According to the reporting surrounding the revision of the Kansas school finance formula, Kansas is overlooking a sure way to save money and improve Kansas schools: widespread school choice.
While proponents of public school spending argue that school choice programs drain away dollars from what they claim are needy, underfunded public schools, this is not the case.
In 2007 The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice released the study School Choice by the Numbers: The Fiscal Effect of School Choice Programs, 1990-2006. According to the executive summary: “Every existing school choice program is at least fiscally neutral, and most produce a substantial savings.”
How can this be? The public school spending lobby, which in Kansas is primarily the Kansas National Education Association (KNEA, the teachers union) and the Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB), would have us believe that educational freedom would kill public education. They say that school choice program drain scarce resources from the public school system.
But when researchers looked at the actual effects, they found this: “In nearly every school choice program, the dollar value of the voucher or scholarship is less than or equal to the state’s formula spending per student. This means states are spending the same amount or less on students in school choice programs than they would have spent on the same students if they had attended public schools, producing a fiscal savings.”
So at the state level, school choice programs save money. They don’t cost money to implement; they save money.
Further research on school choice programs funded through tax credits confirms this.
At the local level, schools districts have more money, on a per-student basis, when school choice programs are used: “When a student uses school choice, the local public school district no longer needs to pay the instructional costs associated with that student, but it does not lose all of its per-student revenue, because some revenue does not vary with enrollment levels. Thus, school choice produces a positive fiscal impact for school districts as well as for state budgets.”
But according to news reports, the Brownback administration is not proposing school choice programs — not even an expansion of charter schools — as a solution to school finance.