A history of school choice

Matt Barnum:

Milton Friedman keeps alive his economic argument, which was for every kid regardless of income to have a voucher. Harvard professor Christopher Jenks has an idea of targeted vouchers for low-income children, as a tool of empowerment. There’s a small, sort of failed effort by the federal government in California to try out vouchers. 

There was a pretty solid push from a number of quarters in the ’60s and ’70s to provide some kind of government aid to religious schools, especially Catholic schools, because they were struggling during that time period. That didn’t end up going anywhere meaningful. 

In the ’80s, President Reagan was an advocate for vouchers. That also didn’t really go anywhere. Then the first modern school voucher program happens in Milwaukee in 1990. That’s when you start to see the beginning of this latest era.

Your book has many characters, but to me if there was a main character, it was Polly Williams. Can you describe her and her role in the school choice movement?

Polly Williams was a Black Democratic legislator in Wisconsin. She was kind of a contrarian. Probably the best explanation for her would be that she was a Black nationalist. She was very interested in education in Milwaukee, and she was very concerned that Black students were not being well served by the Milwaukee school district. She tried legislatively to do a number of different proposals to help Black students in Milwaukee. She was shot down at just about every turn, and so became kind of frustrated with Democrats, with her own party, and willing to look at alternatives.

“Well, it’s kind of too bad that we’ve got the smartest people at our universities, and yet we have to create a law to tell them how to teach.”

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?