Friday, August 3, 2012

Government School Overhead, and Other Matters

A recent letter of mine to the NJ Star-Ledger was published under the heading Voucher Economics. It was a response to an op-ed by former NJ governor Jim Florio in which he took opposition to the proposed Opportunity Scholarship Act, a tax credit-based voucher program for poor children. My letter, which was previously published on this blog, dealt with one of his criticisms. 

A correspondent left the following comment:

Lowie July 07, 2012 at 7:20PMRe: Voucher Economics
   Michael LaFerrara makes the reasonable assumption that when we remove a child from a public school classroom we are also "relieving the government of the expense of educating that child." Makes sense, right? But in reality, the school still has to heat that classroom, pay for the lights in that classroom, pay a teacher to lead that classroom, etc. -- so it doesn't actually result in the 1:1 cost savings one might assume at first glance.
   Mr. LaFerrara also assumes that each voucher "removes one child from the public schools." But upon closer inspection of the bill itself ( ), one finds that the voucher eligibility requirements also "would include those currently enrolled in a nonpublic school". In other words, certain students who are already attending private or parochial schools would begin receiving vouchers under this program.
   And we haven't even mentioned the "administrative fees" associated with the voucher program. During the first five years of the pilot program alone, the targeted public school districts will be required to pay $9,850,000 (yes, nearly 10 million dollars) in administrative fees to a "scholarship organization" selected by the state to administer the voucher program. Yes, really -- the public school districts will be forced to pay an outside contractor millions of dollars to administer a voucher program for students who are not attending the public schools. Hmmm, perhaps that's where we will find the "windfall" Mr. LaFerrara believes will result from this private school voucher program.

I responded:

zemack July 08, 2012 at 3:24PM 
   The government school’s overhead is irrelevant. If a parent chooses to not send her child to the public system, the government has no more claim on the lost revenue than General Motors has on the wallet of the buyer of a Ford. Should the buyer of the Ford be responsible for GM’s utility and salary costs? The public schools should deal with their excess overhead just as any private business would when faced with a loss of sales to a competitor.
   As to students “currently enrolled in a nonpublic school,” the Scholarship Act would simply correct a grave injustice perpetrated against the parents who are forced to pay for public schools they choose not to avail themselves of. In fact, tax credits should be available to any parent or taxpayer that sponsors any child’s private school education.
   As to the “administrative fees,” I do not approve of this aspect of the program. This is a matter between the donating corporation, the parents, and the private school. There should be no “‘scholarship organization’ selected by the state to administer the voucher program.”
   [As a matter of disclosure, I am the author of the letter and of this article:]


Education Tax Credits Are Not Government Subsidies 

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