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By choosing Betsy DeVos as his nominee for the Department of Education, Donald Trump has proven his seriousness about increasing school choice and ending the Beltway’s micromanagement of local education. But whether the subject is charter schools, vouchers, distance learning, or education savings accounts, the teachers’ unions have cried foul. Their interest isn’t students, parents, or even individual teachers, but rather preserving their cut of the $670 billion K-12 market.
One set of programs that flies somewhat under the radar are tax-credit scholarship programs. Available in 15 states, they let individuals and corporations donate to scholarship granting organizations in return for tax credits. The organizations then use the donations to give scholarships to students to offset tuition payments at a private school of their families’ choice. A win-win, right? Well, union bosses don’t think so.
The National Education Association claimed that each tax-credit scholarship “threatens funding for public schools and other public services.” Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers and bête noire of educational reformers, alleged “they drain cash away from public school districts, particularly those that serve disadvantaged kids who can least afford it.”
…Since the first school choice programs were launched, 30 empirical studies have measured the economic impact on taxpayers. Twenty-seven of the studies showed a net savings, while the other three declared the programs revenue-neutral. Not one showed a loss to taxpayers.
Despite the state “losing” money due to tax credits, the schools reduce their cost per student. Even better for public schools, districts keep their federal and local funds rolling in. That’s right: school districts still get money even when their students flee.
The reform-minded non-profit EdChoice studied how much money taxpayers saved with the biggest scholarship programs in the country. The amount was staggering.
Using a combination of conservative estimates and more aggressive ones, EdChoice identified a low-end and high-end for the savings. They found that the 1.2 million tax-credit scholarships given nationwide have generated between $1.7 billion and $3.4 billion in taxpayer savings through the 2013–14 school year. That’s the equivalent of up to $3,000 in savings per scholarship student.
By lying about a hit to the public fisc, union bosses reveal their real motivation. They aren’t angry that school choice is expensive, but rather that they aren’t the middlemen between students and education. As I note in the article, this is all the more reason to allow families to make educational choices for themselves.