School Choice Advancing in Nation, but Not in NY *

In Breaking News by Hal Peterson0 Comments

School choice gives parents a measure of control over the quality of their child’s education. Every Choice program uses an amount of money that’s far less than the amount spent per public school pupil. Hence, school choice not only benefits all students, but also benefits all taxpayers.

School choice can take several forms:
(1) vouchers/scholarships provided to parents for their child’s education set well below public school cost/student.
(2) scholarships funded by donations for which tax credits are given to donors
(3) tax credits or deductions given to parents who fund their child’s education.

Today, 12 states provide vouchers, 11 provide tax credit scholarships & 6 provide tax credits or deductions for school expenses. Over 1 million students now benefit from these programs, saving taxpayers billions of dollars per year. But NYS is not one of these states !

The NYS Senate commissioned a study in 1991 to look at ways privatization could save taxpayers money. Their findings were published in various newspapers, incl. the NY Times, (11/24/91). Their most significant finding for NY taxpayers was “full parental choice in education”, with annual savings of $4 billion per year. Today those savings would be about $8 billion/year!

But NY has powerful government unions, with teacher unions the most powerful. Most NY legislators are fearful of these unions and so refuse to act in the best interests of students and taxpayers. Low income students would especially benefit from parental choice in education, as shown in numerous studies.

The NY Senate has been open to tax credit legislation enabling school choice and recently voted overwhelmingly for such a plan. But the NY Assembly, with Democrats holding a large majority under Sheldon Silver’s leadership, puts teacher union interests above those of students and taxpayers. Silver refused to allow a vote.
Educational quality in NY is mediocre, as measured by the well respected NAEP tests. But we spend more per student than any other state — about $20,000/pupil. NY is also the highest taxed state in the nation.

Parental choice in education would help all students, including those remaining in the public schools, as shown by the 20 year old Milwaukee choice program. The public schools had to improve or lose students to private schools. So not only did students who opted to go to private/religious schools benefit, but soon afterwards Milwaukee’s public school students also improved. And, since vouchers are set below the cost per public school student, everyone wins—students AND taxpayers. But NY Assembly Democrats won’t even allow a vote.

* Column printed in entirety with the approval of the American Family Association of NY – Spring 2013 Newsletter.

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