Per his column today George Will is certainly right that some of the opposition to the new voucher program in Utah is self-interested, but it doesn’t axiomatically follow that the program itself is a particularly good idea…in other words judge it by what it’s likely to accomplish not just by who doesn’t like it. Adam Smith isn’t going to fix the schools in Utah or anywhere else — and especially not in a state that has shown (and been cheered by too many on the left for) a serious aversion to accountability and transparency.
Update: Only an idiot or a hack could interpret this post as supporting vouchers or vouchers in Utah. In the edublog world though, there is seemingly always one handy! More seriously, Bernard Chasan raises a fair point in the comments section below:
Nonetheless it is reasonable to encourage programs even if they are imperfect because they allow escape from the dreary lockstep status quo.
I take the pragmatic point, but I think a case can be made — and I’ll make it — that based on what we’ve learned about school choice since the early 1990s, some ideas can be considered to have more or less promise. In particular the notion that choice is a self-executing reform or that it will dramatically change student outcomes across school systems or states has thus far not been borne out. Choice plans require careful attention to design, execution, and accountability. So I obviously support more options for parents within the public system, but that’s not the same as saying let’s try anything. And in the case of Utah, I’m not sold on this plan or the state’s larger commitment to equity. So far, they seem more on the Public Relationist side than with the Achievement Realists.