I have some really exciting news to share with you: The Friedman Foundation is changing its name. Why is that “exciting news?” Why wouldn’t we want to keep using the Friedman name? Isn’t it their legacy organization?
The short answer to all of these questions is that we’re doing what our Founders explicitly told us to do.
When they launched their legacy foundation 20 years ago, Milton and Rose always knew the issue of educational choice was bigger than the Friedman name. Even though Milton and Rose had been referred to as “the modern architects of vouchers” and had been promoting educational choice since 1955, the Friedmans always wanted their Foundation to focus not on them, but on educating the public about the benefits of educational choice.
As they said when we opened our doors in 1996, “We have concluded that the achievement of effective parental choice requires an ongoing effort to inform the public about the issues and possible solutions, an effort that is not episodic, linked to particular legislative or ballot initiatives, but that is educational. It requires also the cooperation of the many groups around the country who are devoted to improving the quality of our schools, whether governmental or private.”
They also worried that their legacy foundation could potentially be pulled off course years down the road, as has happened with other organizations when neither the founders, their children nor anyone else directly connected to them was still around to guide the work.
We want to make it very clear that our name may be changing, but our mission of universal educational choice will remain the same.
So, even though they strongly supported the future of our work and our current staff and board leadership, they did not want their name attached to ideals or activities they could not control. In light of this, they specifically directed the Foundation’s board of directors to stop using the name Friedman at some point after their deaths.
Therefore, in consultation with their children David and Janet, the board and staff leadership of the Friedman Foundation will carry out Milton and Rose’s wishes this summer, announcing a newly named organization and strategic plan that will keep their vision of universal school choice at the forefront of the school choice movement. We want to make it very clear that our name may be changing, but our mission of universal educational choice will remain the same.
CONTINUING THE FRIEDMAN LEGACY AND VISION
We have been honored to be Milton and Rose D. Friedman’s legacy foundation during the last 20 years and to be the nation’s only organization solely promoting their concept of educational choice. And though we are losing their name, we will never lose their intellectual legacy. We will continue, in partnership with the Friedman family, to advance their vision of educational choice for all families.
Throughout this transition, we have recognized the success both of this organization and the movement. We believe that all of our progress and momentum now means that the time for half measures is over. We believe the time is right to make an even more aggressive push for universal educational choice. We don’t just want more educational choice; we want educational choice for all families.
Twenty years after launching the Foundation, more families have educational choice than ever before. There are now 61 different school choice programs in 30 states and Washington, D.C.— some education savings accounts, some vouchers, some tax-credit scholarships and some individual tax credits and deductions. There are more than 1 million children using these programs to access an educational setting that works best for them.
But as we look to the future of school choice, and as we change the name of this organization, I can tell you that we are just getting started.
Milton once said that “[t]he true test of any scholar’s work is not what his contemporaries say, but what happens to his work in the next 25 or 50 years.”
Even without our founders’ name, this organization will continue to make the case that giving all parents control over their children’s education is the best way to improve outcomes for all students. Though our letterhead and logo will look different, we will still give 100 percent of our time to promoting that the best way to drag education out of the 19th Century and into the 21st is to empower parents with educational choice. And though “Friedman” won’t be on the masthead, the ideas and ideals that Milton and Rose championed for so long will remain at the very core of our research, our trainings and our direct work promoting educational choice in states. Milton once said that “[t]he true test of any scholar’s work is not what his contemporaries say, but what happens to his work in the next 25 or 50 years.”
That is very true, and if you believe educational choice is the most fair, just and effective way to provide education in this country, we ask that you continue to support this newly named organization and our programmatic work so that in 25 or 50 years, when universal school choice is the norm, scholars, public policy leaders and parents will look back at the pre-school choice era in amazement, wondering how we ever allowed our nation to deliver such an important public service using such an outdated method.
I don’t want to undersell it; this is a big change.
The Friedmans and their legacy mean so much to so many of us. Their ideas profoundly affected the world and will continue to do so. But I firmly believe that as we close the chapter on the name of their Foundation, we open a new page of possibilities for educational choice and new pathways to safeguard the Friedmans’ intellectual legacy.
THE BIG ANNOUNCEMENT
In celebration of the past and with a firm focus on the future, we will honor the Friedmans with events around the globe on July 29, 2016, at our 10th—and final—Friedman Legacy Day. At that time, we will reveal the name and brand of the new organization live at our event and online for the world to see.
Click here to see the successes that the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice enjoyed not only in 2015, but in years prior. You will see the growth of the school choice movement and some of the people school choice has affected. In short, you will see the return on your investment in this organization.
We are extremely grateful for your support of the Friedman Foundation. We would not have achieved so much for so many children without it, and I ask that you continue supporting our work and the Friedman legacy regardless of the name of the organization. Like you, I believe that the Friedmans’ ideas are stronger and more lasting than any one organization, and we will continue to provide the kind of research and educational services that would have made our founders proud.