Manhattan Institute senior fellow Sol Stern, a stalwart critic of progressive education and indefatigable supporter of school choice, argues that voucher programs haven't been the "panacea" he had hoped, and suggests that advocates of market forces in education need to look for a "plan B." According to a story in today's New York Sun, Stern, a veteran of the New Left and former editor at the radical magazine Ramparts, documents "his disillusionment with school vouchers, taxpayer-funded scholarships to private schools," in an article for City Journal:
In an article published in the latest edition of City Journal, Mr. Stern, a Manhattan Institute fellow, portrays the libertarian approach that once inspired him as a failed experiment, and urges those who agree with him to search for a "Plan B."
The idea that what public schools need is not more money but more competition has become a major school of thought in education circles - "the dominant challenge in terms of big politics of school reform," a professor of education and political science at Columbia University's Teachers College, Jeffrey Henig, said.
Mr. Stern's article appears to be the latest in a series of indications that its dominance is flagging.
"There's a growing consensus that a market approach alone is not enough," the president of the Albany-based Foundation for Education Reform and Accountability, Tom Carroll, said. He added: "There's a need for a moment of reflection."
The president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation in Washington, D.C., Chester Finn, who has been a vocal advocate of school vouchers and charter schools, said yesterday in an e-mail message that he has "growing sympathy" with Mr. Stern's skepticism. Mr. Finn stoked debate himself recently by declaring that one factor hurting charter schools in Ohio is "too much trust in market forces." He said his partial reversal is the subject of a memoir, "Troublemaker: A Personal History of School Reform Since Sputnik," which will be released this year. Mr. Stern's argument begins with his disillusionment with school vouchers, taxpayer-funded scholarships to private schools.
Stern's article isn't available on line, though the (redesigned) City Journal website can be found here.
Nick Gillespie on the father of modern school reform, the late Milton Friedman, here.