There’s a new report out arguing that even a modest school choice program in South Carolina that improved access to private schools would reduce the dropout rate and lead to significant savings for taxpayers. In covering that study, SC’s State newspaper tells us that
The dominant public education policy debate in the Legislature since 2004 has been whether the state can afford to provide incentives to parents who want to send children to private schools….
Two obvious implications of this sentence are that a school choice program would provide a net fiscal incentive for parents to choose private schools, and that it would add to the net cost of education in SC. Both are false.
At the moment, SC provides an enormous incentive for parents to choose public schooling over private schooling. It spends roughly $10,000 of compulsory tax dollars per pupil per year on families who choose public schools, and nothing on families who choose private schools. The tax credit programs that have been suggested in SC would only moderately reduce that existing incentive to choose public schools. The net financial incentive under such programs would STILL be to choose a public school, because the funding available per pupil would remain larger.
And, as Clemson professor Cotton Lindsay’s fiscal analyses of the SC tax credit proposals showed (see here and here), the programs would actually have saved taxpayers money. Those reported savings, by the way, did not count the fiscal benefit of reducing the dropout rate, which was the subject of the recent State story. So, in fact, the total savings would likely be larger than Lindsay estimated.
Too much to ask that a newspaper called The State would correctly inform readers of these points?