WILL Analysis Shows a “Choice Bonus” For Districts Losing Students to Statewide Voucher Program
Report debunks talking point that voucher expansion makes public schools worse off
June 12, 2015 – Milwaukee, WI – Under the proposed statewide expansion of the school choice program, public schools will actually have more revenue per existing student if students leave the district for the choice program. That is the conclusion of a new report by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, and it directly challenges popular misconceptions about the sky falling on public education due to choice expansion.
The report analyzes the fiscal impact of the proposed statewide expansion of the successful school voucher program, as approved by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance. It concludes that while the departure of students from public schools to the statewide school choice program has the effect of lowering the total revenue for school districts, school districts will actually have more revenue per student when this occurs. In other words, while the overall size of the district’s pie shrinks a bit, the size of each slice that students who remain in the district receive gets bigger. Our analysis demonstrates that a school district that “loses” a student who voluntarily chooses to use a voucher to enroll in a private school is actually rewarded with a “school choice bonus.”
WILL’s Education Policy Director CJ Szafir and WILL economist Marty Lueken, Ph.D. conducted the analysis after the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance recently proposed several reforms to K-12 funding, which includes the statewide expansion of the voucher program.
Attorney Szafir noted, “When we reviewed the policy and funding changes proposed by JFC and analyzed the data, we realized that what we were looking at clearly ran contrary to many of the popular talking points being used by opponents of the voucher program. Districts will actually be compensated for children that they do not educate.”
Because the districts can count the departing child for revenue limit purposes – and the revenue limit for each district is greater than the voucher amount, the voucher expansion results in school districts keeping some revenue when a student uses a voucher – even though the district no longer educates the student.
This report follows recent analyses by WILL that also challenged conventional wisdom; Diminishing Returns questioned the efficacy of increased spending on education, and Growth and Gaps showed that independent charter schools exceeded traditional public schools at closing student achievement gaps.
The full report and data are available upon request.