Florida School Boards Association Prepares to File Suit Against Tax Credit

August 27, 2014

Florida census

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Despite the wishes of the parents of 69,000 low-income children, despite the fact that Florida districts improved outcomes substantially during an era of increasing parental options, despite positive third-party academic evaluations of the tax credit program, and despite Census Bureau projections that show that Florida’s district schools will likely face a severe overcrowding problem, the word is out that the Florida School Boards Association is set to file suit against Florida’s tax credit program.  As you can see from the post below, Florida is one of the lower-income states. As you can see from the chart above, both the youth and elderly populations of Florida are set to substantially grow over the next decade and a half.  Elderly people already consume a majority of Medicaid funding, and when your population of 65+ projects to grow from 3.4m to 7.8m you’ve got a huge problem on your hands.

The tax credit program will not begin to solve this problem by itself, but nothing will.  Florida is going to need a series of policy innovations to improve state outcomes while lowering costs to get through this.  Innovations with results **ahem** like the tax credit program.  The average scholarship amount is about half of the public school spending rate. Better still, the third-party academic evaluations by Northwestern economist David Figlio found academic gains for both participating students and for public schools facing higher levels of competition.

If the Florida School Boards Association has a plan to deal with the age demographic storm on the horizon, which includes a projected million plus increase in the size of the K-12 population while the state ages, I would like to know what it is.  Stamp out successful reforms and then cover the playgrounds with trailers and hope for the best?  School districts are always going to be the backbone of the education system in Florida. Funding for education is guaranteed by the Florida Constitution and supported by the public.

Nevertheless, Florida urgently and badly needs improvement and innovation in the public sector, especially in K-12.  This lawsuit represents a step in the wrong direction and more worrying still speaks to a complete lack of either awareness or seriousness about the challenges facing Florida’s future.


Florida Tax Credit Analysis find Participant Gains

August 31, 2011

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

A careful analysis of test score gains by David Figlio of Northwestern University has found a modest but statistically significant gains for Florida tax credit students. The data in this study are messy, and Dr. Figlio admirably goes about sorting through the various issues in an even-handed fashion.

Figlio employs a regression discontinuity design to analyze the data, and his finding of a small but statistically significant academic gain fits quite comfortably with the larger random assignment literature, which find small year to year gains which accumulate over time.

One of the under-appreciated features of the random assignment literature: the studies usually fall apart after three or four years due to attrition in the control group. Our window into the academic benefits of choice is therefore limited. Figlio’s employment of a different analytical technique provides confirms previous findings, and may (?) open the door to longer term assessment. The challenges with the data described in this paper, however, suggest that it may not be easy.

Money quote from the study, with a definite echo of previous random assignment studies:

These differences, while not large in magnitude, are larger and more statistically significant than in the past year’s results, suggesting that successive cohorts of participating students may be gaining ground over time.

Good discussion of the results over at RedefinED, including a discussion of the baseline results (tax credit students are poorer and less Anglo). Emerson also puts this study in the context (Figlio also found positive public school effects associated with the Step Up for Students program).

So, the Step Up for Students program has now been found to help improve public school results, help improve participant academic gains, generates high levels of parental satisfaction. Sounds like a rock solid justification for expansion to me.

 


New Study Links Tax Credit to Florida Public School Gains

June 3, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

A new study by David Figlio links higher gains among Florida public schools with higher levels of competition from the Step Up for Students tax credit program. You can read the St. Pete Times story by Ron Matus here.  Matus wrote:

Figlio emphasized the boost was significant, but modest.

“Anybody looking for a silver bullet has to keep looking,” he said. “What we find is certainly positive and statistically strong, but it’s not like public schools are revolutionizing overnight because of this, either.”

So it turns out that the public school gains associated with a state program with an initial statewide cap of $50m in a state with a multi-billion dollar public school budget were statistically significant but modest. Would it be reasonable to expect anything more from such a modest program? I suggest we scale this public school improvement program up to say a cool billion per year and then measure the impact.

My favorite line in the story comes from a hostile academic:

Another researcher remained skeptical. Stanford labor economist Martin Carnoy, who has studied the impact of vouchers and reviewed the latest study, said Figlio and Hart did “an honest job with the data.”

