Saturday, February 27, 2016

Choice $$ Lies

This little undated brief from the good people at The Heartland Institute lays out the straightforward argument for vouchers (and by extension, charter-choice systems) as a money-saver, and it's so clear and straightforward, it's easy to see where the lie is.

The Heartland Institute is a right-leaning thinky tank-- well, actually, they don't appear to be so much leaning as lying down on their right sides atop a mattress stuffed with corporate cash. Founded by a CATO Institute refugee, they're based in the Chicago area (Arlington Heights) and have previously taken such bold stands as teaming up with Phillip Morris to oppose tobacco bans. They've hooked up with some Tea Party groups, and they are a top clearing house for climate change denial.

Their argument in favor of vouchers is as simple as it is wrong.

Florida’s voucher program, for example, costs $3,950 per student, compared with a public school system that spends $7,000 per pupil. Surely even the efficiency of the free market can’t make up for a 44 percent funding deficit, right? Wrong: A Northwestern University study found no difference between achievement in students attending schools through voucher programs and those attending public schools.

I'm not even going to argue with the second part of their point, because the first part is where the lying occurs. There are several links listed with the article, and they all make the same point-- that choice systems save the taxpayer money because choice-charter-voucher schools educate students for less.

First, choice-charter-voucher schools educate students for less because they specialize in students that cost less to educate. 

Second, and perhaps more importantly, choice systems must increase the total cost of education for the taxpayers in a community. When a voucher or choice or charter payment plan or whatever removes money from a school district, that district must either replace some of that money, or cut programs, or both. That means a tax increase on the local level. Because, no-- when a student leaves a school, that school's total costs do not reduce by the amount of one student's worth of money.

This is precisely what is happening in Pennsylvania, where the funding gap continues to widen. It's widening because, as money is drained from local districts, some districts have greater ability to replace that money than others.

I'm going to use simple numbers so that even a right-leaning thinky tank can understand.

Chris pays $100 for school taxes. Two children from the district leave for a charter school, so now the school only gets $80 of Chris's money. To replace some of the lost $20 and get at least $90 from Chris, the district must raise Chris's taxes. Chris now pays $110 in school taxes.

Voucher systems, choice systems, charter systems-- these are all just a way to raise taxes in order to send a few select children to a private school and pay for it with public dollars.

When someone like the Heartland folks of the Friedman thinky tank wants to tell you how much cheaper a choice system is, notice that they are talking only about state and federal costs-- ask them what happens to local costs under such a system.

1 comment:

  1. I'm just stunned that the "expensive" number in Florida is so far under $10K, which would be low in my area, and we don't have the English-Language-Learner population that Florida has.