March 15, 2022

Contact:
Michelle Renée Valladares: (720) 505-1958, michelle.valladares@colorado.edu
Luis Huerta: (212) 678-4199, lah2013@tc.columbia.edu

Another Report Misleadingly Touts Cost Savings From Voucher Programs

An NEPC Review funded by the Great Lakes Center

Key Takeaway: Report lacks the information necessary for policymakers to design equitable school reform policies.

EAST LANSING, MI (March 15, 2022) - A recent report from EdChoice argues for expansion of policies that publicly fund private schools, contending that private schools could provide equal or better outcomes at lesser cost. A review released today examines the report’s methodology to determine the soundness of its claims, and it finds the cost-saving estimates to be based on unsubstantiated assumptions.

Luis A. Huerta and Steven Koutsavlis of Teachers College, Columbia University reviewed Fiscal Effects of School Choice: Analyzing the Costs and Savings of Private School Choice Programs in America, and found its accounting procedures to be based on conjecture.

The report asserts that voucher and voucher-like (tax credit scholarship and education savings account) programs have saved state and local treasuries some $12.4 to $28.3 billion dollars as student “switchers” use those programs to leave public schools and enter private schools. The report claims that the purported savings result from the lower numbers of students in public schools coupled with lower variable per-student costs.

However, Huerta and Koutsavlis point out that the cost-saving estimates of private school choice programs are based on speculative assumptions. In particular, the report guesses in estimating the number of switchers across programs and for determining resulting variable cost fluctuations. With some limited exceptions, states operating these private-school subsidy programs do not track the previous enrollment status of students who use the vouchers to subsidize their enrollment in private schools. Such lax accountability standards mean that the number of switchers and estimated fiscal savings are necessarily based on conjecture.

Consequently, the report’s findings do not provide a sound base for policy decisions. Huerta and Koutsavlis provide suggestions for more detailed accounting procedures and more nuanced methodologies for calculating reliable variable student costs.

Find the review, by Luis A. Huerta and Steven Koutsavlis, at:
https://www.greatlakescenter.org

Find Fiscal Effects of School Choice: Analyzing the Costs and Savings of Private School Choice Programs in America, written by Martin Lueken and published by EdChoice, at:
https://www.edchoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/The-Fiscal-Effects-of-School-Choice-WEB-reduced.pdf

NEPC Reviews (http://thinktankreview.org) provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: https://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu/

About The Great Lakes Center
The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform. Visit the Great Lakes Center Web Site at: https://www.greatlakescenter.org. Follow us on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/greatlakescent. Find us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GreatLakesCenter.

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at https://www.greatlakescenter.org/