Accurately Estimating the Cost of Subsidizing Public School Students Switching to Private Schools

BOULDER, CO (August 24, 2017) – The Tax-Credit Scholarship Audit: Do Publicly Funded Private School Choice Programs Save Money?, authored by Martin F. Lueken and released by EdChoice, asserts that tax credit scholarship programs, that distribute scholarships to students via Scholarship Tuition Organizations (STOs), have saved state treasuries between $1.7 and $3.4 billion dollars since 1998.

Luis A. Huerta and Steven Koutsavlis of Teachers College-Columbia University reviewed the report and found that, although Lueken argues that these programs are able to realize fiscal savings as a result of students leaving public schools and entering private schools (defined as “switchers”), the method Lueken uses to estimate the percentage of switcher students across these various programs is flawed. Huerta and Koutsavlis point out that since no STO programs require officials to track data on which students transfer out of public schooling into private, the report’s estimates of fiscal savings are based on conjecture and not on hard data.

While Lueken claims that the percentage of students leaving public schools, coupled with the offset of variable per-student costs that districts no longer need to expend, have resulted in the sizable financial savings for state governments. Huerta and Koutsavlis note that these findings are much too speculative to provide useful guidance to policymakers. Huerta and Koutsavlis offer suggestions for more extensive student accounting procedures and more nuanced methodologies for accurately calculating variable student costs.

Find the review, by Luis Huerta and Steven Koutsavlis, at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-tax-credits

Find The Tax-Credit Scholarship Audit: Do Publicly Funded Private School Choice Programs Save Money?, by Martin Lueken, published by EdChoice, at:
https://www.edchoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Tax-Credit-Scholarship-Audit-by-Martin-F.-Lueken.pdf

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) Think Twice Think Tank Review Project (http://thinktankreview.org) provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), 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