A Straight A for Vouchers

Published October 1, 1999

“When you hear opponents of vouchers say that these programs are not working, ask them how they know,” says David Kirkpatrick, senior fellow with the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

“Have they been?” Kirkpatrick asks, and points to the following comments of Sol Stern from his extensive article, “The Schools That Vouchers Built.” Stern’s first-hand perspective on the school voucher programs in Milwaukee and Cleveland was published in the Winter 1999 issue of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.

“Recently I went to Milwaukee and Cleveland, the only two cities in the country with publicly funded school voucher programs, to visit four (among the more than 100) schools that have accepted voucher students . . .

“What I saw was exhilarating. No one who has spent any time in these schools could fail to be impressed by their orderly, energetic atmosphere and solid academic achievement–all the more impressive when compared with the violent, dysfunctional inner-city public schools that were the alternative for these children. Moreover, the schools I saw couldn’t have been more different from one another: they ran the gamut from an evangelical Christian academy and an independent Catholic high school to a secular elementary school with an Hispanic cultural theme and a secular school with a strong focus on computer technology.

“What these inspiring schools had in common was that, at their creation their founders and many of their staff did not qualify as professional educators. . . . Yet every one of these outsiders had all they needed to educate and inspire children–a sense of mission, a willingness to work long hours for little pay, and common sense about the discipline and the core knowledge that inner-city children need in order to succeed. . . .[T]hey are demystifying schooling by disproving the widely accepted dogma that only government-certified educational professionals know what and how to teach children.

“Now that Milwaukee and Cleveland have publicly funded school voucher programs, we can see how vouchers work in practice. The verdict, after visits to four voucher-supported schools: A straight A.”

For more information …

The full text of Sol Stern’s article, “The Schools that Vouchers Built,” is available at the Manhattan Institute’s Web site at http://www.city_journal.org/html/9_1_a1.html.