Friday Freakout: Taxpayers Shouldn’t Have to Give Even More to Pay for School Choice

We agree, and we’ll explain why in our response to today’s freakout, which comes from the comments section of the Wall Street Journal’s “Schooling on a ‘Debit Card.’”

No More TaxesSix empirical studies have examined real school choice programs’ fiscal impact on taxpayers. ALL of them find school choice saves money for taxpayers. Not one study has ever found it has a negative impact.
And what would a school choice critic say? Not surprisingly, the answer to that appeared in the same comment thread.

Fixed Cost
So let us get this straight. Claire’s contention is that school costs are all (or mostly) fixed. If that’s true, why do school districts with growing enrollments expect (and receive) more funding as their schools grow? The truth is, many school costs are variable and cost variability is not a one-way street. The only distinction is that cost variability on the way up is much more comfortable than it is on the way down.

Because many (and some would argue most) public school costs are variable, it’s clear to see that public schools are actually benefiting in two ways.

  1. The public school gets rid of 100 percent of the cost to educate a child who leaves with an ESA, yet the school still gets an additional 10 percent of funding per pupil regardless. That’s extra money left over to devote to the kids who remain in public school.
  2. Researchers from all over the country have conducted 23 studies examining school choice’s impact on academic outcomes in public schools. That is: Did the competitive effects induced by school choice programs directly cause public schools to improve, decline, or stay the same? Twenty-two of those studies showed public school student outcomes improved. The one other study showed they remained the same. Not one study has ever shown school choice causes public school students to achieve worse outcomes. We call that a “Win-Win.”

The ultimate takeaway? Taxpayers shouldn’t freak out. School choice is fiscally sound for our country and for public schools. After all, if it weren’t, would an economist such as Milton Friedman (the man who wrote There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch) have coined the idea and devoted his legacy to it?