Saving Money with School Choice

August 21, 2014

The Beacon Center has released a new report on school choice, and it combats the claim that school choice voucher programs hurt public schools by steering money into private institutions. According to researcher Ben Clark, a voucher program could actually help the students who remain in traditional public schools: for every student who leaves Tennessee's public school system on a voucher scholarship, school districts would gain $612 on average.

The monetary boost is even stronger when looking only at failing schools, who would gain $1,000 for every student that left with a voucher.

The Beacon study was a response to a bill proposed by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, the "Tennessee Choice and Opportunity Scholarship Act," that would give up to 5,000 students from low-income families who attending failing schools the chance to apply for an "opportunity scholarship." The bill gained a great deal of attention and, while it did not pass, is likely to be addressed next session.

As Congress debated the bill, teachers' unions and legislators in opposition to the proposal argued that the bill would do nothing but take funds away from already underfunded schools. But as the Beacon Center explains, the scholarship proposal was structured so as to keep funds in public schools. The opportunity scholarships cost less than the cost of public education, and the Act would have left the difference between those costs in the public school district. The average $612 that public schools would gain after students departed was after accounting for the "fixed costs" (the costs of teacher salaries, bus service, janitors and the like) that remained after the students' departure.

Source: Ben Clark, "Saving Education: How School Choice Can Save Public Schools Money," Beacon Center of Tennessee, August 2014.

 

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