Communications Department

Book Info:

Available at
ISBN: 1-893554-07-4
6 x 9 hardcover
230 pages
U.S $24.95
Publication date:
May 2003
Bookstore Categories:
Education/Public Policy

Breaking Free
Public School Lessons and the Imperative of School Choice

Booklist Starred Review

When his son Jonathan was accepted at New York’s premiere elementary school, P.S. 87, city-schools-educated Stern presumed the boy was off to a good start. He was, though not as good a start as Stern’s own in 1941. In the intervening decades, the teachers’ union (a 1950s innovation) and a mushrooming, politicized education bureaucracy had rendered most city schools ungovernable and scholastically ineffective. Even P.S. 87 and the secondary schools both Stern boys attended—all among the system’s finest—were forced by union work rules to tolerate incompetent senior teachers and teachers who wouldn’t put in a minute more than the contractual 6-hour-and-20-minute day. Ultimately, Stern and his wife had to resort to supplementary home schooling to help their sons attain the highest scholastic levels. They succeeded at that, but what, Stern tellingly asks, are less well educated and more time-consuming parents to do? Ultimately, Stern advances education vouchers as a means for fostering better schools and argues for them more persuasively, because less ideologically, than do most other voucher-boosters. Meanwhile, he has told his case history in the union-and-bureaucracy-hamstrung New York system and presented a brief against the teachers’ unions that vitally supplements such looser, more general arguments as Peter Brimelow’s Worm in the Apple.

Breaking Free.

Advance Praise for Breaking Free

"Parental choice in education is the leading civil rights issue of our day, and Sol Stern's observations—drawn from across decades of experiences as public school student in World War II New York, sixties radical, writer, and father—explain why so many of us view school choice as a moral imperative."
William J. Bennett
Former U.S. Secretary of Education

"What a powerful and timely book! The Supreme Court says school choice is constitutional. Now Sol Stern explains why it's the essential alternative to a smug, sclerotic and monopolistic public-education establishment that never puts the kids' or parents' interests first. If you didn't already understand the need to carve an exit door for children, Stern's harrowing tales will open your eyes and boost your blood pressure."
Chester E. Finn, Jr.
Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University &
President, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation

"It's harder to learn what happens inside big-city schools than to get information from the battlefront. Unlike the modern army, urban schools don't allow reporters to embed themselves within their operations. In his riveting insider's account of New York City's public schools, Sol Stern brilliantly exploits the access of a parent and a teacher's spouse with the observational skills of a first-rate reporter to explain to us what we have long feared but not really understood."
Paul E. Peterson
Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government
Director, Program on Education Policy and Governance


City Journal