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Schools, Vouchers, and the American Public Paperback – July 31, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

With a Republican in the White House, this book gains currency and immediacy. Political scientist Moe, who admits favoring school vouchers, inspects the political and social ramifications of adopting them. By examining the results of national surveys, he focuses primarily on public opinion on the controversial issue. He begins with an overview of the politics and history of vouchers and the arguments for and against them. Vouchers usually have been championed by conservatives and resisted by liberals and teachers' unions. Ironically enough, substantive progress on vouchers has come in experiments with inner-city families seeking to escape public schools. Thus the rationale for vouchers has altered from free-market advocacy to promoting equity; that is, from a supposedly conservative value to a supposedly liberal one. Moe also considers the appeal of private versus public schools and the extent to which Americans are informed on the issues of vouchers; and he explores the consequences of vouchers for American politics and education. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"With a Republican in the White House, this book gains currency and immediacy." —Vanessa Bush, Booklist, 5/1/2001

"Moe's examination of the advantages and disadvantages of legislative and initiative routes to school choice is the first thoughtful analysis of this critical strategic issue.... The voucher movement needs the kind of internal criticism that Moe provide[s]." —Myron Liberman, Bowling Green University, Public Interest, 4/1/2002

"Moe's new book... is likely to be very influential in shaping the movement's future. Moe has written a nuanced and thoughtful treatise that goes beneath the notoriously unreliable single-shot question favored by the media: Do you favor or oppose school vouchers?" —Richard D. Kahlenberg, Senior Fellow at the Century Foundation, The Nation, 11/26/2001

"Using the latest social science methods, Terry Moe shows that the critics' fears about the wealthy and the religious taking advantage of school choice are baseless. In fact, Moe concludes, the appeal of such programs is strongest among low-income parents in districts with poorly performing schools —and the primary reason such parents desire choice is not diversity or religion but the opportunity to place their children in schools that will provide a better basic education." —Peter Berkowitz, Weekly Standard, 5/20/2002

"Moe asks the right questions, offers thoughtful, honest, and jargon-free analyses of the answers, and draws conclusions of interest to readers regardless of their position on school vouchers.... This book provides invaluable food for thought to anyone concerned with the politics of education and should be required reading for anyone involved in the battles over school vouchers." —M. Engel, Westfield State College, Choice, 12/1/2001

"A thoughtful, leisurely, and dispassionate review of why voucher plans have failed in public opinion and what might yet make them succeed.... This book should be studied carefully by anyone interested in the fate of vouchers." —James Q. Wilson, Pepperdine University, Commentary, 9/1/2001

"His findings are not only real but also important. We should certainly expect to see the center of the voucher movement shift in future electoral contests." —Melissa J. Marschall, University of Illinois at Chicago, Journal of Politics, 5/1/2002

"(response to 5/23/01 Mark Walsh article)" —Terry M. Moe, Education Week, 6/6/2001

"The transformation of the voucher movement and its prospects for the future are thoughtfully assessed in Terry Moe's... book. Moe's analysis of the politics of vouchers is cogent and balanced." —Diane Ravitch, The New Republic, 10/8/2001

"The book offers ample ammunition for both opponents and advocates of vouchers.... His good news, bad news take lends credibility to his data." —Siobhan Gorman, National Journal, 9/29/2001

"Schools, Vouchers, and the American Public is salutary for the analytical depth of its discussion of public opinion and its carefully reasoned case for how the school choice movement should further its cause." —Peter Woolstencroft, Perspectives on Political Science

"Moe's book is... excellent in all respects." —Peter Woolstencroft, University of Waterloo, Perspectives on Political Science, 1/1/2003

"Polls have shown that the public supports vouchers, that the public opposes them, and that the public is split almost evenly down the middle. Which poll is to be believed? In a brilliant, definitive analysis of the subject, Terry Moe tells us who does —and does not —like vouchers as well as who says they will use them, if the opportunity arises. He illuminates not only the school choice debate but the nature of public opinion more generally." —Paul E. Peterson, Harvard University

