Andrew C. Spiropoulos | July 31, 2015

ESAs are the next step in fulfilling Friedman’s vision

Andrew C. Spiropoulos

It is my great honor to be the Milton Friedman Distinguished Fellow at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, where all of us see ourselves as carrying on Friedman’s legacy.

friedman.jpgMilton Friedman, who would have turned 103 today, is best known as one of the world’s greatest economists. He received the Nobel Prize in 1974 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1988. But for those of us who work in public policy, his most important works are his seminal Capitalism and Freedom and Free to Choose.

Capitalism and Freedom, written in 1962, lays out the blueprint for the future of conservative public policy reform. Friedman, before anyone else, devised the volunteer military, Social Security reform, and, most important to us, when no one else had ever thought of it, proposed the idea of school choice. He, describing exactly the same problems of low achievement and unequal opportunity we face today, showed that our problems are caused by the public school monopoly. Monopolies have no incentive to innovate or be flexible. He proposed that we inject competition into the system by providing all families what he called a voucher in the amount of the state funding set aside for each student. These vouchers can be used at any school, public or private. Families will have the freedom to choose the school that is best for their child. Competition will improve public schools because they will have to innovate and be flexible to compete for students.

Education savings accounts (ESAs) are still based on this core insight. They, however, provide even more flexibility because they are not limited to paying for tuition. They can be used for any educational expense, including tutoring, materials, and even college expenses. ESAs provide even greater flexibility and empowerment. They are the next step in fulfilling Friedman’s vision.

Andrew C. Spiropoulos

Andrew C. Spiropoulos (M.A., J.D., University of Chicago) is the Robert S. Kerr, Sr. Professor of Constitutional Law at the Oklahoma City University School of Law. He previously served as the Milton Friedman Distinguished Fellow at OCPA.

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