Marcus Winters on School Choice Savings


(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Since we’re on a money kick this week, let’s combine that theme with education (this blog is still about education, right?) and note that our friend Marcus Winters has an article on NRO today on how vouchers save money.

For those looking to dig deeper, here’s an analysis of the fiscal impact of every school choice program from 1990 through 2006. Every program was at least fiscally neutral, and most saved money.

3 Responses to Marcus Winters on School Choice Savings

  1. Parry says:


    A couple questions occurred to me while reading Winters’ piece. These questions have probably been addressed previously on this blog, but I would appreciate a point in the proper direction.

    First, in the voucher studies that have been conducted, has it been found whether or not the students leaving public schools (i.e., the ones actually using the vouchers) mirror the general public ed population of their districts? In other words, if a district is 50% Free/Reduced, 35% minority, and 15% special ed, do the students taking the vouchers usually mirror those demographics? If the leaving population mirrors the larger population, then it seems the money issue is a wash. But if the leaving population has a higher percentage of “harder to teach” students (i.e., higher percentage F/R, higher percentage minority, and/or higher percentage special ed), then that might mean a net savings for the district (assuming that “harder to teach” students cost the system more in real dollars, and assuming that voucher money is not allocated on a weighted system). Conversely, if the leaving population has a lower proportion of “harder to teach” students, then that might mean a net loss for the district (with the same assumptions). Note: I recognize that there are different ways of defining “harder to teach” students, and that an F/R, minority, or special ed student is not necessarily “harder to teach”, i.e., I’m making some assumptions about the aggregate “teachability” of different student sub-groups.

    Second, Winters makes two separate points in the article that seem to be connected, but he doesn’t formally connect them. He says that voucher programs for disabled students in Florida cost less than the public ed programs that serve those students. He also says that research studies generally find that voucher programs “offer at least some academic benefit to the students who use them”. Are there any studies that specifically focus on the academic outcomes of disabled students participating in voucher programs? Were disabled students included in the studies he’s citing? He doesn’t specifically say whether the voucher programs for disabled students led to similar or improved results than their public education counterparts, just that they cost less.



    • Greg Forster says:

      1) Right now, most voucher programs (as distinct from tax-credit scholarship programs) are limited to populations that are definitely harder to teach than the average student. There are not a lot of places where suburban kids can use vouchers (although there are a few).

      2) I know of only two empirical studies looking at outcomes for disabled students from vouchers. The first is one that Jay and I did a while back finding that disabled students got better services for their disabilities and had better non-academic outcomes – most striking was the dramatic reduction in abuse from other students. But we did not have access to data on academic outcomes that would allow us to include those. The other study is one that Jay and Marcus did last year finding that among the students who remain in public schools, competition from vouchers had a positive effect on academic outcomes.

  2. Parry says:

    Thanks Greg!

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