Colorado Voucher Bogeyman Story Makes Me Laugh… and Ask Serious Questions
Update: Thanks to quick help from staff at the Colorado Dept. of Education, I can tell you that Colorado public school agencies spent $7.9 million in 2008-09, and at least $6.9 million in 2009-10, on “tuition paid to private schools or non-approved agencies.” Now to figure out if that changes the nuance of CEA’s opposition to a private school tax credit program.
Hey, there, don’t look now, but I think there’s something behind you… like the bogeyman!! Not really, it’s just the impression I got from reading yesterday’s Colorado Independent story titled “Colorado private school vouchers are back, disguised as tax credits.” (H/T Complete Colorado) You’ve got to watch out for those pesky vouchers in disguise. You never know what they might sneak around to do: haunt your house (Vouchergeist!), drink your blood (Vouchers or Vampires?), or worst of all, maybe steal some of your Legos!
About that story in the Independent, guess what? Did you know that teachers unions and public school establishment groups are opposed to private school choice? I had no idea before reading it that groups like the Colorado Education Association or Colorado Association of School Boards might not like Rep. Spencer Swalm and Sen. Kevin Lundberg’s House Bill 1048 (PDF), which would provide modest relief in the form of tax credits for families who pay for private school tuition or home school expenses.
Ok, time to get less silly. I’m glad to see the Left-leaning Independent acknowledge the plain truth that the proposal would save the state money during these tight budget times — much like a somewhat similar tuition tax credit proposal put forth by my Education Policy Center friends as part of the Citizens’ Budget. But a couple of other points in the article deserve a response, like this one:
School districts would lose per pupil funding tied to student registration when students failed to enroll. Currently that funding averages $6,822 though it is likely to see cuts this year as in years previous. The report noted the school districts would see a loss of student enrollment and, as a result, a reduction in full time employees.
Yes, the story got the Per Pupil Revenue (PPR) figure essentially right. However:
- PPR is a term referenced in the School Finance Act that includes the main part, but not all, of school operating budgets — Colorado K-12 receives somewhere around $10,000 per student.
- It’s not accurate to say PPR cuts are expected as in “years” previous — PPR was cut last year (singular) but otherwise has gone up year-after-year, especially since Amendment 23.
- A loss in student enrollment through HB 1048’s tax credit bill would ensure greater revenue remains with school districts on a per-student basis, addressing concerns about “fixed costs.”
We all care primarily about what’s best for students first and trust parents overwhelmingly to make the best decisions about schooling, right? I mean, we’re more concerned about that than ensuring the maximum number of K-12 union employees? Right? Next up is this quote from the state’s teachers union spokesperson:
“[The bill is] just exactly like a voucher except that they would give a citizen a tax credit on their income tax,” [CEA member communications director Jeanne] Beyer said. “We are basically opposed to spending tax dollars on private schools, private or religious. We have nothing against private schools, nothing against religious schools, nothing against home schooling. We just don’t think that we should be spending tax money on them.” [emphasis added]
Is CEA really opposed to spending any and all tax dollars on private schools, whether religious or independent? If so, they might make a fuss about the fact that school districts currently spend taxpayer funds on private school tuition and services, particularly for students with special needs. I’d be interested to find out how much is spent on that each year. I’d also be interested to know if CEA is really opposed to spending all tax dollars on private schools, or only opposed to individuals directing their own tax dollars to empower a student to attend a private school of their choice.
Neat article, if a bit needlessly scary. Perhaps someone else writing about this topic might be interested in discussing it from the angle of control. Fight the power, right? Don’t you think it seems at least legitimately worth further investigation?