Howard Fuller announced this month that he is retiring from Marquette University, where he is a distinguished professor of education and founder and director of its Institute for the Transformation of Learning.
At 79, Fuller has served in many roles in his lifetime: civil rights activist, educator and civil servant. He is a former superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools and best known in recent decades as a national advocate for school choice, which provides taxpayer-funded vouchers, typically to low-income families.
He is founder of Dr. Howard Fuller Collegiate Academy, a local charter high school, which beganinitially as a private religious school in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.He is a controversial figure for many public school advocates who believe school choice bleeds needed dollars from those schools.
In addition to retiring from Marquette, Fuller has resigned all of his board appointments, except for that of the school.
Fuller sat down with Milwaukee Journal Sentinel education reporter Annysa Johnson for a lengthy and wide-ranging discussion. These are excerpts:
Question: When you first announced your retirement, I could sense a weariness in your voice. It was clear you were struggling with where we are in this country right now. What can you say about education in the context of this moment?
Fuller: One of the things that became absolutely clear when the pandemic hit was what we already knew, and that was the inequities in education in this country. What the pandemic did was show which schools were already into the 21st century and which were holding on tightly to the 20th century, still functioning with an industrial-age paradigm. When the pandemic broke, the people who were tied lock, stock and barrel to the industrial-age paradigm, were lost. They had no idea what to do. Because everything was centered onyou gottacome to a building, the teacher is the center of learning, etc.