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D.C. now has a real marketplace for public education

Milton Friedman would be smiling, which is something along with his wife Rose he loved to do. For today the Washington Post's Emma Brown has a story about D.C. principals being trained by individuals who helped elect President Obama to canvass door-to-door to attract families to their public schools. The training and the cold call marketing is in response to the competition from charters for students. Charter schools now educate over 36,500 children, 44 percent of all public school students.

In the 1950's economist Friedman wrote that if the goal is to make parents the customers in our public school system then issue a voucher that would allow them to send their kids to the private school of their choice. Well for about 17 years now children in the nation's capital have had a public school voucher which is now worth about $9,000, with another $3,000 added to that for facility funding if the decision is to enroll in a charter. Because the money follows the pupil there is now considerable financial pressure for institutions to attract as many students as possible.

The result, as school choice advocates predicted, is an increase in quality. Gone are the dark days of absent textbooks, crime infested hallways, and roofs falling onto gymnasium floors. We have a DCPS Chancellor arguing with her teachers' union to keep her schools open for longer hours so that her sites can emulate the academic performance of charters. Instead of parents being shunned from placing a toe within a classroom, in most cases they are now being welcomed with open arms.

As we come to the Fourth of July holiday all of this is a great civics lesson for our youth. The simple yet overwhelming power of freedom allows mankind to reach soaring heights. In this case, the ability of parents to pick the public school that is best for their children has led principals and teachers to engage with moms and dads and sons and daughters in a way educators and their administrators never could of imagined.