School Choice Program Saved up to $3.4 Billion for Taxpayers

 

shutterstock_520970764By 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.

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  1. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Donald Trump has proven his seriousness about increasing school choice and ending the Beltway’s micromanagement of local education.

    So long as those two things — “increasing school choice” and “ending micromanagement” — do not come into conflict with one another. It’s far too possible for a well-intended program aimed at increasing school choice to end up bringing that micromanagement into private education.

    But if she understands that, she has the power to change some incentives, tear down some walls, and do some real good.

    • #1
  2. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Jon,

    One of the eye openers for me was a Republican County Committee meeting I attended over a year ago. I’m here in Florida so the name Jeb! has a lot of impact here still. A lot of issues were discussed and one of Gov. Rick Scott’s big media guys was in attendance and gave a short talk. As you know, Jeb! had endorsed Common Core but Gov. Scott hadn’t. There were a few people who I recognized as “Tea Party” but by and large it was a typical Republican Committee full very ordinary folks who were a little politically work-a-holic and liked doing the basic stuff. Not a lot of passion about specific issues until we got to a charter school issue. Everybody suddenly lit up. From the discussion, it was clear that probably 80% of the Republican Committee people hated Common Core. A number of people directed comments to Gov. Scott’s media guy to advise him to take a second look at Common Core before he made a decision (I might have been one of them). I realized then that Jeb! was on another planet and had completely divorced himself from the Republican rank & file base. As they say, this was a very clear harbinger of “things to come”.

    Betsy DeVos will be a hero to the base and even Jeb! now realizes the train was leaving the station and he forgot to climb on board.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #2
  3. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    I might add that I understand the public school view, too. It’s true, as you point out, that they don’t take much of a short-term hit in finances (if any), so long as we’re talking about a few students at the margin. But it adds a level of uncertainty that they’re not used to, and that makes long-term planning more difficult. If you’re losing students you’re eventually downsizing and cutting jobs, no matter how the state tries to ease the landing for you.

    Now that can be very good public policy. But of course schools don’t like it — even apart from the fact that choice programs are an intended rebuke of and threat to their entire model.

    • #3
  4. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    James Gawron: Betsy DeVos will be a hero to the base and even Jeb! now realizes the train was leaving the station and he forgot to climb on board.

    To be fair to Jeb Bush, Betsy DeVos actually worked with his school choice group. Common Core aside, he was superb on school choice and the program he introduced is probably the best in the nation.

    • #4
  5. Publius Inactive
    Publius
    @Publius

    Leigh: So long as those two things — “increasing school choice” and “ending micromanagement” — do not come into conflict with one another. It’s far too possible for a well-intended program aimed at increasing school choice to end up bringing that micromanagement into private education.

    Well written.  I don’t want to see the federal government involved in education at all unless it’s something that the federal government clearly has a role in such as the service academies. Federal money means federal control.

     

    • #5
  6. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    There is another way to scholarships in Portland, Oregon, and that is through a group of Portland Police Officer’s that started the Z-Man Scholarship Foundation to honor Officer Mark Zylawy who was killed in a traffic accident. Scholarships are awarded to students whose families could not afford to send their children to a private school.

    Deserving students are awarded a Z-Man Foundation Scholarship to attend La Salle College Preparatory School, De La Salle North Catholic High School, Seton Catholic Preparatory School in Vancouver and City Christian School in Northeast Portland.  These schools were selected because of their proven academic college prep curriculum, their emphasis on community service projects and their ability to supplement the Z-Man Scholarship with additional scholarships.  The Foundation board  is exploring the expansion of our scholarships to other Portland-area academic institutions.

    Portland Public High Schools have a dismal graduation rate that hovers around 68% with a per pupil cost of about $11, 459.

     

    • #6
  7. genferei Member
    genferei
    @genferei

    School choice is good. The best way of entrenching choice would be to abolish compulsory schooling. I don’t expect even BDV to get that done in the first 100 days. Nothing to stop Jon using his AZ connections to have it pioneered there, of course. He wouldn’t even have to wait for the inauguration.

    • #7
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Excellent post, Jon. It’s fascinating how the teachers’ unions will continue to argue against a process in the face of the facts. And I’m sure there will be an adjustment period as @leigh suggests. Public schools can also become more competitive by performing better. Whenever large changes are instituted, the status quo is upended. Ultimately, though, I think these changes will be important opportunities for the kids.

    • #8
  9. KC Mulville Inactive
    KC Mulville
    @KCMulville

    I see the effort to break the Democrat/Teacher’s Union stranglehold on education to be the highest long term priority of any Republican administration. The stranglehold comes in two forms: hiring and curriculum. American education is increasingly conducted by single-minded, single-perceiving ideologues, who shape future generations – thus ensuring their hold into perpetuity. Gotta break that cycle.

    • #9
  10. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    KC Mulville:I see the effort to break the Democrat/Teacher’s Union stranglehold on education to be the highest long term priority of any Republican administration. The stranglehold comes in two forms: hiring and curriculum. American education is increasingly conducted by single-minded, single-perceiving ideologues, who shape future generations – thus ensuring their hold into perpetuity. Gotta break that cycle.

    But that cycle can’t be properly broken at the federal level.

    You need the feds to mostly clear the way and provide some rhetoric and incentives, but it really takes people at the state and local level stepping up. And I am going to keep banging this drum: it really, really matters who is in charge of your state’s Department of Education right now.

    • #10
  11. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Great article in your link, Jon. My favorite sentence:
    These labor leaders blame school choice for tricking parents, harming kids, and causing racism, sexism, and the crabgrass in your lawn.

    • #11
  12. Chris Campion Coolidge
    Chris Campion
    @ChrisCampion

    Leigh:I might add that I understand the public school view, too. It’s true, as you point out, that they don’t take much of a short-term hit in finances (if any), so long as we’re talking about a few students at the margin. But it adds a level of uncertainty that they’re not used to, and that makes long-term planning more difficult. If you’re losing students you’re eventually downsizing and cutting jobs, no matter how the state tries to ease the landing for you.

    Now that can be very good public policy. But of course schools don’t like it — even apart from the fact that choice programs are an intended rebuke of and threat to their entire model.

    And that’s how monopolies of any kind end.  Competition of any kind, even a marginal slice of the market, can mean eventual death to them.

    They should be afraid.  It’s one of the few places where monopolies are allowed to exist, and taxpayers have limited choices as to where to send their children.  If schools in general were working as designed, you’d be thrilled to send your kid to your local school.  Instead, many parents are forced to accept what’s given to them, by their bettors who clearly know what’s best for their children.

    It’s insane.  That there’s a lot of pushback means it’s a good start.

    • #12

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