Florida Voucher Report Too Flawed to be Valuable

Review criticizes report’s conclusion that vouchers have positive impact on special education outcomes

Contact: Teri Battaglieri, (517) 203-2940;
John T. Yun, (805) 893-2342;

EAST LANSING, Mich., (May 22, 2008 ) — A recent Manhattan Institute report claims Florida’s program of publicly funded, private-school vouchers for special education students improves outcomes for special education students who remain in public schools. A Think Twice review of the report, however, concludes that research design problems and weaknesses in data analysis and interpretation render the report of little value to policy makers.

“The Effect of Special Education Vouchers on Public School Achievement: Evidence from Florida’s McKay Scholarship Program,” was written by Jay P. Greene and Marcus Winters and published by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. It was reviewed by Professor John T. Yun of the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Florida’s McKay Scholarship Program provides vouchers for special education students to attend private schools. The scholarship program is open to any Florida student classified as having a learning disability. As of the 2006-2007 school year, about 4.5% of Florida’s special education students received these vouchers though The Manhattan Institute analysis appears to cover an earlier period, from school years 2000-2001 through 2004-2005, during which time the program enrolled fewer students.

The Manhattan report is based on statistical analyses that, its authors conclude, shows that the McKay program spurred public schools to improve achievement for those special education students who remained in public schools during that time. The report presents relatively small effect sizes (a small competition benefit), but asserts that these results are probably understated.

 Yun’s review finds the evidence weak. He points out that any contributions the report may make are, “outweighed by research design problems, failure to take into account alternative explanations and unsubstantiated assumptions about the direction of possible selection bias.”

Yun concludes that the report offers policymakers little guidance: “Any attempt to use this report for decision-making or policy evaluation, prior to validation using different methods and more robust approaches, should be viewed with extreme skepticism.”

Find John Yun’s review and the The Manhattan Institute’s report at:

About the Think Tank Review Project
The Think Twice project provides the public, policy makers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected think tank publications. It is a collaboration of the Education Policy Studies Laboratory at Arizona State University and the Education and the Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder and is funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.


The mission of the Great Lakes Center is to improve public education for all students in the Great Lakes region through the support and dissemination of high quality, academically sound research on education policy and practices.

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