School-choice programs for special-needs kids:
Popular with parents, save states money
In the late Sixties and early Seventies, when American courts — citing the U.S. Constitution — began flogging states and ultimately the U.S. Congress in the direction of what became the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, such remedial action was profoundly needed and long overdue.
Today, however, IDEA is significantly behind the times and, as the different stories in this series have documented, struggling everywhere.
Unfortunately, the program’s problems are intrinsic, as a little reflection on the two main categories of the goods and services we use will show.
One set has, for years, been marked by regular and reliable improvements in price and quality. Many are high-tech goods, such as our smartphones. But others are just everyday necessities — on which we spend much less of our incomes than did our parents just a generation ago. Indeed, even the poor today own better shoes, clothes, motor vehicles and entertainment systems than did the middle class back then.
On the other hand, some other goods and services we all use seem either stuck in stasis or to actually decline in quality, while growing more expensive. These would include health insurance, education and many other basic government services.
What characterizes the first set of goods and services is that, in these sectors of the economy, we all have what is known as the “right of exit.” If you don't like a product or service you are free to decline it. No government-imposed monopoly or regulations have been able to block or kneecap potential competitors. Thus, all of us can follow our individual, personal, preferences.
Remarkably, it is this fact — that we all can follow our preferences — that makes these goods and services constantly improve.