Brookings Institution Creating School Choice Commission

By Lisa Fine — September 19, 2001 1 min read

The Brookings Institution, using a $1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is putting together what is designed to be an independent nonpartisan commission to study issues of school choice.

“The goal of the commission will be to refocus the debate surrounding choice by examining the connections between choice and educational outcomes,” said Carol Rava, a spokeswoman for the Seattle-based Gates Foundation. “It’s one of many education issues that we think need exploring.”

Officials at Brookings, a Washington think tank, said the “National Working Commission on Choice in K-12 Education” would include a balance of members representing school choice supporters and skeptics, as well as people who have not yet taken a stand in the debate.

The goal of the panel will be to look at how school choice affects student learning, school quality, access to good public schools for minority and disadvantaged children, segregation of schools and students by race and class, and students’ tolerance and readiness to resolve conflict through deliberation.

“Very extreme advocates won’t be involved in the commission,” said Colin Johnson, a spokesman for the Brookings Institution. “We want individuals open to evidence contrary to their beliefs.”

Charter schools and voucher programs have drawn widespread scrutiny in recent years. The U.S. Supreme Court could decide soon whether to hear a case on the constitutionality of the Cleveland voucher program.

The commission will have a two-year life, during which members will meet four times. At the conclusion of its service, the panel is to produce a book that the Brookings Institution will publish, Ms. Rava said.

Brookings officials said the commission would take a fresh look at the issues related to school choice, and would not seek to prove or disprove the value of such programs.

The panel will also issue a series of reports that seek to explain the issues to the educators, policymakers, parents, and the media.

Paul Hill, a Brookings Institution senior fellow, and Tom Loveless, the director of Brookings’ Brown Center on Education Policy, will manage the commission’s work.