I was a founding board member of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation (now, Institute). It is a pro-choice organization. I opposed the decision to sponsor charter schools in Ohio, because I thought it was outside the work of a think tank. My ideal think tank would exercise independence in reviewing government policy and gain respect for avoiding doctrinaire conclusions. On that issues, I was out voted, but was not surprised when most or all of the charters we sponsored were failing schools.

I left TBF in 2009 when I realized that I no longer shared its commitment to choice, testing, and accountability.

I appreciate the fact that TBF Is more willing to acknowledge its failings than other rightwing advocacy groups.

Last July, TBF released the results of a study of the Ohio voucher program, commissioned by TBF and conducted by Northwestern professor David Figlio. Here is the full study.

The study was not an endorsement of vouchers.

The students who won the vouchers were not the most disadvantaged:

“Student selection: The students participating in EdChoice are overwhelmingly low-income and minority children. But relative to pupils who are eligible for vouchers but choose not to use them, the participants in EdChoice are somewhat higher-achieving and less economically disadvantaged.”

Voucher schools can choose their students and did not accept the neediest

“Competitive effects: EdChoice modestly improved the achievement of the public-school students who were eligible for a voucher but did not use it. The competition associated with the introduction of EdChoice appears to have spurred these public-school improvements.” This strikes me as a gargantuan leap of logic. The students who did not use the vouchers improved their test scores. But nothing in this study ascertains that they improved because of competition with vouchers. It is just as reasonable to conclude that they had better teachers than those in the voucher schools.

“Participant effects: The students who used vouchers to attend private schools fared worse on state exams compared to their closely matched peers remaining in public schools. Only voucher students assigned to relatively high-performing EdChoice eligible public schools could be credibly studied.”

The spokesman for TBF called attention to the modest gains of students who didn’t use the voucher.

So here is the logic of Ohio’s voucher program:

If you use the voucher, your academic performance will go down.

If you don’t use the voucher, you academic performance will modestly improve.

This is a bizarre argument for vouchers. Take the medicine and you will get sicker. Don’t take the medicine and you will feel better.

Why is Ohio wasting millions on a program that doesn’t work? Unless you are not in it?