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September 25 2018

Voucher Programs are Saving Taxpayers Billions of Dollars

The Heartland Institute
featuring Vicki E. Alger

new EdChoice report reveals 16 school voucher programs across the country have “generated cumulative net savings to state and local budgets” of $3.2 billion. This equates to $3,400 saved per child enrolled in school voucher programs. In fiscal year 2015 alone, these programs generated more than $408 million in total savings.

The report is an update of a 2014 EdChoice study titled The School Voucher Audit, which reported savings of $1.7 billion for 10 voucher programs through fiscal year 2011.

“Though it is true that district schools experience revenue declines when students leave them to participate in school choice programs, it is also true that schools experience relief from the costs to educate them,” the new report states. “When school choice critics claim these programs ‘drain’ resources from public schools, they tend to focus on the revenue side of the coin while ignoring the cost side. Whether intentionally or not, today’s school choice programs are designed in ways that generate cost savings for taxpayers. In essence, this occurs primarily because the cost of voucher awards is typically set at significantly lower levels than the cost to educate students in district schools.”

“No fiscal analysis of any voucher programs in the United States that accounts for both costs and savings—including this one—has found that students exercising choice through voucher programs results in a net negative fiscal impact on taxpayers,” the report concludes.

According to a 2018 survey from Education Next, the majority of Americans are in favor of school vouchers. The survey revealed 54 percent of Americans support a universal school voucher program. The 54 percent support for vouchers is a 9 percentage point increase from the 2017 survey results. Furthermore, 67 percent of Hispanics, 53 percent of blacks, and 47 percent of Democrats said they support school vouchers. Disapproval of vouchers dropped to 31 percent overall. EdChoice’s December 2017 Schooling in America survey had similar results: Sixty-two percent of respondents said they support voucher programs.

The increased support for voucher programs is not surprising. Copious empirical research shows these programs, and other school choice programs, offer families improved access to high-quality schools that meet their children’s unique needs and circumstances. Additionally, these programs benefit public school students and taxpayers by increasing competition, decreasing segregation, and improving civic values and practices.

Students at private schools are also less likely than their public school peers to experience problems such as alcohol abuse, bullying, drug use, fighting, gang activity, racial tension, theft, vandalism, and weapon-based threats. Furthermore, access to school choice programs may reduce potential for criminal behavior.

The school a child attends should not be determined solely by his or her ZIP code. However, this is currently the case for most children. Additionally, children should not be forced to attend a public school their parents believe is failing to properly educate them or to keep them safe. The goal of public education in the United States should be to enable all parents, no matter their income level, to choose which schools their children attend. Public schools should not hold a monopoly on education. By implementing universal voucher or education savings account programs, we can make sure every child has the opportunity to attend a quality school, and doing so at less cost to taxpayers than the current public school monopoly.

The following documents provide more information about school vouchers and other private school choice programs.

Protecting Students with Child Safety Accounts
https://www.heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/protecting-students-with-child-safety-accounts
In this Heartland Policy Brief, Vicki Alger, senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum and research fellow at the Independent Institute, and Policy Analyst Tim Benson detail the prevalence of bullying, harassment, and assault taking place in America’s public schools and the difficulties for parents in having their child moved from a school that is unsafe for them. Alger and Benson propose a Child Safety Account program, which would allow parents to immediately have their child moved to a safe school—private, parochial, or pub­lic—as soon as parents feel the public school their child is currently attending is too dangerous to their child’s physical or emotion­al health.


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Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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