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A Think Twice Review of:

The Tax-Credit Scholarship Audit: Do Publicly Funded Private School Choice Programs Save Money?

Think Twice - Aug 24, 2017

Publisher/Think Tank - EdChoice

Author(s) - Martin F. Lueken

A 2016 report from EdChoice asserted that tax credit scholarship programs through Scholarship Tuition Organizations (STOs) have saved state treasuries billions of dollars since 1998. Twenty-one programs in 17 states now distribute scholarships to students via STO tax credit programs sometimes called “neovouchers.” The programs allow individuals and corporations to contribute to a nonprofit organization that distributes the money in the form of scholarships. According to the authors of the report, states can save money as a result of students leaving public schools and entering private schools.

Reviewer(s) - Luis A. Huerta and Steven Koutsavlis, Teachers College, Columbia University

An academic review of the report questions the calculation method and claims made regarding the estimated financial savings for state governments. The reviewers note that because states do not collect or publish data on scholarship recipients, no formal accounting exists. As a result, they recommend that policymakers “develop statutory language that will allow researchers to develop better and more accurate answers to thorny policy questions.” They add that the findings of the report are too speculative to provide useful guidance for policymakers. In their conclusion, they write: “When weighing the implementation of [tax-credit scholarship programs] TCSPs, policymakers must look beyond measures of cost efficiency and seek more balanced and empirically robust assessments that would allow them to make informed decisions about how to proceed with effective and equitable school reform polices.”