Choice, but for who

A couple of recent stories have highlighted how damaging the current school "choice" scheme is. Proponents of choice like to concentrate on the few that might benefit, but seem to willfully fail to acknowledge the many that suffer as a consequence. Only 5% of Ohio's students go to a charter school, yet they received 10% of the state funding.

This phenomena gets worse when one looks at the newly created special needs vouchers, as Stephen Dyer explains

The voucher is geared toward special education children and is not means tested. It provides up to $20,000 for a student to attend a private school. That money, by the way, comes out of the state aid meant for the child's district of residence.

The bill was introduced twice during my time in the House, and my argument was that it earmarked up to 1/3 of the state's special education money to serve 3% of the special needs children in this state. This, of course, left 97% of the state's special needs children with 2/3 of the money.

Does that sound right to anyone? Can even proponents of "choice" support this untenable situation? We suspect many of them do, because the agenda of many appears not to be about choice, but about subsidizing private education, and the data bears this out. In Cincinnati for example, 199 students were enrolled in this voucher scheme, yet

Cincinnati Public, for instance, said that only 15 of its Peterson voucher recipients are switching to a private school. Most of the other recipients live in the district but already attend private schools or are kindergartners, said Pat Cleveland, CPS’ manager of non-public schools special education services.

We are diverting millions of dollars of tax payer money to subsidize parents who have already enrolled their children into private schools. As a consequence, the children being served by their local public schools see their revenues drop, causing their educational opportunities to be diminished.

As if that isn't bad enough, one set of private school parents have decided to sue their local school district so their children can ride redirected public school buses to school. There seems no end to the entitlement of the few at the expense of the many.

But the problems don't stop there. The CATO Institute, a right wing think tank, has recently published a study that demonstrates the increase in "choice" via charter schools is having adverse effects beyond public schools.

Charter schools are changing public and private school enrollment patterns across the United States. This study analyzes district-level enrollment patterns for all states with charter schools, isolating how charter schools affect traditional public and private school enrollments after controlling for changes for the socioeconomic, demographic, and economic conditions in each district.

While most students are drawn from traditional public schools, charter schools are pulling large numbers of students from the private education market and present a potentially devastating impact on the private education market, as well as a serious increase in the financial burden on taxpayers.

Private school enrollments are much more sensitive to charters in urban districts than in non-urban districts. Overall, about 8 percent of charter elementary students and 11 percent of middle and high school students are drawn from private schools. In highly urban districts, private schools contribute 32, 23, and 15 percent of charter elementary, middle, and high school enrollments, respectively. Catholic schools seem particularly vulnerable, especially for elementary students in large metropolitan areas.

The flow of private-school students into charters has important fiscal implications for districts and states. When charters draw students from private schools, demands for tax revenue increase. If governments increase educational spending, tax revenues must be increased or spending in other areas reduced, or else districts may face pressures to reduce educational services. The shift of students from private to public schools represents a significant shift in the financial burdens for education from the private to the public sector.

Parents of private school students can save a lot of money by enrolling their children in quasi-private charter schools - placing additional burdens on public schools, tax payers and some private schools.

This system of the few benefiting at the expense of the many needs to be reversed. No child's education should come at the expense of others, yet that is exactly what is happening in Ohio right now, thanks to school "choice" proponents and their legislative supporters.