"Finally, a book on school vouchers that explores what ordinary Americans want and believe when thoughtfully engaged on the issue. Moe's careful analysis demonstrates that vouchers have widest appeal when structured as expanded opportunities for disadvantaged children who are poorly served by today's public schools —a lesson that leaders in the school choice movement must grasp." —Stephen D. Sugarman, University of California

"No book tells us more about how Americans evaluate schools. Moe's rigorous scrutiny of public thinking about education is filled with surprising, unanticipated findings about how popular reasoning about education is shaped by attitudes about religion, race, equality, and government. This book will be the starting point for anyone interested in any school reform, not just vouchers. A model analysis of public opinion on a public policy." —Samuel Popkin, University of California-San Diego

"Whether one agrees or disagrees with the conclusions of this book, anyone interested in education policy in America should read it. So should anyone interested in the connections between public opinion and public policy. It will discomfit liberals, challenge conservatives, teach political scientists, and enlighten all of us. " —Jennifer L. Hochschild, Harvard University

"This book provides original data and analyses by one of the leading scholars on the subject. The interpretations are provocative and will challenge both proponents and detractors. This is must reading for all who are interested in the debate over educational vouchers." —Henry M. Levin, Teachers College, Columbia University

"After a half-century of shrill rhetoric around the school choice issue, Terry Moe carefully and powerfully illuminates how parents and ordinary citizens see public education. Building from a rich, unprecedented national survey of American families, this volume is an eye-opener for voucher advocates and public educators alike. " —Bruce Fuller, University of California

"This rich and doggedly honest analysis moves the voucher debate away from abstract economic theory to the world of mass public opinion where political limits and possibilities may be determined. Both critics and proponents of various voucher plans will find much to feast on here." —Jeffrey R. Henig, Author of The Color of School Reform and Rethinking School Choice

"School choice was a child conceived in the sixties by strange bedfellows —urban poverty the mother, market theory the father. In the seventies the latter abandoned his mate and kidnapped their offspring but, somehow, could never raise the baby on his own. According to Terry Moe, a reconciliation of the parents is now in the making, and school choice may yet reach its genetic potential as the hope of the poor. It's the love story of the year. " —John E. Coons, University of California


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 474 pages
  • Publisher: Brookings Institution Press (July 31, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0815758073
  • ISBN-13: 978-0815758075
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,948,339 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"In a timely work, "Schools, Vouchers, and the American Public," Terry Moe considers a number of public-opinion mysteries and largely neglected political topics. A discussion regarding the results of a 1995 survey takes up most of the book. Moe surveyed a nationally representative sample of 4,700 adults, with much greater precision and in greater detail than other pollsters. The differences between Moe's findings and those of other surveys are startling yet intuitively appealing."
"The first five chapters pertain to attitudes toward the current educational system, including the strong desire to "go private." The last five chapters explore opinion about vouchers and public-school choice."
"The primary message of the first half of the book is that most people think their assigned public school is academically solid, but they also think that the private sector offers even better schooling-better in general or maybe just a particular option that is better for them."
"Moe's finding that most parents are reasonably satisfied with the academic side of their assigned public school highlights a great opportunity to promote reforms based on parental choice."
"In the second half of the book, Moe briefly examines opinion on public-school choice."
"Most of the second half of the book relates to voucher programs. Moe's analysis is the first to consider critical issues such as voucher add-ons and regulation, but the public's limited knowledge of school-choice issues greatly reduces the potential benefits of Moe's journey into these uncharted waters."
"Moe's analysis of public opinion challenges parental-choice friend and foe alike. His findings broadly indicate what is possible now and what must be done to change those possibilities. Both choice advocates and opponents will overlook or discount his findings at their peril."
-From "The Independent Review," Summer 2002
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