Vouchers Do Not Save Taxpayer Money

In voucher programs, the public schools from which students leave for private voucher schools are spread throughout a school district. The reduction in students from each public school, therefore, is usually negligible and does not decrease operating costs of those public schools. That is one of the reasons why some voucher programs have resulted in multi-million dollar deficits and tax increases.

Proponents often claim that vouchers produce savings because the cost to educate each student in private schools is generally less than the state’s per pupil expenditure for each student in public schools. This, however, does not mean that the state will save money. For one thing, the per-pupil expenditure for public school students cannot be directly translated into the private school setting. In order to properly compare the expenditures in public and private schools, one “must weigh the quality and amount of services provided to all students [in private schools], including: the number and types of students served (e.g. special education, limited English proficient, vocational education); church subsidies and endowments; low-cost facilities and low-wage teachers; and administrative and financial burdens of operating the choice programs.” And, as more students use vouchers to attend private schools, the cost to educate those students in private schools rises, taking away the argument that it is more cost effective to educate a student in private school.

Moreover, many of the costs to educate students in public schools are fixed, and therefore less malleable to changes in student enrollment. As a result of voucher programs public schools “are given less money for programs, leading to a decline in available resources.” In Indiana, the state ran a $53 million deficit during the 2015-2016 school year to support the voucher program. In Milwaukee, which has been disproportionately burdened in a statewide voucher funding scheme, the city has had to raise property taxes several times in order to ensure adequate funding for the city’s schools.