The Fiscal Effects of School Choice Programs on Public School Districts, Friedman Foundation, 3/2012

posted Mar 4, 2012, 3:03 PM by Bill Duncan

DNHPE Comment

The paper is available at the link above.  The first thing to realize is that this is not a "study" - it is an extended argument such as you might have in a bar, with some high level numbers added. 

Here is the question it sets out for itself:

"If a significant number of students left a
public school district for any reason from
one year to the next, then is it feasible for the
district to reduce some of its expenditures
commensurate with the decrease in its
                                student population?" (page 2)

Here is the concrete example it postulates:

"In Cleveland in FY 2010, 11.3 percent of
students exercised school choice with a voucher,
while in Milwaukee 19.7 percent of students used
a voucher." (p. 8)

"As APS [Atlanta Public Schools] was losing 6.57 percent of its students, it 
decreased its teacher force by 6.84 percent. (p. 12)

"After losing 5.3 percent of students
from one year to the next, Hancock County was
able to reduce its teaching staff by 8.8 percent." (p. 15)

It says, "If 
public schools lose students and funding, they could 
choose to lay off the least effective teachers.  
remaining students would be reassigned to more 
effective teachers, which would lead of a significant 
improvement in their academic achievement.
" (P.2)

Really, that's what it says.  The author goes on to say, "The United States’ average spending per student was $12,450 in 2008-09. I estimate that 36 percent of these costs can be considered fixed costs in the short run. The remaining 64 percent, or $7,967 per student, are found to be variable costs, or costs that change with student enrollment."  He back up this assertion by stipulating on page 16 that he will consider the following categories of funding variable expenses:

• Instruction
• Student Support
• Instructional Staff Support
• Enterprise Operations
• Food Service

In fact, this article does make the obvious point that, if the proposed New Hampshire voucher plan grew as the legislation provides for, and 10 years from now succeeded in reducing the enrollment in New Hampshire public schools by 20%, the school systems would indeed shrink dramatically.

But the real question for New Hampshire legislators is why would the sponsors of the New Hampshire voucher bill promote this article at all?  Their whole case is about how small the proposed voucher program is.  Are they suggesting that New Hampshire's school districts will lost 11% of their students, or 19.7%.