No Advantage, Unless You Count Customer Satisfaction and Price

One year after Congress created school vouchers in the District of Columbia, parents are happy to have a choice, although an academic advantage for students who transfer to private schools is not yet apparent. Even if none materializes, the private alternative looks like a bargain: Students who use vouchers each get a scholarship worth $7,500, only half of what D.C. schools spend for each student. Two-thirds of the schools accepting vouchers are run by the Catholic Church, so tuition is presumably subsidized by the church and by teachers who are willing to work for lower pay than the public schools offer. But it's hard to believe this voluntary subsidy (which, regardless of its size, is morally preferable to forcibly extracted taxes) amounts to anything like $7,500 per student.

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  • cls||

    Actually you trusted the press too much on this article.The $7,500 per voucher student is not half of what the city spends per student at state schools. It is 30% of the total. A government education isn't twice as expensive but three times as much. Details on the numnbers can be found at freestudents.blogspot.com

  • ||

    Dollars spent doesn't equal quality.

    If that were the case, government projects would be paragons of reliability and top notch design.

  • ||

    I wonder if it won't take a few years before the handicap of being warehoused in the D.C. school system before going to a private school wears off.

  • ||

    Two-thirds of the schools accepting vouchers are run by the Catholic Church, so tuition is presumably subsidized by the church ...

    Two points:

    1) Comparisons of public school per student spending to private school per student tuition frequently neglect this point. A further question is how big the subsidy is: could the private school be spending even more than the public school? I am not aware of any good data on this but anecdotally I suspect that might often be the case.

    2) It bears observing that the subsidies built-in to private school tuition actually come from somewhere. If the private schools are subsidizing their students by $N thousand per student, and you move 100 public school students to a private school, then the private school either has to raise $(100 x N) thousand in additional donations or raise its tuition.

  • LarryA||

    A further question is how big the subsidy is: could the private school be spending even more than the public school? I am not aware of any good data on this but anecdotally I suspect that might often be the case.

    The Catholic high school in your anecdote spends $12,500. That's less than the DC cost, even at double the $7,500 DC scholarship. And as above, the actual DC cost may be higher. Plus, your cost is high school, which is more expensive than elementary school. The DC costs were K-12.

    Our local Catholic HS spends about 2/3 what our public HS does, with no appreciable difference in the classroom.

  • ||

    The school I picked happens to be in Boston. The public schools in Boston spent about $11,300 per student in FY07, versus $12,500 for this particular Catholic HS in Boston. The point is that while the Catholic school charges a lot less, it is actually spending more, and so there isn't some clear efficiency advantage to the private school. (Putting that another way, the Catholic school may well be spending its money more wisely, but you can't tell that just by looking at the numbers.)

    For an apples-to-apples comparison, you'd need data on what DC private schools actually spend per student.

  • ||

    I'm all for it as long as kids can opt out of being taught nutty ideas about crackers.

  • cls||

    Here are the actual numbers for DC. The school budget for the coming fiscal year is $1.53 billion and the total number of students is 62,110. By my calculations if each got a $7,500 voucher the total would be $566 million which is 30% of the total budget for the year. So it costs just over three times as much to educate a student in the public system as to give him a voucher and send him to a private school.

  • ||

    We prefer "Caucasoid-Americans," plunge.

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