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From the article “School choice saves American communities millions of dollars” by Jason Crye, executive director of Hispanics for School Choice, a Milwaukee-based advocacy organization and visiting fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute:
Establishment folks in public education have done their best to make charter schools and other parental choice programs look like the Devil. Their story about how such programs drain money from public schools now seems as much a part of American folklore as Pecos Bill or Paul Bunyan. How many times did you see the words “siphoning money” in print in the weeks prior to Betsy DeVos’s confirmation?
But there’s a difference between propaganda and reasoned discourse. The truth is that traditional public schools do not need and should not claim public funds that would have come to kids who no longer sit in their classrooms. When they take advantage of new policy opportunities, including the funds they provide, private and charter schools are cheating no one. They are innovators who are fulfilling our nation’s promise to educate its children.
Parental choice programs do indeed transfer funds from some schools to other schools. Usually, they take from schools that can’t give kids what they need and give to ones that can. But it’s not that one school is the white- and the other the black-hatted cowboy; it’s not that one school is “public” and the other is a public enemy. All of the diverse school options supported by public funds comprise the public education system.
There is another financial aspect of public education for us to consider in the debate over school choice: the long-term burden that taxpayers bear when our public schools fail to educate students—for generations. A recent study from my home state of Wisconsin suggests that, far from swindling taxpayers, Milwaukee’s Parental Choice Program (“MPCP”) will save them half a billion dollars in the long term.
Here’s part of the executive summary of that recent study mentioned above “The Economic Benefit of School Choice in Milwaukee“:
The fiscal impact of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) has long been a source of contention with the City, Milwaukee Public Schools Board, and the state of Wisconsin. But the debate is almost always short-sighted, narrowly focusing on one piece of a much bigger, more complex puzzle. t neglects any discussion of the economic benefit of school choice. For example, students who graduate from St. Marcus are more likely to land a job, stay out of our corrections systems, and become upstanding members of the community. All of this has a sizable economic impact for the child, city, and state.
This study – the first of its kind in Milwaukee – attempts to monetize the economic impact of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program over a 20 year period. To perform this analysis we use two rigorous, academic studies on the effect of the MPCP. Wolf and DeAngelis (2016) found when compared to similar students at Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), students in the MPCP at private schools are 6% less likely to be convicted of misdemeanors and 3% less likely to be convicted of felonies. Cowen (2013) found when compared to similar students at MPS, students in the MPCP at private schools are 4% more likely to graduate from high school. We also utilize previously published studies (Levin 2009; McCollister et. al. 2010) that monetized the economic benefit of students graduating from high school and not committing a crime. As a result, we were able to estimate the economic benefit of higher graduation rates and lower crime rates of students at the MPCP when compared to similar students at MPS. We came to the following conclusions:
1. By 2035, because of higher high school graduation rates, students who use a voucher in the MPCP will generate $473 million economic benefits to Wisconsin more than similar students at MPS. Graduating from high school is associated with being more likely to earn a higher income throughout life – which results in more tax revenue, less likely to need expensive, government-funded medical care, and a lower likelihood of being reliant on welfare2. By 2035, in total, because of less crime committed, students who use a voucher in the MPCP will generate $26 million more economic benefit than similar students at MPS.
2. By 2035, because of fewer felonies, students who use a voucher in the MPCP will generate a $24 million benefit and because of fewer misdemeanors, students who use a voucher in the MPCP will generate $1.7 million more economic benefit to Wisconsin. Less crime committed is associated with fewer police officers hired, less crime victims and the costs associated with crime victimization, and less resources spent on the criminal justice system such as incarceration.
3. High-performing schools also create a substantial economic benefit to Milwaukee. In the next 20 years, children at St. Marcus Lutheran Schools will generate an aggregate benefit of about $7 million due to the school’s low incarceration rate and $64 million due to their high graduation rate. Other high quality schools—both in and out of the MPCP—have significant economic benefits as well. Saint Augustine Preparatory Academy which is being built in the Southside of Milwaukee has the potential to generate an economic benefit of over $150 million plus the $100 million dollar benefit which accrues from an $85 million dollar construction project and staff salaries for over 150 personnel.
And here’s from the paper’s conclusion (emphasis added):
The bottom line is the benefits of the MPCP in Milwaukee extend beyond traditional measures like test scores (on which MPCP students also tend to outperform students in traditional schools). The reasons behind higher graduation rates and lessened involvement in the criminal justice system are not immediately clear. Such intangibles like a greater ability to instill moral values and the fostering of more positive learning environments likely play a role. But the end-product of these intangibles is readily measurable. School choice saves Wisconsin hundreds of millions of dollars over and above the difference in the per student funding that public and choice students receive.
Related: Jeff Jacoby’s recent column points to another underappreciated advantage of school choice that goes beyond the improvements in test scores and monetary cost savings from greater educational options — “School choice keeps the peace“:
Yet the reasons to liberate Americans from the monopoly of government-run schooling go beyond educational outcomes and academic success. School choice also promotes peace. Public schools, it is said, bring together children from differing backgrounds and imbue them with the shared values that unite our pluralist society and prevent balkanization. It’s a pretty theory, but it has never been true.
Far from being the glue that holds our communities together, public schooling is too often the wedge that drives them apart. Americans differ profoundly on countless fundamental matters — abortion and guns, gay marriage and Darwinism, immigration and policing, Islam and foreign trade. By definition, a one-size-fits-all public school model — in which school committees decide which messages schools promote, which textbooks are used, and which programs get funded — cannot reflect the views of all parents.
For those who find themselves in the minority, there is no equitable resolution. Either they resign themselves to the indoctrination of their children in ways they don’t approve, or they do battle with other parents or elected officials to change the way their kids are taught, or they pull out of the government-education system altogether, opening their own schools at their own expense while still having to pay for the public schools where their priorities are rejected.
When public schools have a monopoly on education, coercion is inescapable. And where there is coercion, there will be conflict.
More school choice means less educational conflict. Let families choose from a wide array of educational options, and you diminish their impulse to fight over what gets taught and by whom. Winner-take-all is a terrible model for civil society. By contrast, a model built on freedom, pluralism, and equality — a model in which parents have as much leeway to provide for their children’s schooling as they do for their meals, clothing, or religious training — would be immeasurably fairer, and a far better bet for keeping the peace.
Bonus School Choice Flip-Flop Video: Here’s Cory Booker profusely and enthusiastically espousing the significant benefits of school choice in 2012 as the keynote speaker for American Federation for Children at a time when Betsy DeVos was chair of that pro-choice educational organization, read more here at the Daily Signal “Cory Booker, Who Voted Against Betsy DeVos, Previously Spoke to School Choice Group She Led” and see more of Booker’s speech here and see Ian Tuttle’s National Review article about how “Booker has suddenly discovered that he’s against school choice after a career spent promoting it.”
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