This post is inspired by comments generated by the Becker post:
Another point: I don't read enough of the "litature" about these matters to speak with much confidence, but I have a vague sense that people try to reduce the arguments about vouchers and charter schools to very narrow economic/social science studies. I wonder how much a study of, say, the effect of 5 years of one voucher program on the test scores in one city can really tell us about vouchers in general. Maybe these private schools are better for some other reason. Maybe they have better marching bands or something. Maybe they do raise math scores, but it might take many years for the effect to happen. It seems unfair to me that these alternative school models must justify themselves based on a few narrow criteria. I'm not accusing Matt of this. But this is the vibe I get from many school opponents. E.g. "We found that X program had no statistically significant effect on reading scores in Y city, so what's the point of even having the program?" Did desegregation improve reading scores? (I don't know.) If it didn't would we scrap the whole desegregation project? Some economists are way too narrow-minded. Freedom to educate your child in diverse ways is valuable, and we shouldn't put some great burden of proof on its proponents.