PodcastED: SUFS president Doug Tuthill interviews education choice icon Stephen Sugarman

redefinED staff

On this episode, Tuthill speaks with the nationally recognized Berkeley Law School professor who co-authored several books with his colleague and redefinED guest correspondent John Coons. In this first of a three-part series, Sugarman recalls how he got started in the education reform movement by studying district wealth inequality across the country.

Sugarman, who has been connected to Berkeley since 1972, has along with Coons supported the expansion of education choice for low-income families for decades. The two lawyers argued a landmark series of public school financing cases before the California Supreme Court in the 1970s, an effort Sugarman calls an attempt at “litigation-led revolution” in school funding.  

Sugarman and Coons are the historical legacy of the progressive wing of the education choice movement. Sugarman compares their education choice vision with that of conservative choice forerunner Milton Friedman, discussing his opposition to Friedman’s belief in universal vouchers and his preference for focusing on ensuring low-income families have access to as many resources as families with higher incomes.

“The education of children should not be a function of wealth, other than the wealth of the State as a whole. It shouldn’t depend on their family wealth, and it shouldn’t depend on the district in which they live.”


·       Mounting a legal attack on the “wealth discrimination” of district school funding

·       Congressman Leo Ryan’s interest in an education choice ballot initiative in California prior to his assassination while investigating claims that people were being held against their will at the Peoples Temple Jonestown settlement

·       Sugarman and Coons’ relationship with Milton Friedman and opposition of his education choice initiatives


redefinED: How the Left almost pulled off a school choice revolution

John Coons: A school choice classic, revisited

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