School Choice Myth: Vouchers Hurt Public School Budgets

With Choice Scholarships, public-school funding has gone up.

One of the myths of school choice is that Choice Scholarships, or “vouchers,” hurt public-school budgets by unfairly channeling money away from public schools. But in fact, since Choice Scholarships were first introduced in Indiana in 2011, most public schools have received funding increase.

Between 2011 and 2016, Indiana’s public schools received an 8 percent boost in per-pupil funding. Per student funding increased from $10,969 per student in 2011 to $11,843 in 2016. While some school corporations have experienced budget fluctuations, most of these challenges are due to funding-formula changes having nothing to do with school choice.  (2017 data not available until April 2018)

The average cost to educate a child in a private school in Indiana is about $6,600. Under state law, Choice Scholarships, or vouchers, can cover 50 to 90 percent of that amount, depending on the household income of the participating child. The average Choice Scholarship value in 2016–17 for 90 percent was $5,618 and for 50 percent was $3,032 (this number is an average based on elementary schools and high schools), far less than the cost per pupil in a public school. It’s easy to see why Indiana taxpayers see value in choice scholarships. (2017 data not available until April 2018)

In all the public debate over these programs, it’s important to remember that children are more than line items in government budgets. First and foremost, they are students who deserve the best education possible. Indiana’s choice scholarship program empowers low- and middle-income parents to make choices about where their children are educated—and how some of their state education dollars are spent.

We can all agree that the real argument isn’t about budgets and buildings. Hoosier kids deserve the best education possible. Parents deserve the opportunity to choose the best schools for their kids—public or private.