Manhattan Institute Report Fails to Muster Solid Evidence to Support Vouchers

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Key New NEPC Review Takeaway: Report’s argument for funneling public funding to private schools is based on weak, biased, or irrelevant research.

A recent Manhattan Institute report argues that the idea of what constitutes a “public” school should be expanded to include private schools that receive public funding. The report also contends that public funding for education should in fact be divided between traditional district public schools, charter schools, and private schools, with funding decisions based on student enrollment. Expansion of funding, it concludes, will result in greater choice for all students and will improve the quality of education.

Joel Westheimer of the University of Ottawa reviewed The Case for Educational Pluralism in the U.S., and found several serious problems. The report, he explained, is plagued by a lack of evidence, flawed logic, and a failure to consider differences in economic, social, political, and regulatory contexts. He also noted that the report’s central argument originates primarily from “conceptual perspectives” rather than empirical research.

The empirical studies the report does use are drawn primarily from religious and school choice advocacy groups. Also, the well-designed and peer-reviewed studies it uses lead to conclusions only loosely tied or entirely unrelated to public funding of private schools.

Professor Westheimer concludes that, while the report may prove useful for those who seek a rhetorical appeal for public funding of a private school education, it offers little useful to policymakers whose goal is to improve access to quality schools.

Find the review, by Joel Westheimer, at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/pluralism

Find The Case for Educational Pluralism in the U.S., written by Ashley Rogers Berner and published by the Manhattan Institute, at:
https://media4.manhattan-institute.org/sites/default/files/R-0719-ARB.pdf

NEPC Reviews (http://thinktankreview.org) provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: https://nepc.colorado.edu

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William J. Mathis

Joel Westheimer
University of Ottawa
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