An Education Policy Reading List

Prepared by Andrew J. Coulson

Read This First

  • Are Public Schools Hazardous to Public Education?” by Andrew J. Coulson (First published in Education Week, Vol. 18, No. 30, April 7th, 1999)
    This brief essay summarizes the origins of U.S. public schooling, explains how it has fallen short of the public’s and its own founders’ expectations, and reveals the superior historical track record of free and competitive education marketplaces.

On the Failure of State Schooling and the Need for Market Reform

  • Market Education: The Unknown History, by Andrew J. Coulson (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books, 1999)
    An historical review of school systems from classical Athens to modern America, revealing how free markets have consistently done a better job of meeting the public’s needs than have state monopolies.
  • Public Education: An Autopsy , by Myron Lieberman (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993)
    Lieberman’s magnum opus on the failures of public schooling and the merits of combining choice for families with competition and the profit motive for schools. A thorough and in‐​depth treatment.
  • Comparing Public, Private, and Market Schools: The International Evidence,” by Andrew J. Coulson (Journal of School Choice, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2009)
    A literature review of the modern scientific evidence comparing market and monopoly school systems across a host of different educational outcomes from academic achievement to cost‐​effectiveness to parental satisfaction.
  • Why We Fight: How Public Schools Cause Social Conflict,” by Neal McCluskey (Cato Policy Analysis no. 587, January 23, 2007)
    Debunks the widely held notion that public schools are a unifying social force, revealing how they have caused endless — and needless — social conflicts. Includes a listing of nearly 150 such conflicts that occurred in the U.S. during a single school year.
  • Compelling Belief: The Culture of American Schooling, by Stephen Arons (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1986)
    A survey of how compulsory, monopoly schools necessarily stifle dissent and cause conflict as they force a pluralistic nation into a one‐​size‐​fits‐​all system.

Policies for Liberating K-12 Education

  • The Public Education Tax Credit Act,” by Adam B. Schaeffer (Cato Policy Analysis no. 605, December 5, 2007)
    This paper offers model state‐​level legislation that would deliver on the promises of public education by ensuring that all families have the means to choose from a diverse market of minimally regulated education providers.
  • Forging Consensus: Can the School Choice Movement Come Together on an Explicit Goal and a Plan for Achieving it,” by Andrew J. Coulson (Mackinac Center for Public Policy, April 20, 2004)
    Openly identifies and dissects the key differences that have prevented the school reform movement from coalescing behind a particular policy solution. Argues for tax credits as the best policy for serving the public’s needs.
  • Critiques and Responses to Forging Consensus,” by Jay P. Greene, George Clowes, and Andrew J. Coulson (Mackinac Center for Public Policy, September 1, 2005)
    Summarizes comments and critiques to the preceding paper raised by Jay Greene (now of the U. of Arkansas) and George Clowes (of the Heartland Institute), with responses by the author.

Classic Writings on School Choice

  • Excerpt from The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
  • Excerpt from The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine
  • The Role of Government in Education,” by Milton Friedman (in Robert A. Solo ed, Economics and the Public Interest, 1955, Rutgers University Press)
  • Education and the State, by E.G. West (Originally published in 1969. Reprinted by Liberty Fund, Indianapolis, 1994)
    An empirical work demonstrating that government schooling followed the rise of mass education in England — and thus could not have given rise to it as is generally assumed. The similar U.S. historical case receives some treatment as well in this revised edition.

On The Proper Federal Role in Education

  • Feds in the Classroom, by Neal McCluskey (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007)
    The author challenges the constitutionality of federal involvement in the classroom and reminds readers that control over education had resided, until recently, in the hands of families, communities, and states. He argues that families should once again be empowered to direct their own children’s education, and the federal government should withdraw from the field.

On The Teachers Unions