Some of you may remember the brouhaha caused by Sol Stern’s denunciation of vouchers in the pages of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal – an event which I suppose eventually led to my departure from the Manhattan Institute. Sol Stern made a series of arguments that I argued were mistaken at that time, but subsequent events have further confirmed Stern’s errors.
In particular, Sol, like Jay Mathews more recently, declared that the political prospects for expanding private school choice were bleak: “taxpayer-funded voucher programs for poor children… have hit a wall…. Proposals for voucher programs have suffered five straight crushing defeats in state referenda.” But with the Year of School Choice just completed, we’ve never seen so much growth in private school choice.
And another incredibly wrong claim that Sol made was that the demise of urban Catholic schools was pretty much inevitable, which would prevent students with vouchers from having quality options: “Even more discouraging, vouchers may not be enough to save the Catholic schools” and “Greene says that the school choice movement has little reason to be concerned about the closing of thousands of urban Catholic schools, a problem that can be alleviated, he believes, by pushing for more vouchers and tuition tax credits. This reflects precisely the approach that leads some school choice reformers to ignore reality. As I have previously written in City Journal, the demise of inner-city Catholic schools is the result of long-term and seemingly irreversible demographic and economic trends…”
Who exactly was ignoring reality? The Wall Street Journal has an article in today’s paper that describes the resurgence in Catholic schooling as a result of voucher and tax credit programs. The WSJ reports:
For the first time in decades, Catholic education is showing signs of life. Driven by expanding voucher programs, outreach to Hispanic Catholics and donations by business leaders, Catholic schools in several major cities are swinging back from closures and declining enrollment…. Catholic schools are showing signs of growth even in cities without vouchers. But they are benefiting disproportionately from the rise of vouchers, available in 10 states and Washington, D.C., and tax credit programs that provide tax relief to individuals or businesses that donate to scholarships for low-income students.
Does Sol Stern or the folks at City Journal and the Manhattan Institute feel any obligation to admit that Sol’s 2008 article was a huge mistake? And I’m not saying it was a mistake because it was politically hurtful (although it really was); but it was a huge mistake because the claims in it were grossly mistaken, which subsequent events have helped confirm.
(edited for typos)