(Guest Post by Jason Bedrick)
Once again, the editors at the New York Times have allowed their bias against school choice to get in the way of reporting facts.
On Friday, the NYT ran a blog by Professor Susan Dynarski with the incredibly misleading headline (which, in fairness, she likely didn’t write): “Free Market for Education? Economists Generally Don’t Buy It.”
Based on that description, you might think that a survey of economists found that most economists think a market in education wouldn’t work, or at least that there were more economists who thought it wouldn’t work than thought it would. Well, not quite. Dynarski writes:
But economists are far less optimistic about what an unfettered market can achieve in education. Only a third of economists on the Chicago panel agreed that students would be better off if they all had access to vouchers to use at any private (or public) school of their choice.
Follow the link to the 2011 IGM survey and you’ll find that 36% of surveyed economists agreed that school choice programs would be beneficial–but only 19% disagreed and 37% expressed uncertainty.
Scott Alexander of the Slate Star Codex blog writes:
A more accurate way to summarize this graph is “About twice as many economists believe a voucher system would improve education as believe that it wouldn’t.”
By leaving it at “only a third of economists support vouchers”, the article implies that there is an economic consensus against the policy. Heck, it more than implies it – its title is “Free Market For Education: Economists Generally Don’t Buy It”. But its own source suggests that, of economists who have an opinion, a large majority are pro-voucher. […]
I think this is really poor journalistic practice and implies the opinion of the nation’s economists to be the opposite of what it really is. I hope the Times prints a correction.
Actually, it’s even worse than that. Oddly, Dynarski did not include the results from the more recent 2012 IGM survey, in which the level of support for school choice was higher (44%) and opposition was lower (5%), a nearly 9:1 ratio of support to opposition. When weighted for confidence, 54% thought school choice was beneficial only 6% disagreed.
We should give Professor Dynarski the benefit of the doubt and assume that she didn’t know about the more recent results (though they pop right up on Google and the IGM search feature), but the NYT deserves no such benefit for its continuing pattern of misleading readers about the evidence for school choice.