Education Reform Privatization Religion Vouchers

Laura Chapman on the Gospel of Milton Friedman

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Lara Chapman has written a valuable analysis of the religious, libertarian case for school vouchers. Thank you, Laura, for doing this prodigious research for the benefit of everyone else.


Laura writes:



“Long post. The author of the Friedman Foundations for Educational Choice “research,” Dr. Greg Forster ends his report–titled “A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence On School Choice, Fourth Edition–with the following:
“Ultimately, the only way to make school reform work on a large scale is to break the government monopoly on schooling. The monopoly is not just one powerful obstacle to reform among many; it is what makes all the many obstacles as powerful as they are. The monopoly ensures that no meaningful accountability for performance can occur, except in rare cases as a result of Herculean efforts. The monopoly empowers a dense cluster of rapacious special interests resisting efforts to improve schools.


“Worst of all, the monopoly pushes out educational entrepreneurs who can reinvent schools from the ground up. Only a thriving marketplace that allows entrepreneurs to get the support they need by serving their clients better can produce sustainable innovation.
In any field of human endeavor—whether education, medicine, politics, art, religion, manufacturing, or anything else—entrepreneurs who want to strike out in new directions and do things radically differently need a client base.
“School choice has the potential to solve this problem by providing enough families (size) with enough dollars (strength) and enough choice (suffrage) to support educational entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, existing school choice programs fall short on all three dimensions. Only universal choice can open the door to the full-fledged revolution in schooling America needs in the new century. “ p. 36



“The author is preaching the gospel of the Friedman Foundation, but also a bit more. The author is a devoted believer in “universal choice,” evidently so religious schools can flourish and be tax-subsidized.


“I reach this conclusion from Forster’s discussion linking charters school programs to civic virtues and to religious values (pp. 30-31), and to his faculty position at Trinity International University a regionally accredited school operated by the Evangelical Free Church of America, headquartered in Deerfield, Illinois. His main job there seems to be serving as the director of the Oikonomia Network at the Center for Transformational Churches.


“The Oikonomia Network includes over 100 “theological educators theological educators and 18 evangelical seminaries” initially funded by the Kern Family Foundation. The network operations include a newsletter, website, network-wide events and “content creation.” The content creation includes “Theology that Works,” a paper written by Greg Forster that explains “how theology as a discipline can be in fruitful dialogue with the world of economic disciplines and activities.” More here.


“Forster also has a faculty post at Acton University, where his bio says that he “has a Ph.D. with distinction in political philosophy from Yale University. He is the author of six books, most recently Joy for the World: How Christianity Lost Its Cultural Influence and Can Begin Rebuilding It.”


“Acton University’s website opens with a display of one reason to sign up:


“Faith & Free Market Economics.”
“Acton University is an opportunity to deepen your knowledge and integrate philosophy, theology, business, development – with sound, market based, economics. “


“Acton University seems to be a holding company for lecturers who offer on-line courses and also appear in scheduled face-to-face sessions for people who pay fees to participate in four days of lecture-filled conferencing. A full list of “course lectures ” is here. The lectures are available for purchase at


“The Win-Win report from political philosopher Greg Forster is written as if it is a comprehensive meta-analysis of credible empirical studies that offer irrefutable conclusions. The report is not that, but the casual reader looking for all of the charter school positives will be drawn to the pretense of scholarship and miss all of the wobbles and switcheroo’s between Forster’s criteria for the inclusion/exclusion of studies and his inferences based on these studies.


“The author’s identification of charters with religious values reminded me that Education Next surveys, conducted since 2007, have questions designed to provide marketing insights about the connections between a preference for charters and race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, political alliance, and much else.


“Here are the questions in the EdNext 2008 questions under the category of Religion, which mapped responses for people who said they were “born again” offering comparisons with responses from Public School Teachers, African Americans, Hispanics, and Whites. (I found no copyright on any of the Surveys)


“24. Do you think the public schools in your community generally promote the values that you think are most important, or do you think that the values emphasized at school often come into conflict with your own?


“25. In some public school districts, parents have requested that some time in each day be set aside for silent prayer and reflection. What do you think about this proposal?


“26. (Each respondent was randomly assigned to one of the following five questions):
“26A. How would you feel about a group of religious students organizing an after-school club at your local public school?
“26B. How would you feel about a group of Mormon students organizing an after-school club at your local public school?
“26C. How would you feel about a group of Muslim students organizing an after-school club at your local public school?
26D. How would you feel about a group of atheist students organizing an after-school club at your local public school?
“26E. How would you feel about a group of Evangelical students organizing an after-school club at your local public school?



“The 2014 and 2015 surveys had three (and ONLY three) questions about the respondents’ background.


“32. Apart from weddings and funerals, how often would you say that you attend religious services?


“33. Would you say that you have been born again or have had a born-again experience — that is, a turning point in your life when you committed yourself to Jesus Christ?


“34. Are you a member of a union or an employee association similar to a union?


“The Education Next surveys are produced by Knowledge Networks, which specializes in “market research services, including survey design, information analysis, and data collection to produce syndicated reports and custom market research for a variety of FORTUNE 500 companies. Specializing in consumer research, it offers clients insight in such areas as advertising effectiveness, product development, segmentation, and media planning. Founded by Stanford researchers Douglas Rivers and Norman Nie in 1998, Knowledge Networks was acquired by global market research firm GfK in January 2012. “


“About a week ago, (May 13, 2016) Peter Cunningham, whose Education Post has a partnership with the 74Million propaganda machine, cited an Education Next poll in a rant about needing to protect students from a bloated educational bureaucracy in Los Angeles.


“The Education Next surveys, like Greg Forster’s work parading as research, are designed and hyped to deliver propaganda and with a clear intent to tap veins of race-based and religious and ethnic prejudices. These are enlisted to rant against public schools, teachers, their unions, their salaries, the curriculum, and more. It is no accident that the Forster “study” has 14 reference citations from Education Next, and 50 others recycled from the Friedman Foundation.”

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