Voucher “Myth” Report Distorts Its Questions and Its Answers

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Key NEPC Review Takeaway: Attempt by the Institute for Justice to muster pro-voucher evidence ignores the very research it cites, presenting a simplistic and one-sided treatment of the empirical record.

Researchers have built a substantial body of evidence about policies that use vouchers to fund private schooling, so an honest attempt to bring together that research could have real value. But readers will be disappointed if they look to the Institute for Justice (IJ) for that report.

Christopher Lubienski of Indiana University reviewed the IJ’s report, 12 Myths and Realities about Private Educational Choice Programs. He considers the merits of each of the 12 claims, and finds that the report fails to take advantage of this body of research, instead offering little more than a simplistic and one-sided treatment of the empirical record.

Setting out 12, often cartoonishly caricatured, “myths” about vouchers, the report proceeds to systematically dismiss each myth. The evidence presented in the report is based largely on previous work from other advocacy groups that curated evidence—much of it highly questionable—on the advantages of vouchers. Accordingly, the IJ report repeats earlier advocacy claims, even when flaws in those works have already been publicly explained. In doing so, the report makes claims that are not supported, and in fact sometimes contradicted, by evidence in the sources it cites.

The report provides a textbook case of echo-chamber advocacy. Professor Lubienski concludes that it offers nothing useful in furthering our understanding of school vouchers.

Find the review, by Christopher Lubienski, at:
https://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/voucher-myths

Find 12 Myths and Realities about Private Educational Choice Programs, edited by Tim Keller and published by the Institute for Justice, at:
https://ij.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/school-choice-myths-and-realities-2nd-PRINTING-FINAL.pdf

Find Documents:
Publication Announcement: https://nepc.info/node/9671
NEPC Review: nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/voucher-myths
Report Reviewed: ij.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/school-choice-myths-and-realities-2nd-PRINTING-FINAL.pdf

NEPC Reviews (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: greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), 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: nepc.colorado.edu

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William J. Mathis

Christopher Lubienski
Indiana University
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