NEPC Review: Squeezing the Public School Districts: The Fiscal Effects of Eliminating the Louisiana Scholarship Program (University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform, August 2016) and The Fiscal Effect of Eliminating the Louisiana Scholarship Program on State Education Expenditures (University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform) (University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform, April 2016)
Two new papers from researchers at the University of Arkansas predict the budgetary consequences of terminating the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP), a voucher program that funds over 7,100 Louisiana students to attend private schools. Using an economic model, the papers offer several different scenarios and then conclude that terminating the LSP would increase the costs statewide and do so in almost all districts in the state. The papers’ findings are reasonable but do not make a fully convincing case that the state will incur extra expenditures without the LSP. There may be savings or additional expenditures, depending on several key parameters which have not been precisely estimated. Puzzlingly, the reports’ findings of extra costs run counter to those of the state’s Legislative Fiscal Office, but the reports do not mention this contrary evidence. In any case, the net fiscal effect of terminating the LSP is unlikely to be large; in the context of a $9 billion state expenditure, the change would likely be less than $10 million.