Well, consider some truly destitute places. James Tooley spends most of his time in the poorest parts of Africa, India and China. Those countries copied America's "free public education," and Tooley wanted to see how that's worked out. What he learned is that in India and China, where kids outperform American kids on tests, it's not because they attend the government's free schools. Government schools are horrible. So even in the worst slums, parents try to send their kids to private, for-profit schools.
How can the world's poorest people afford tuition? And why would they pay for what their governments offer for free?
Tooley says parents with meager resources still sacrifice to send their kids to private schools because the private owner does something that's virtually impossible in government schools: replace teachers who do not teach. Government teachers in India and Africa have jobs for life, just like American teachers. Many sleep on the job. Some don't even show up for work.
As a result, says Tooley, "the majority of (poor) schoolchildren are in private school." Even small villages have as many as six private schools, "and these schools outperform government schools at a fraction of the teacher cost."
As in America, government officials in those countries scoff at private schools and parents who choose them. A woman who runs government schools in Nigeria calls such parents "ignoramuses." They aren't -- and thanks to competition, their children won't be, either.
Low-income Americans are far richer than the poor people of China, India and Africa. So if competitive private education can work in Beijing, Calcutta and Nairobi, it can work in the United States.
We just need to get around the Blob.