Tag: dc opportunity scholarships

Sell Crazy Someplace Else. We’re All Stocked Up Here.

Homo sapiens evolved to deal with a natural world governed by consistent, predictable physical laws—so it stands to reason that when we fill our days studying public policy, we might occasionally become overwhelmed by all the crazy. It seems I was thus overhwelmed yesterday, when I blogged about the savings from Washington, DC’s private school choice program, forgetting about a backroom deal that was required to secure its passage.

While the vouchers only cost $14 million per year over the course of the initial five year trial, school choice advocates had to commit to spending an extra $13 million on DC public schools each year, as a palliative to local public school and political leaders. Some might consider this political payoff an additional “cost” of the voucher program, thereby reducing the program’s net savings. That would be a mistake. This payoff was just yet another cost of operating a state school monopoly whose rent-seeking masters demand to be financially appeased if even a few of “their” students are emancipated. It is at that system’s feet that these costs should be laid.

So, after reflecting on this particular bit of crazy, I’ll stick with the DC voucher savings estimate I offered yesterday.

By Grapthar’s Hammer… What a Savings

Researchers Patrick Wolf and Michael McShane write in the National Review Online today that the DC Opportunity Scholarships Program saves money. They estimate that the ultimate net savings from the private school choice program’s initial 5 year trial period will amount to $113 million ($183 million in savings set against a cost of $70 million). That’s good news, but I, like Alan Rickman’s character in Galaxy Quest, am somewhat ambivalent about this savings figure.

The trouble is that the real savings are substantially greater, because the above estimate doesn’t seem to take into account not having to pay for these students to attend DC public schools (which would have been necessary, without the private school scholarship program). And as readers of this blog may remember, DC spends a whole lotta money on its public schools. Just shy of $30,000 per student, per year in fact. Assuming that the average program enrollment during the trial period was 1,500 students, it saved taxpayers an additional… $225 million. Added to the Wolf/McShane figure, the total savings is $338 million—for just a tiny program.

By Grapthar’s Hammer, that IS a savings!