By guest blogger Stephen Sawchuk
The Thomas B. Fordham’s Institute’s longstanding president, Chester E. “Checker” Finn Jr., steps down Aug. 1, leaving Michael J. Petrilli, who served at the U.S. Department of Education under George W. Bush’s first term, to assume the top post at the right-leaning think tank.
This is about the worst-kept secret in Washington given that Fordham announced the transition months ago. Still, it’s worth drawing attention to Finn’s influence on K-12 policy over the last three decades as a former Education Department assistant secretary, legislative director, ed. school professor, and finally, as the man who brought prominence to the Fordham Foundation. The foundation’s prescriptions for schools have remained fairly stable over the years, in part because of Finn’s leadership: Rigorous academic standards for students, school choice via charters and other mechanisms, and outcomes-based accountability.
He also has the distinction of having the first “back page” Commentary piece ever published in Education Week.
Finn will remain on staff at Fordham as a president emeritus and distinguished senior fellow.
And leadership change aside, Finn is probably not going to give up his classic something-to-offend-everyone commentary. Writing about edu-entrepreneurs in his “farewell address” on the Fordham website, for instance, he drops this gem: “A firm that’s just in it for the money is as reprehensible as a teacher union that’s in it just to look after its members’ pay, pensions, and job security.”
Many happy returns, Checker.