The economics of school choice: political rhetoric on the tree, missing the forest

Jason Bedrick and Corey DeAngelis

That $900 mil­lion is barely 2% of to­tal Ari­zona state spend­ing of $80.5 bil­lion in 2022. Ari­zona pub­lic schools spend about $14,000 per pupil, or $1.4 bil­lion for 100,000 stu­dents. If the de­part­ment’s en­roll­ment pro­jec­tion is reached, school choice would serve roughly 8% of Ari­zona’s stu­dents for 6% of the $15 bil­lion that Ari­zona will spend on pub­lic schools.

A new re­port by the Com­mon Sense In­sti­tute finds that “cur­rent en­roll­ment in Ari­zona pub­lic dis­trict and char­ter schools com­bined is over 80,000 stu­dents be­low pre-pan­demic pro­jec­tions,” pro­duc­ing a sav­ings of $639 mil­lion. Ari­zona’s pop­u­la­tion is grow­ing, so the vast ma­jor­ity of those stu­dents left for pri­vate or home schools, for which they could avail them­selves of Ari­zona’s two pri­vate choice poli­cies. In ad­di­tion to the 58,000 stu­dents us­ing ed­u­ca­tion sav­ings ac­counts, last year school tu­ition or­ga­ni­za­tions is­sued more than 32,000 tax-credit schol­ar­ships.

The at­tacks on school choice are more than a pub­lic re­la­tions cam­paign. When Ms. Hobbs’s bud­get re­tained last year’s school-choice ex­pan­sion, Ari­zona’s At­tor­ney Gen­eral Kris Mayes used the “bank­rupt the state” talk­ing point as a pre­text to threaten a law­suit. In a pub­lic let­ter to Ms. Hobbs and the Leg­is­la­ture, Ms. Mayes de­cried the “cat­astrophic drain on state re­sources caused by uni­ver­sal Em­pow­er­ment Schol­ar­ship Ac­counts.” She later went on tele­vi­sion and threat­ened to in­ves­ti­gate par­tic­i­pat­ing fam­i­lies for “waste, fraud, and abuse.”

Interesting “Wisconsin Watch” choice school coverage and a very recent public school article

“Well, it’s kind of too bad that we’ve got the smartest people at our universities, and yet we have to create a law to tell them how to teach.”

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?