Back when I was a conservative, I was a founding member of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, which is now the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
TBF was a continuation of work that Checker Finn and I started in the early 1980s as the Educational Excellence Network.
We advocated for liberal education and for higher standards for all students.
Checker was always more enthusiastic about choice than I was, but we worked together harmoniously in our shared distaste for humbug of any kind. We even traveled together in Eastern Europe at the invitation of the AFT, to talk about education and democracy.
When I left the conservative fold, I left the board of TBF.
While I still disagree with TBF’s love affair with school choice, I admire the honesty and transparency that has distinguished the organization.
In this latest report, TBF hired an experienced journalist to investigate why Edison failed in Dayton, Ohio, as an operator of a large charter school. Checker was one of the founding gurus of Edison.
The story is fascinating.
Most interesting is this quote:
“Chester E. Finn, Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, whose sister organization sponsors the two schools overseen by the Alliance for Community Schools board, is among the most disillusioned about Edison’s effort in Dayton. Finn was at the table with Whittle and Chubb when Edison was conceived, and he was an early proponent of its education model. He said that the company’s “horror show” in his hometown is a special embarrassment.
“They did an abysmal job in Dayton,” Finn said. “I think it was an implementation and an accountability failure.”
An assistant secretary of education under former President Ronald Reagan, Finn said he has become “cynical” about the for-profit model in education. “Shareholder return ends up trumping the best interests of students,” he said. Having watched education management companies for 20 years, “Most of the models I admire today are run by non-profit groups.”
Now that is newsworthy! Checker is one of the most prominent of the conservative champions of choice, and he here admits that he has become cynical about the for-profit model.
Tell that to Governor Snyder in Michigan, where 80% of the charters are for-profit. Or to Governor John Kasich in Ohio, who has collected millions of dollars in campaign funding from for-profit operators.
And thank you, TBF, for showing other advocacy groups what it means to be transparent and self-critical and honest.