NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

School Choice Makes Financial Sense

February 4, 2011

Empowering parents to choose the best school for their children -- whether public or private, regardless of ZIP code -- isn't just the right thing to do.  With states struggling to overcome yawning budget deficits, school choice makes good fiscal sense, says Ben Boychuk, managing editor of the Heartland Institute's School Reform News.

States such as Florida, Indiana, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania are considering legislation to establish or expand opportunity scholarship programs currently offering low-income parents or parents with disabled children the means to send their children to the school of their choice instead of one determined by their residence.

  • Opponents argue tax-credit scholarship programs are expensive, deprive traditional public schools of resources and use taxpayer dollars to enrich private or even religious enterprises.
  • Despite these claims, the programs have expanded slowly but steadily, successfully raising academic achievement where they've been tried in 14 states and the District ofColumbia.

In addition, study after study shows school choice saves money.

  • The Foundation for Educational Choice estimated the 12 voucher and tuition tax-credit programs operating before the 2006-2007 school year produced a 15-year cost savings of $444million.
  • According to the same study, Pennsylvania's tax-credit program had saved Keystone State residents $144 million since 2001.
  • Florida's trailblazing McKay Scholarship Program for disabled children saved taxpayers $139 million in its first seven years.
  • Another study by University of Arkansas economist Robert M. Costrell concluded Milwaukee's Parental Choice Program has saved Wisconsin taxpayers money every year since 2000, with estimated savings reaching $31.9 million in2008.

A robust system of school choice, in which funding followed students and wasn't filtered through a clogged sieve of bureaucracy, would provide further benefits.  Traditional public schools currently operating as de facto monopolies would be forced to compete for students.  Schools that consistently failed to persuade enough parents to trust them with their children would no longer be guaranteed funding from the state, says Boychuck.

Source: Ben Boychuk, "School Choice Is Remedy for Destitute States," Washington Times, February 2, 2011.

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