Celebrating Milton Friedman

Nobel-prize winning economist Milton Friedman is widely considered the Father of School Choice. He advocated for empowering children to attend schools outside their zip-code assigned districts that are largely based on their parents’ incomes. This was a revolutionary idea at the time. Dr. Friedman believed market-place competition drives schools to improve and innovate which benefits all students, not only those who participate in choice programs. As early as 1955, he challenged people to think of “public education” not only as local government-run schools, but also as those that are publicly financed, much like tuition agreements offered in the Croydon school district and several others across our state. Dr. Friedman also envisioned mechanisms that would allow parents flexibility to direct funds to their selected educational providers, such as vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, and education savings accounts.

If Dr. Friedman were still alive, he would celebrate his 104th birthday on July 31. Today we celebrate and remember him.

Milton Friedman photo


“The only solution is to break the monopoly, introduce competition and give the customers alternatives.”

“A greatly improved educational system can do more than anything else to limit the harm to our social stability from a permanent and large underclass.”

“The major objective of educational vouchers is much more ambitious. It is to drag education out of the 19th century – her it has been mired for far too long – and into the 21st century, by introducing competition on a broad scale.”

“Our goal is to have a system in which every family in the U.S. will be able to choose for itself the school to which its children go. We are far from that ultimate result. If we had that – a system of free choice – we would also have a system of competition, innovation, which would change the character of education.”

“A far better alternative to political control is to introduce competition in schooling, to give parents a real choice. Why not say to every parent, ‘The community is committed to spending X dollars a year on schooling your child. If you do not send your child to our public school, you relieve us of this cost. In return, the community will give you a voucher for X dollars a year per child. You can use this voucher to purchase schooling at any other approved school, public or private, but for no other purpose.'”

“Currently, the only widely available alternative to a local public school is a parochial school. Only churches have been in a position to subsidize schooling on a large scale and only subsidized schooling can compete with “free” schooling. (Try selling a product that someone else is giving away!) The voucher plan would produce a much wider range of alternatives—unless it was sabotaged by excessively rigid standards for ‘approval.’ The choice among public schools themselves would be greatly increased.”

“Nor do the spokesmen for these organizations ever explain why, if the public school system is doing such a splendid job, it needs to fear competition from nongovernmental, competitive schools or, if it isn’t, why anyone should object to its “destruction.”

“The threat to public schools arises from their defects, not their accomplishments. In small, closely knit communities where public schools, particularly elementary schools, are now reasonably satisfactory, not even the most comprehensive voucher plan would have much effect. The public schools would remain dominant, perhaps somewhat improved by the threat of potential competition. But elsewhere, and particularly in the urban slums where the public schools are doing such a poor job, most parents would undoubtedly try to send their children to nonpublic schools.”