Uber and School Choice: Modern Fights for Freedom


September 30, 2014 4:01PM

Many may wonder what Uber and educational choice proponents have in common. After all, one is fighting with transportation bureaucracies for the right to provide its popular service in cities across the country. The other consists of parents, children, educators, politicians, and advocates who are calling upon the education system to loosen the chains that rely on ZIP codes as a basis for determining a child’s school. While these are two seemingly distinct sectors of our society, the principles at play are one and the same. James C. Courtovich’s recent piece in the Wall Street Journal examines the similarities between both movements, which are essentially attempting to do the same thing: loosen the grip of a monopolistic, heavily regulated entity, and put the power of choice in the hands of the individual. He sums it up perfectly: When President Lyndon Johnson announced the creation of the Transportation Department 48 years ago this month, he said that one of the agency’s goals would be to “bring new technology to every mode of transportation.” Nearly half a century later, Uber is doing just that, allowing customers to order and pay for trips on their smartphone. Satisfied passengers, drivers and investors are singing Uber’s tagline: Choice is a Beautiful Thing. But choice threatens entrenched interests like cabdrivers, who are deploying intimidation tactics and red tape to protect their turf. An Uber driver I rode with recently in Miami told me that he’d received two $1,000 tickets in as many days for picking up passengers at the airport. Those of us who have been on the front lines of the school choice battle know the parallels are unmistakable—despite how popular school choice is for families across the country, entrenched institutions still fight to keep educational choice out of reach for Tennessee families. Anti-choice activists have sued nearly every school choice program passed across the states. In Milwaukee’s case, the Milwaukee Public School System (MPS) successfully blockaded high-performing private schools from expanding to accommodate the large waiting lists of students who attempted to exit the massively failing public school system for the hope of a better education. This video is a shocking testimony of the abusive power of MPS and how little the district truly cares about the quality of a child’s learning environment. Uber and school choice both represent a modern-day story of David and Goliath. Each is a popular, citizen-driven answer to market demand. Both give the power of choice to the individual. Yet, both must stand up against robust and entrenched institutions bent on their destruction. Their battles may be for different opportunities, but they fight a common enemy with a common mission: protect the status quo from the threat of a free market. -Lindsay Boyd