What if America didn't have public schools?

A thought experiment might contribute some clarity and perspective to the intensifying debate over whether parents have too much or too little choice when it comes to their kids’ education. In this thought experiment, parents wouldn’t have a choice at all—in one scenario, every child would have to attend private school, and in the other, every child would have to attend public school. Which scenario would be more likely to improve or worsen kids’ educational outcomes—and, by extension, the health of American society? Few believe that an entirely public- or private-school world is ideal, let alone feasible. But imagining a world in which K-12 education is either all private or all public could help clarify the current discussion on education policy.

So, let’s picture these two scenarios—first an all-private-school world and then an all-public-school one. For this thought experiment, let’s assume the government would provide education vouchers for tuition up to a certain amount. Let’s also assume that public charter schools (which are privately run) and homeschooling don’t exist. Which would you choose, the first scenario or the second one? Which would be better for the nation?