Jonathan Butcher

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

Posted on February 12, 2013 | Author: Jonathan Butcher
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Last week the Arizona Republic criticized SB 1285 and bill sponsor Sen. Kelli Ward for wanting to “reduce already-scarce resources for teaching poor kids to ensure parents know they can enroll their children in private schools.”

The bill would require the Arizona Department of Education to create a how-to guide for families on how to choose the best education for their child, either through open enrollment (another name for choosing a public school outside your home district), a public charter school, an education savings account, homeschooling, a virtual school, or a private school scholarship.

The Republic claims the estimated $1.5 million that would go to creating the handbook should be saved by taxpayers and used at public schools.

This analysis is backwards, and off by about $410 million.

In fact, school choice programs save the state money in a big way. Charter schools save the taxpayer $1,578 per child because charter schools receive less funding per student than traditional schools. With 142,386 charter school students, that means charters save the state $225 million each year over traditional schools.

In addition, the state’s innovative education savings accounts are funded at 90 percent of the state portion of student funding. With 302 savings account students and an average account of $13,600 (all current students are students with special needs), this program saves the state $500,000.

But wait, there’s more.

The Republic’s own analysis of Arizona’s private school scholarships funded by tax credit donations found that these scholarships saved the state $8.3 million over nine years, while a Baylor University professor puts the savings anywhere from $44 million to $186 million annually.

For those of you keeping score, that means, at a minimum, charter schools, education savings accounts, and private school scholarships save the state $226.5 million each year. At the top end, based on these figures, the state saves $411.5 million per year.

Yet the paper is grousing about $1.5 million to help parents find the best school for their child? We should make sure children get a great education—at their local school, another school across town, through an education savings account—whatever it takes. Letting parents know they have options is a critical first step.

Learn more:

Goldwater Institute: Education Savings Accounts: Questions and Answers

Goldwater Institute: Tax Credit Scholarships: Questions and Answers

Arizona Legislature: SB1285

Arizona Republic: Keep resources in needy schools

Arizona Republic: Professor puts savings for state at up to $186 million

East Valley Tribune: Program for special needs students expected to double

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