School choice programs around the world prohibit discrimination in hiring employees and enrolling students. While discrimination policies aim to protect employees and children, the result is the opposite. Discrimination in hiring employees increases the likelihood that children are educated by teachers that are aligned with their interests and abilities. Discrimination in enrolling students increases the probability that all students are in a successful, specialized learning environment.
Unhealthy Discrimination Hurts Producers
Discrimination in hiring employees increases the likelihood that children are educated by teachers aligned with their interests and abilities.We can all agree that the intentions behind this policy are well-meaning. We don’t want public funding to go to schools that are run by malevolent people. For simplicity, let’s assume that people running private schools are indeed racist, sexist, evil individuals. Even if we allow all types of discrimination, the evil individuals in charge of the private schools will financially pay for the act.
For example, let’s assume that the people in charge of school X are racist. They can choose to hire a teacher of race 1 or race 2. If they are racist against race 2, they will likely choose to hire race 1, regardless of the actual quality of the teacher. If an alternative school, Y, does not practice the same discrimination, they will benefit by having a larger pool of teacher candidates. Ultimately, this would lead to a competitive advantage for school Y for not being racist! Families would recognize this advantage, choose school Y, and force school X to face a shutdown condition. Allowing families to choose their schools will only work to eliminate unhealthy discrimination such as racism in hiring.
Some types of discrimination are actually beneficial to teachers, students, and the rest of society. When a school has a specialized mission and focus, it needs to be able to hire specialized individuals. Protecting candidates that would not help achieve the specialized mission of the organization harms the other teachers and students in the school.
Protecting candidates that would not help achieve the specialized mission of the organization harms the other teachers and students in the school.Imagine a given school that has a mission of academic success for various types of athletes. Forcing the school to hire teachers and enroll students that do not have a sports-related background will work against the overall mission. Since the students are interested in academics and sports, it may be desirable to relate class lessons to different sports activities. For example, a physics teacher could incorporate exercises that are based on the movement and force of a football or softball over time. If a candidate is unable to demonstrate sufficient background knowledge on sports, they will not be able to make classes engaging for the students. Protecting candidates from this type of discrimination will only hurt the students.
Additionally, the school would need to be able to discriminate based on the ability levels and learning styles of the incoming students. If we forced the school to accept all athletes, the academic mission would be sure to fail. Protecting the students with low academic abilities will hurt the advanced students and make the teacher’s job extremely difficult. Perhaps even more importantly, protecting these students may actually result in hurting them the most. Placing these low-performing students in this environment would not likely be suitable for their individual academic needs. Being exposed to this highly-competitive academic environment could actually hurt their confidence levels and prevent them from learning.
Although there are certain types of unhealthy discrimination, it is not optimal for bureaucrats to determine which types are permissible for the rest of society. Instead, we should allow families in society to choose the schools that do not partake in the discriminatory practices that they deem to be non-permissible. Additionally, policymakers should realize that there are types of discrimination that are actually beneficial for teachers, students, and the rest of society.