Front Page Titles (by Subject) Public vs. Private Education - Literature of Liberty, July/September 1978, vol. 1, No. 3
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Public vs. Private Education - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, July/September 1978, vol. 1, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Public vs. Private Education
The Political Economy of Public School Legislation. Menlo Park, California: Institute for Humane Studies (1977) 38 pp.
Was public schooling needed or rationally justified? The case study of “universal” and “free” public education in New York state undermines the arguments for a government monopoly through compulsory schooling.
Was there any need for “universal” public education? The rationalizations behind public schooling—to supply poor and rural students with education, to prevent crime, and to alleviate the community need for informed citizens through schooling's positive “neighborhood effects”—ignored whether the private sector was already providing such services. Shying away from empirical cost-benefit comparisons between private vs. public provision of education, public school proponents avoided a rigorous investigation of the need for public education. Teachers, administrators, and legislators cloaked behind the rhetoric of “optimal welfare criteria” their less public-spirited motives of self-interest.
Of course, public education was never “free” since it was originally free-funded and later funded from compulsory tax levies. The recently developed economic theory of politics exposes how politicizing education (e.g., in the drive for public school legislation in New York state) served the vested interests of privileged state groups and in turn led to social conflict.
New York state's march toward universal public education never seriously grappled with the alternative of private, voluntary education. Two laws required, in turn, compulsory payment and compulsory consumption that strengthened the monopoly of public schooling at the expense of parental choice and private education. The Free School Act of 1867 replaced parental fee-payments for public schooling with general and compulsory tax levies. Next, the 1874 Compulsory Education Act guaranteed a stable student market for public educators.
Before such political interventions, private education was providing adequate education for most students in New York state. Rather than set up its own schools, the state could have restricted its interventions to only subsidizing the truly needy and allowing them to freely choose which schools to attend. The more efficient and choice-maximizing course would have been to avoid public education in toto.