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Do Vouchers Hurt Reform?

Will system-wide reform suffer if we provide vouchers, tax credit scholarships, or education savings accounts to public school students?


Given the frequent departure of middle and upper-class students from the public system (to either charters or private schools), there is some concern that offering scholarships to low-income students would drain the current system entirely. The fact of the matter is that the system needs to be reformed regardless of whether students stay or leave, but let’s say for a moment that all students in the public system were suddenly given some kind of voucher, scholarship, or education savings account and they left their respective districts…

Ok, so what? The state would be saving a ton of money and the districts would be forced to restructure. What came out of that restructuring would inevitably be more efficient than what currently exists. But the reality is that the districts would never fully empty, and there is evidence from the Florida voucher STC system showing that the districts’ remaining low-income kids might actually perform better as students left. This is because those district schools would fear more student flight and revamp their own programs to meet the competition (not to mention, they can also manage smaller classrooms better). The effect is that both sets of low-income students (those remaining in the district and those utilizing vouchers elsewhere) benefit.

Also of note regarding the Florida STC system is that (once again) it proves that school choice does not “cream” the best students. In fact, just like inner-city charter school students, most STC beneficiaries are low-income/at-risk students. This is the complete opposite of creaming.