that county schools are funded with tax dollars rather than by voluntarily expressed consumer choices? Might it be that politicians and bureaucrats – spending other people’s money to educate largely captive customers – have much worse incentives to supply good schooling than would private entrepreneurs if school and state were as separate from each other as are church and state, shoe store and state, and supermarket and state?