When Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Republicans talk about the budget crisis being an opportunity to reform state government in keeping with conservative principles, let’s hope that looking for free market opportunities is on the agenda. Education is a good place to start. Adam Schaeffer of the Cato Institute posts today

The Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability found that taxpayers saved about $39 million, close to 50 cents for ever dollar donated through Florida’s education tax credit program last year. The report concludes much more could be saved if politicians expand the program and give families more choice.

Florida’s education tax credit program allows businesses to take dollar-for-dollar tax credits on money they donate to scholarship organizations that help kids attend private schools. Instead of sending a portion of their tax bill to the state, businesses can choose to support alternative education options for needy children and save taxpayers a bundle as well.

Florida’s program is a win for parents, a win for students, a win for taxpayers and a win for educators who demonstrate tangible results. The only people who would lose in an education system based on free market principles are schools and educators who offer people no reason to freely choose them.  Unfortunately, those are the same education special interests that provide campaign support for the legislators who must vote for education reform that threatens their job security. I wonder how they teach that civics lesson?