US News and World Report Gets it Wrong

US News and World Report contributing editor Bonnie Erbe writes that “school vouchers… have already drained federal tax coffers of hundreds of millions of dollars.” With all due respect, this is not true.

There is only one federal school voucher program, in Washington, DC. That program is serving fewer than 2,000 children with an average voucher amount below $6,000, for an annual price tag under $12 million. It is in its fifth year of operation. Perhaps Ms. Erbe can explain to her readers how 5 * $12 million can be made to exceed $100 million?

Of course, even if the value of the vouchers to date did exceed $100 million, that wouldn’t mean it had “drained federal coffers” as Erbe claims. That’s because, as I wrote in the Washington Post and on this website, DC’s public schools spent $24,600 per pupil in 2007-08 – more than four times the average voucher cost. Much of the DC school system’s budget comes from the federal government, and the DC voucher program is saving taxpayers a great deal of money for every child it serves in place of the exorbitant district schools.

Ms. Erbe’s misrepresentation of the cost of federal vouchers calls into question the reliability of the US News and World Report. A correction is in order.