While I'm more of a Robert Nozick guy, it is an interesting thought experiment to judge todays public schools against the principles of John Rawls, an enormously influential liberal political philosopher.
Rawls argued in A Theory of Justice that we should shape public policy as if we were living behind a veil of ignorance. Behind the veil, no one would know their position in the forthcoming society, child of a billionaire or destitute. The veil, Rawls argues, creates an incentive to create a way out of the latter scenario.
Pop quiz: You need to enroll your child in kindergarten. Would you choose a public elementary school in:
A. The Roosevelt school district in South Phoenix;
B. Inner-city Detroit;
C. Camden, New Jersey;
D. None of the above.
Did you answer D? Rawls would say that if those schools aren't good enough for your child in theory, then they aren't good enough for children in practice.
We have tried throwing money at dysfunctional schools, and now we need to try more effective reforms. Progressives that are serious about their values have plenty of moral reasons and piles of evidence to support school choice. Lets put this debate behind us and get to work on the details.
Matthew Ladner is vice-president for research at the Goldwater Institute.