BOULDER, CO (September 26, 2023)—A recent report from the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts examines the monetary costs and benefits of the state’s Qualified Education Expense Tax Credit (QEEC), a voucher policy that provides a public subsidy for families to pay for private school tuition. A review of the report, however, contradicts its claim that the policy provides a net fiscal benefit to the state budget.
David Knight of the University of Washington reviewed Qualified Education Expense Tax Credit: Economic Analysis, and he found several methodological challenges that undermine the report’s conclusions and its usefulness.
One key claim in the report is that the tax credit results in $81 million of forgone state tax revenue per year. Another key claim is that the vouchers incentivize almost 20,000 students per year to choose private schools instead of public, thus removing the cost of educating those students from state and local budgets. Based largely on these two claims, the report concludes that QEEC provides a net fiscal benefit for Georgia’s state budget.
Professor Knight points to a lack of data about how many students per year do actually switch from public to private schools because of the voucher subsidy and incentive. In fact, existing private-school families have extremely strong incentives to accept the public subsidies. And if most of the vouchers are provided to support these students who were already planning to attend a private school, then the policy only subsidizes private school students with funding that could otherwise be returned to taxpayers or invested in the state’s public education system, which is open to all students.
While these calculations are all necessarily grounded in some speculation because of the unregulated elements of the voucher policy and the resulting lack of hard data, the most likely result of tax credit scholarship programs like QEEC is that the state and school districts incur more costs than savings, placing financial strain on state budgets that could require future cuts.
Because the report relies on unrealistic assumptions, its suggestion that program benefits outweigh costs is tenuous and risks misleading state education leaders. Instead, state leaders should invest educational dollars in policies that have a positive return on investment and therefore help, rather than harm, state and local budgets.
Find the review, by David Knight, at:
Find Qualified Education Expense Tax Credit: Economic Analysis, written by Greg S. Griffin and Lisa Kieffer, and published by the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts, at: