Fordham Foundation Honors Brandl, Joseph, and Moe as Education Change Agents

Published January 1, 2005

The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation has named John E. Brandl, Marion Joseph, and Terry M. Moe as recipients of its third annual Fordham Prizes for Excellence in Education. Two prizes, for valor and for scholarship, are given annually and each carries an award for $25,000. The awards will be formally presented in February.

“Each [award-winner] is a far-sighted and tireless crusader for the interests of children, an indomitable individual who rejected conventional thinking, pointed to needed changes, suffered plenty of abuse from protectors of the status quo, and hugely advanced the cause of school reform,” said Foundation President Chester E. Finn, Jr., calling the winners “three great education change agents.”

This year’s Prize for Valor, awarded to a leader who has made noteworthy accomplishments in education reform, is shared by “two self-styled ‘liberal Democrats,'” according to Finn.

The first recipient, John Brandl, is now a professor at the University of Minnesota. He formerly served as a Democratic member of the Minnesota legislature, where he became known as the state’s “godfather of school choice.” Brandl was instrumental in establishing many of Minnesota’s pioneering educational choice reforms, including statewide open enrollment in public schools and post-secondary options for low-income families. His 1998 book, Money and Good Intentions Are Not Enough, argues for choice and competition in education.

The second recipient, Marion Joseph, is a former state education official who realized California’s K-12 curriculum was defective when she saw her grandson struggling to learn to read with the state’s whole-language method. She came out of retirement in 1997 to serve on the State Board of Education, where she spearheaded the return of phonics-based reading instruction, becoming known as the “Paul Revere of Phonics.”

Joseph also helped establish new academic standards and standards-aligned curricula for California. A lifelong Democrat, she believes all children can achieve when given the right tools and opportunity.

This year’s Prize for Distinguished Scholarship was awarded to Hoover Institution senior fellow Terry Moe, who “has helped us understand the functioning–and dysfunctioning–of the K-12 ‘delivery system’ as well as the attitudes, dynamics, and interest groups that shape it,” said Finn.

Moe, who also is a professor of political science at Stanford University, has focused his research on the interplay of politics and education, with particular regard to school choice. He is the coauthor, with John Chubb, of the ground-breaking book, Politics, Markets, and America’s Schools (1990), which explained the dynamics of the public school system. In a subsequent work, Schools, Vouchers, and the American Public (2000), he examined public attitudes toward schools and vouchers.

The work encompassed by Moe’s two books has helped Americans to better understand the shortcomings of the present public education system and to appreciate why a market-based alternative is necessary to make the education enterprise attentive to the needs of children and families.

George A. Clowes ([email protected]) is managing editor of School Reform News.

For more information …

Further information about this year’s prize winners, together with the procedure for nominating candidates for next year’s prizes, is available by clicking on “Fordham Prizes” at the Fordham Foundation’s Web site at