Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Hidden Costs of "Free" Education

The other night on “Free Talk Live” they were discussing government schools and how they should be abolished. This was on the Saturday night show where they have a lot of non-libertarian listeners, so there were a lot of calls where the callers basically said “people could not afford to pay for their kids schooling if it were not for the government distributing the costs across the whole of the community”. It is my contention that people already cannot afford the “free” school they send their kids to. The pursuit of “free” schools has created massive amounts of debt for families, has financially destroyed families, has contributed to the housing crash and the recession and is partly to blame for creating ghettos in urban areas.

My reasoning here is anecdotal from the people I know around my community. In Denver where I live, across the the metro housing prices vary widely. A large 3 bedroom house with a garage and yard, can sell for as low as 150k in the poor areas of town, and upwards of 500k in some of the nicer areas, the same exact house if you move its location will double or triple in value depending on where it is located. What justifies difference in price is often the school district. Since you have to live in the same school district you send your kids to there is a migration by parents who want the best education for their kids from areas with lower quality government schools to what they perceive as higher quality government schools, along with the better school district comes higher housing prices. A family that could easily afford the 150k house passes it up because of the school district and ends up spending 300k on a house they really cannot afford in order to get their kids into a better school district. They go into debt they cannot afford, they have to finance the house using a 30 year note (which is ridiculous and if you have to extend a mortgage to 30 years, you cannot afford that house!). When they look at how much they spend on their kids education they only look at the cost of the property taxes, so they see the $3000 a year they spend on property taxes and think that they are getting a good deal for 2 kids, however they fail to include the extra 150k they spent trying to find a house in a better school district and the extra interest on that money in their calculations. They also don't see the social costs of the move by responsible parents who leave certain areas of town in mass creating pockets of ever declining areas of town that appear to be on a downward spiral that would not exist if the responsible and successful people in them were not driven out in an effort to obtain a better education for their kids, leaving behind only the less upwardly mobile. Also all of these people in housing that was more expensive then what they could actually afford was a large contributing factor in the housing crises. The societal ramifications of “free” government schools is so great that I don't believe most Americans even have any understanding of how destructive this policy has been, especially they way it is currently set up where your school is tied solely to where you live.

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