Supporters say "This Here Study Says Everything Will Be OK"

Summary

When advocates for the Education Tax Credit program begin citing studies, you have two choices - look closely or disregard them entirely.

When you look closely, you find that:

  • the studies looked at programs that differ in important ways from New Hampshire's program, 
  • they don't really say what they are purported to say,and 
  • the attribution is incorrect
    • "This study by the Florida Department of Education says that competition is good for public schools."  It is not by by the Florida DOE and it does not show that voucher competition has been good for Florida schools.   Our analysis is here.
    • "This here Harvard study shows how low income kids automatically benefit from a voucher program."  It is not a "Harvard study" and it shows nothing about low income students.  Our analysis is here.

Detail

There are two classic problems with the studies the consultants use to assure legislators that New Hampshire's Education Tax Credit program will have the desired benefits and work just fine: 

  • The studies do not apply to New Hampshire because the program they studied was so different.
  • The one liner the advocates use to summarize what the study shows is not actually supported by the study when you look closely.

There is no real parallel between the Education Tax Credit program proposed in SB 372/HB 1607 and the variety of voucher and ETC programs in other states. There is little similarity in size, program design, financial structure, educational situation or purpose among these many programs.

Vouchers and ETCs are a small part of the American educational framework.  Out of 50 million students in the US., there were 11 school voucher programs with 67,267 students last year.   There were 9 ETC programs with 122,972 students.  This is a marginal and, if anything, stalled movement.

Those that do exist vary widely:

Arizona has 3 small ETC programs, 2 for special purposes, with less that 3% of their students participating. In its corporate ETC program, Arizona requires full academic accountability and public reporting from its participating schools.

Florida’s programs - 1 voucher and one ETC - are for children with disabilities. And they require full public accountability from their participating private schools.

Georgia has a tiny voucher program for children with special needs and an ETC program strictly for children coming from public schools. Out of 1.6 million public school children in Georgia - 8 times the number in New Hampshire - only 6,000 participate, fewer than the proposed first year of the NH program.

Indiana has 1,000,000 public school children, of which 219 are in their highly publicized program. It is targeted to poor children who must have been in a public school. They can go to a public school out of their own district and get $4,500 scholarships. Indiana requires standardized testing in the participating private schools.

Pennsylvania has 9 times as many school children as New Hampshire and, after 10 years, has 38,000 children participating in an ETC program. Pennsylvania defeated a voucher proposal this year.

Then there are the big city programs that all the studies have tracked. They are targeted at manifestly troubled school systems and are part of a real effort to improve the public schools.

After 16 years, Cleveland’s program has 5,000 students, out of a total student population of 50,000. They target low income children exclusively and pay 90% of the tuition. And they require accountability.

The Washington DC started in 2004 and has 1,000 students in 2011, out of 44,000 total students. The program is targeted to low income families and gives up to $7,500 in scholarship. It has been studied extensively and has full academic accountability.

New Orleans has 1,000 children who must be poor and from an unacceptable school.

New Jersey and Tennessee have not been able to get a law passed.  And whenever a vouchers program is put to a state-wide vote, it is voted down.  Vouchers failed to pass in California, Michigan and Utah, though UT has a little program for kids with disabilities.

New Hampshire is running headlong into its proposed ETC with fast changing legislation and a program that is larger in proportion to its population of children than any other state program.  The extensive advocacy literature from all these other programs has no relevance in New Hampshire.

Exhibit A for all this is the famous "Florida study, funded by the Florida Department of Education, that shows that competition from ETC programs lead to improvements in public education."  That study does not exist.  Here's the story.