School Choice Myth: Vouchers Are Too Expensive For Taxpayers

Choice scholarships (vouchers) are a good deal for Indiana taxpayers.

Opponents of school choice argue that choice scholarships are too expensive for taxpayers. But the fact is public schools use more tax dollars per student than private schools, making the School Choice Scholarship a better use of taxpayer money.

Public-school costs are on the rise, increasing from an average of $10,969 per student in 2011 to $11,843 per student in 2016. Because the average cost to educate a child in a private school in Indiana is around $6,600, and because choice scholarships never pay that full cost, school choice saves tax dollars.

Each Indiana Choice Scholarships covers only 50 to 90 percent of the average cost of private school tuition in Indiana, costing much less per student than public schools.

The average Choice Scholarship value in 2016–17 for 90 percent was $5,618 and for 50 percent was $3,032, far less than the $11,843_ average cost per student in our public schools.

The math still works even when a student receives the maximum choice scholarship amount. Students from lower-income families—those who are eligible for 100 percent free or reduced lunches—can receive a choice scholarship for no more than 90 percent of their public school’s per-pupil funding. Indiana Choice Scholarships are always less than public-school costs. Choice scholarships return high value for the taxpayer’s dollar.  

Studies in other states have also shown that vouchers save money when compared with costs to educate the same child in a public school. In the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, Robert Costrell studied the financial results of using Choice Scholarships and found that in 2008, vouchers are providing an estimated benefit of $32 million.

To this equation, we must also add the value of giving parents a choice. Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program lets parents decide where their child will attend school—and where the child’s educational dollars go.

Without choice scholarships, low-income families wouldn’t have any other choice than their assigned public school. Indiana’s School Choice Program offers these families an opportunity once available only to wealthy households. School choice empowers lower-income families to have a voice and make a decision about where their children attend school. For parents, that option is priceless. For our state, it’s a matter of social justice.

Shouldn’t all Hoosier families, including the most needy, have the opportunity to choose the school that best fits their child’s needs—whether it’s a public school, charter school, or private school? School choice levels the playing field by making educational choice available to all parents, regardless of income.

There are some special interests that want to take away that choice, and turn back the clock on Indiana’s voter-approved and court-tested choice scholarhip program. We must not let that happen. Indiana voters must zealously guard the freedom of parents to direct the education of their children.

Let’s keep a level playing field for all families. The Indiana Choice Scholarship Program benefits students because they give all families, regardless of ZIP code or income level, the opportunity to choose their school.