Margaret Spellings vs. Mitt Romney

by Ramesh Ponnuru

The New York Times reports:


One notable skeptic is Margaret Spellings, a former education secretary under Mr. Bush, who this year was an informal adviser to Mr. Romney. She said she withdrew once the candidate rejected strong federal accountability measures.

“I have long supported and defended and believe in a muscular federal role on school accountability,” Ms. Spellings said. “Vouchers and choice as the drivers of accountability — obviously that’s untried and untested.”

Consumer choice as a driver of producer accountability has, of course, been tried and tested in many, many contexts, and seems generally to produce good results. There aren’t many existing school-choice programs, and those we have are very imperfect approximations of what real markets would deliver. (For example, they make a point of not cutting funding for poorly-performing schools, which is what real markets would do.) But we have as good a track record now as we had for the idea of accountability driven by the federal government in 2000. And the track record of that idea since 2000 has been disappointing at best.

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