ON-Lion Letter

Under the proposed statewide expansion of the school-choice program, public schools will actually have more revenue per existing student if students leave the district for the choice program, concludes a June report from the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) in Milwaukee.  Will Expansion of School Choice Make Public School Districts Worse Off? directly challenges popular misconceptions about the sky falling on public education due to choice expansion.

The report analyzes the fiscal impact of the proposed statewide expansion of the successful school-voucher program, as approved by the state legislature's Joint Committee on Finance (JFC).  It concludes that while the departure of students from public schools to the statewide school-choice program has the effect of lowering the total revenue for school districts, school districts will actually have more revenue per student when this occurs.  In other words, while the overall size of the district's pie shrinks a bit, the size of each slice that students who remain in the district receive gets bigger.  The analysis demonstrates that a school district that "loses" a student who voluntarily chooses to use a voucher to enroll in a private school is actually rewarded with a "school-choice bonus."

WILL's education policy director CJ Szafir and WILL economist Marty Lueken conducted the analysis after the JFC recently proposed several reforms to K-12 funding, which includes the statewide expansion of the voucher program.

"When we reviewed the policy and funding changes proposed by JFC and analyzed the data, we realized that what we were looking at clearly ran contrary to many of the popular talking points being used by opponents of the voucher program," Szafir said.  "Districts will actually be compensated for children that they do not educate."

Because the districts can count the departing child for revenue-limit purposes and the revenue limit for each district is greater than the voucher amount, the voucher expansion results in school districts keeping some revenue when a student uses a voucher -- even though the district no longer educates the student.

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee substantially supports WILL.

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