Lloyd Brown: School choice harms public schools? The numbers don’t add up
One mill for the schoolkids is on the horizon.

school taxes
Where is the evidence that spending more money on schools produces better education?

One of the strangest notions bandied about in the media is that school choice — giving kids equal opportunity — is somehow “draining money” from public schools.

First, you have to ask: why would that matter even if it were true? Taxpayer money is supposed to go to educate children, not provide well-paid jobs for adults.

Then you would have to ask: Where is the evidence that spending more money on schools produces better education?

Next, you would ask: Why should schools be paid to educate students who are not in their school?

Other questions would include: Isn’t it the parents’ business where their child goes to school? And isn’t it important if the child gets a better education at less cost?

Only 395,726 kids in Florida get school choice with state aid.

Florida TaxWatch compared the traditional district school cost to the cost of charter schools and tax-credit scholarships.

The study found a per-pupil cost for Florida schools of $10,856.

TaxWatch estimated per charter school student funding for 2017-18 to be $7,476. There were 295,214 students last year.

The average maximum scholarship available through the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which allows children from less affluent families to transfer from failing public schools to private schools, was $6,447 for 2017-18. There are 100,512 students this year.

Thus, the total cost to educate them this year is about $2.8 billion.

Compare that to the cost of K-12 schools and it amounts to 10 percent — but a huge saving to taxpayers.

The fact is, charters saved taxpayers $997.8 million in 2017-18, and the tax credit scholarship saved $476.6 million, for a total of $1.47 billion.

That is money the public schools — or more precisely the taxpayers — would have to raise if the voucher students returned to public schools. Adding students to a school increases costs. Subtracting students reduce costs, contrary to what voucher opponents would have you believe.

The idea that school choice is harming public schools is fanciful — and even if true would be far less important than the fact that it is helping children, families and taxpayers.


Lloyd Brown, a former reporter, columnist and editor, is retired but still writing occasionally, for eyeonjacksonville.com, American Thinker and other publications.

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  • Don Goldstein

    April 21, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    The comment about providing “well-paid jobs for adults” doesn’t add up. According to a recent article in the Tampa Bay Times, Florida now ranks 46th in the Nation in teacher’s pay!

  • Jane

    April 21, 2019 at 7:43 pm

    You can’t compare Florida to states like Washington and New York and California where the cost-of-living is considerably higher.

  • Jane

    April 21, 2019 at 7:50 pm

    Charter schools are the best thing that has happened to Florida! School choice is empowering for those parents who value education & want more for their children.

  • Jan

    April 21, 2019 at 8:22 pm

    Here we go again with the “failing schools” argument when, in fact, schools do not fail; students fail, parents fail. After working 35 years in the Florida public schools, I have never seen a student fail who does the classwork first time asked, follows school rules, shows respect, does homework and behaves in class.
    With that said, lets move on to accountability: private schools are not accountable except to their own board of directors and mandatory state standardized testing for public schools is not required. Teachers can be unlicensed and be fired on a whim. They make 1/3 less money, usually without the benefit a union or the state retirement and health plans. Where do you think the better teachers want to teach–public or private schools?
    The bottom line is this: most of the charter and private school teachers I have met would take a job in the public schools if they can get it, which is why the turnover rate for staff in those charters and privates is so high after three years or less.

  • William Foote

    April 22, 2019 at 8:51 am

    School Choice is an elaborate ruse for white well-to-do parents take their kids from being in classroom with black students and having the state/government pay for it. It’s a legislative loop hole through the Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education! Tax Credit Scholarships are another legal method of diverting money,which should be used for public schools into private enterprises parading as educational institutions. Private/Charter schools (the exception was Catholic Schools) did not even appear in this state until public schools became integrated; then all of a sudden in the 1970’s private and so-called “Christian Schools” show up on the landscape. Now they feel through some self-entitlement aka parental choice that their choice to avoid public schools should be rewarded with tax money and tax credits. The more the change the more its the same!

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