ducation reform has come to beviewed as a legal problem,a perspec-tive that encourages frivolous law-suits that breed distrust ofthe law and theU.S.education system,according to PhilipHoward,attorney,author,and activist withthe organization Common Good.“We have lost the ability to make goodchoices,”said Howard,who spoke to adinner audience gathered on January 15during meetings ofthe Koret Task Force onK–12 Education.“The use ofthe law to ‘improve’schoolsis one ofthe reasons schools are failing,”hesaid.“This is not to say that the law isn’timportant,as in desegregation and specialeducation.But when the law moves fromhelping set goals,as in desegregation,todaily negotiation,it suffocates positivechanges and improvements.“My premise is that the most importantaspect in an institution,such as the schools,is the people in it.The human aspect is crit-ical,but the law kills it,”he said.“Frankly,the law is rigid,when we have too many rules the law is overarching,and so-calleddue process—to protect individuals againstgovernment power—is being misused.“Ifyou are running a school,you need tohave authority and discretion.We need torestore this authority to have good schoolsand not misuse the law,”he added.Howard,the chairman ofthe ground-breaking bipartisan legal reform organiza-tion Common Good,is also the author of
The Death ofCommon Sense:How Law IsSuffocating America
(Random House,1995) and
The Collapse ofthe CommonGood:How America’s Lawsuit CultureUndermines Our Freedom
He is vice-chairman ofthe law firm Cov-ington & Burling.The Koret Task Force on K–12 Educa-tion met during January 14–16 to takestock ofits projects and programs and planfor the future.The task force is an elite teamofscholars specializing in education reformwho have been brought together by Hooverdirector John Raisian and Hoover overseerTad Taube,president ofthe Koret Founda-tion,to address the national debate overpublic education.The task force is a joint endeavor oftheHoover Institution and the Koret Founda-tion ofSan Francisco,its primary sponsor.Task force members are Hoover fellowsWilliamson M.Evers,Chester Finn,EricHanushek,Terry Moe,and Paul E.Petersonand Hoover distinguished visiting fellowsJohn E.Chubb,Paul Hill,E.D.Hirsch Jr.,Caroline Hoxby,Diane Ravitch,andHerbert J.Walberg.The Koret Task Force forms the center-piece ofthe Hoover Institution’s Initiativeon American Public Education,a five-yearcommitment to the production ofresearchand writing on education reform.The task force’s first joint work,
A Primer on America’s Schools
,was published by theHoover Institution Press in 2001.Otherbooks include
Choice with Equity
(2002).In 2003,the task force released
Our Schools and Our Future … Are We Still at Risk? An Assess-ment by the Koret Task Force on K–12 Edu-cation
,also published by Hoover Institu-tion Press.
ric A.Hanushek,Paul and JeanHanna Senior Fellow,has beenawarded the Fordham Foundation’s2004 Prize for Distinguished Scholarship.The announcement was made on January 26.Hanushek,a member ofthe HooverInstitution Koret Task Force on K–12 Edu-cation,was cited for his passion to improvethe education ofdisadvantaged andminority children,beliefs about the K–12education system,challenge ofconven-tional wisdom about schooling,and deepcommitment to the cause ofpublicschools.The Thomas B.Fordham Prize for Dis-tinguished Scholarship is awarded to ascholar whohas mademajor contri-butions toeducationreform viaresearch,analysis,andsuccessful engagement in the war ofideas.In 2003,the first Thomas B.FordhamPrize for Distinguished Scholarship wasawarded to Paul Peterson,a member oftheKoret Task Force for K–12 Education and aprofessor ofeducation at Harvard Univer-sity.The recipient ofthe first Fordham Prizefor Valor in 2003 was E.D.Hirsch Jr.,also amember ofthe Koret Task Force on K–12Education and a professor emeritus at theUniversity ofVirginia.The Thomas B.Fordham Prize for Valor is awarded to aleader who has made major contributionsto education reform via noteworthy accomplishments at the national,state,local,and/or school level.The press release on the award may beviewed at the Fordham Foundation sitehttp://www.edexcellence.net/foundation/global/page.cfm?id=199.At http://www.edexcellence.net/doc/FordhamEducationPrizes2004.pdfis a fullprofile ofHanushek,his work,and his life,along with that ofthe winner ofthe Foun-dation’s 2004 Prize for Valor,Howard L.Fuller,distinguished professor ofeduca-tion and founder/director ofthe Institutefor the Transformation ofLearning atMarquette University.