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imageBy Deborah Thornton

In 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court established that the “separate but equal” school services provided to African American children were illegal.  However, the Court did not recognize the coercive and negative nature of the overall education monopoly, with one seller of the good producing nearly all the output.

This education monopoly is not beneficial.  For example, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 2007 reported that 12th grade reading achievement nationwide had declined from 1992 to 2005, by four points (292 to 288).  The percent of students scoring at or above “proficient” was 38 percent, a flat score.  The percent scoring at or above “basic,” was actually lower than in 1992.

The 2009 NAEP report included a pilot program providing in-depth information for 11 states, including Iowa.  Iowa was one of only five states with higher scores in both reading and math than the national average.  Both the reading and math scores for Iowa students were four points higher than the national average.

The NAEP report is the nation’s “report card.”  On a standard A, B, C, D scale of grades, even Iowa schools did no better than a “C” at teaching the basics of reading and math.  This is not a report card our schools and teachers should want.  The results of the NAEP annual report have remained flat since 1992, for almost 20 years.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United States spends $10,000 per student on primary, secondary, and tertiary education. As of 2006, we were spending over seven percent of our Gross Domestic Product on education, according to The UK Guardian.  Iowa ranks 26th nationwide in per-pupil spending, at $7,574 per pupil, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

We are spending a significant amount of our national treasury on education and that amount has steadily increased.  However, the results have not changed for the better.  Maybe parents and taxpayers need to recognize that education is a “coercive monopoly,” re-think their “brand loyalty,” lose some of their “consumer apathy,” and start searching for “better alternatives.”

Deborah Thornton is a Research Analyst with Public Interest Institute in Mount Pleasant, Iowa

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