November 17, 2008 10:06AM

New York Can’t Afford NOT to Have School Choice

I wrote recently about the bad economy causing parents to pull their kids from private schools and enroll them in public school; it costs school districts and taxpayers a bundle of money to educate these new kids.

The New York Post reports today that Catholic schools are hemorrhaging students:

In the Archdiocese of New York - which operates schools in Manhattan, Staten Island, The Bronx and northern suburbs - enrollment at elementary and high schools dropped by nearly 6,000 students in one year, to 88,273, officials said.

Those 6,000 students put taxpayers on the hook for another $120 million dollars at New York’s current $20,000 in per-student spending if they go to public school.

Regardless of what you think about educational choice, governments and taxpayers are in no shape to pony up that kind of cash. It’s a lot cheaper to keep those kids in Catholic schools with an education tax credit.

A little more than a quarter of current public per-student spending – $5,500 in tax credit funds – would pay for the entire average Catholic high school tuition. An education tax credit that size would mean a savings of $14,500 for every kid that stays in private school because of the credit. A credit like that might have saved taxpayers more than $80 million if it kept those 6,000 students in the school of their choice.

And that’s just Catholic schools . . . private schools are losing students across the board because many parents can’t afford to pay both school taxes and private tuition in this economy. Every kid they lose is a huge cost to public schools and taxpayers.

A recent Cato fiscal analysis found that a broad-based tax credit could save New York more than $15 billion in the first ten years . . . and that doesn’t even count savings from kids who would otherwise have gone to public schools without the credit.

New York and other states in financial trouble need education tax credits – they can’t afford not to have school choice.