But here is the real story: even after several years the effect size is TINY,” he wrote in an e-mail. “They are so small that even small downside effects would nullify them, leaving vouchers as mainly an ideological exercise.”

This is one of the more unintentionally hilarious statements I have read in some time. The field of education reform battle is covered with the dead bodies of reforms that show nothing in the way of a statistically significant impact. Increasing per pupil funding, Head Start, teacher certification, almost everything studied by the “What Works” clearinghouse so far, etc. All of these failures cost a great deal of money and deliver nothing in the way of sustained academic gains.

So the state of Florida passes a small law that actually saves the state money and shows a statistically significant and small result of improving public schools, and we are supposed to wring our hands and despair because something bad could come along and nullify the gains? Ummmmm, no.

First of all, nothing bad did come along and nullify the gains- quite the opposite. This program was only a part of the strategy to increase parental choice in Florida. That strategy also includes charter schools, McKay vouchers and virtual schooling- all of which either already are or soon will be much larger programs than Step Up for Students.

Second, the parental choice strategy was itself a part of a larger effort to improve Florida public schools. Parental choice reinforced the central K-12 reform of grading schools A-F. Transparency, rewards for success, consequences for failure formed the core of the Florida strategy.

Did it work?

The Step Up for Students program played a contributing role in Florida’s symphony of success rather than “destroying public education.”  This is what Milton Friedman argued all along. Bravo- the obvious conclusion to draw is to push both parental choice and public school reform still further in Florida and elsewhere.


Florida School Choice Rally

April 8, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Another video of the largest parental choice rally in history. A final vote on the Step Up for Students expansion is expected today:

UPDATE The Florida House has passed the tax credit expansion with a strong bipartisan majority, gaining  the support of 20 of the 43 House Democrats present, including the support of the ranking Democrat on the Education Policy Council. It also was supported by 11 of 18 Black Caucus members voting.


Newscast from the Florida Rally

March 25, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)


Florida on the March!

March 24, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

To go along with Florida’s great news from NAEP, comes this from Florida parental choice champion John Kirtley:

Today 5,500 low income parents and children travelled to the distant Florida capitol of Tallahassee to show their support of parental choice, and their support of our bill to dramatically expand the tax credit scholarship program for low income children.  Some of them took buses all night long to attend our rally, and their numbers set a national record for a parental choice rally. We conducted a headcount as they stepped off ninety eight 55-passenger buses this morning, and the total was 5,115. Another 406 arrived in cars for a grand total of 5,500. 
                                                                                                                                                                                       
But the numbers weren’t the only story. The lineup of speakers who endorsed our the bill included the acting president of the national Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the civil rights organization founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Also endorsing the bill was the President of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and a group of South Florida Hispanic public school teachers. This is far from the typical story line for a rally supporting parental choice, and shows that in Florida this learning option for low-income students has achieved critical levels of bipartisan support.

Here is what Rep. James Bush, representing the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, told the crowd: 

It is no coincidence that the first African-American to live in the White House is a man with an Ivy League degree, and just last summer President Obama made a powerful point about our history. There’s a reason, our President said, the story of the civil rights movement was written in our schools.  There’s a reason, he said, that Thurgood Marshall took up the cause of Linda Brown.  There’s a reason, he said, why the Little Rock Nine defied a governor and a mob. It’s because, President Obama told us, there is no stronger weapon against inequality and no better path to opportunity than an education that can unlock a child’s God-given potential.

I say to you today that the Tax Credit Scholarship program is one of the keys we use to unlock that potential. It is one way we can reach some of those children who go to bed hungry at night. It is one way we show that an empty pocketbook doesn’t have to mean an empty bookshelf – that all our learning tools need to be on the table for all our children.

I am here today as a messenger of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and I am here to proudly proclaim that the organization created by Dr. King believes that a scholarship for low-income children is one way to break the cycle and close the gap. I am here, standing before this inspiring sea of hopeful faces, to announce that the Southern Christian Leadership Conference endorses Tax Credit Scholarships and endorses the bill this year that will expand them. This is our future. God bless you all.

Florida Senate approved a major expansion of the Step Up for Students tax credit by a vote of 27-11. One quarter of the Democrats voted in favor.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,579 other followers