Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Flawed Research: Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice-Vouchers

Why are we presented with biased polling to push the voucher agenda? Perhaps it is because in Oklahoma, years of polling on vouchers shows the opposite, with 74% of Oklahomans opposed to vouchers.

Another interesting area in the 2008 Survey dealt with funding where 87.7% of Oklahomans believe the legislature doesn't provide adequate funding for education.

Review finds Pro-voucher Polls Plagued by Biased Questions and Sampling Problems

EAST LANSING, Mi., (December 2, 2008)—A series of reports based on public opinion polls in 10 states claims that state political candidates could increase their electability if they support school vouchers and other school-choice measures. A Think Twice review of the reports, however, finds that the polls on which they rely contain poorly worded, biased questions and suffer from sampling problems.

The states surveyed thus far are Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, and the reports were published by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, a think tank that promotes school-choice proposals, including taxpayer-funded private-school vouchers. They were reviewed by professors Jon Lorence and A.Gary Dworkin, both of the University of Houston.

The 10 reports conclude that voters view public schools as performing unsatisfactorily, that they prefer private over public schools, that public funds should be available so parents can send their children to private schools and that potential voters are more likely to support candidates who back school choice proposals such as vouchers.

Lorence and Dworkin note that none of the reports cite any other surveys or research literature regarding opinions on vouchers or on public, private, or charter schools. By comparison, the reviewers cite a series of Gallup polls, conducted annually for Phi Delta Kappa, that include questions measuring public support for private-school vouchers and for public education in general. Those surveys consistently find less support for voucher proposals than shown by the Friedman surveys. In fact, the Gallup surveys consistently show that more Americans oppose vouchers than support them.

In addition, the reviewers point to a number of other factors which might explain why the Friedman surveys yielded more favorable results for school choice proposals.

First, they note that that the population samples surveyed might not represent the voting populations of their states nor the population of parents for whose children school vouchers are intended. Information to establish sampling accuracy is largely missing from the reports, and in at least one of the three instances where sufficient data were provided, the low response rate raises a red flag about possible sample bias.

Additionally, Lorence and Dworkin found repeated instances in which the wording of questions appeared likely to bias the results. These questions appeared to be worded in ways to encourage respondents to favor private-school funding. The reviewers use the corresponding Gallup questions to highlight these problems with wording. Additionally, the survey questions in some instances used terms not widely understood, such as questions about proposals to grant tax credits to companies that finance private school scholarships (vouchers).

“Had the respondents been presented more neutral questions about tax credits and vouchers, the findings may have been less favorable towards these issues,” the reviewers write.

Lorence and Dworkin observe that the 10 papers reviewed are aimed at driving a pro-school-choice agenda through the promotion of tax credits, vouchers, and charter schools. They conclude that the reports should not guide policy and recommend that policymakers avoid relying on, “public opinion surveys that present beliefs as fact,” and encourage them to, “examine research investigating whether charter schools and vouchers actually increase student achievement and other important outcomes.”

Find the review by Jon Lorence and A. Gary Dworkin on the web at:


Anonymous said...

I wonder if this is the same flawed researh that ws reporting in Oregon early in January?

Nearly nine out of ten Oregonians would opt out of regular public schools if they could, according to a scientifically representative public opinion poll released this month. Yet, ninety-one percent of Oregon children currently attend a regular public school, usually the one assigned to them based on their home address.

This startling poll of 1,200 likely Oregon voters was conducted on behalf of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice and cosponsored by Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon's free market public policy research organization.

Among the key findings of this poll is that school choice is not a partisan issue among Oregonians. Alternatives to conventional public school education are overwhelmingly supported across every political, ethnic and religious affiliation and regardless of age, income and geographic location. Similar percentages of Democrats, Republicans and Independents support school vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, charter schools, and personal-use tax credits and deductions for education expenses.

Fifty-eight percent of the survey respondents rated Oregon public schools as poor or fair. Voters say accountability, poor student discipline and school safety issues are major challenges for Oregon's public school system.

When asked what type of school they would select in order to obtain the best education for their child, 44 percent of respondents chose private schools. Twenty-four percent selected charter schools, 14 percent would homeschool, 13 percent chose regular public schools, and 5 percent preferred virtual schools.

Roy Bishop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roy Bishop said...

At the time of the release, the only states where results had been announced were Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

I would be really surprised if the Friedman Foundation stopped at only those states. In all likelihood, Oregon was part of a second wave of states where the research was released.