New Study: Florida Tax Credits Bring Rising Tide of Academic Performance

Little Eddie’s Florida-thon blogging continues. And today’s edition could be the most exciting yet. From Matt Ladner and Greg Forster (both writing on Jay Greene’s blog) comes word of a new research study by David Figlio and Cassandra Hart, who conclude:

We find evidence that public schools subject to more competitive pressure from private schools raised their test scores the most following the introduction of Florida’s voucher program, and that the gains in test scores appear to generalize to students ineligible to participate in the voucher program.

In other words, the competition of school choice through tuition tax credits helps to lift the boat of academic performance even for public school students who come from families with incomes too great to take advantage of a scholarship. Wow!

Forster notes that top-notch empirical studies are 18-0 in showing positive competitive effects from school choice programs, then calls out detractors for their weak attack on the findings:

As always, critics are trying to make hay out of the fact that in the Figlio/Hart study, a tiny, population-limited, regulation-cramped choice program produces only moderate-sized benefits. Well, geniuses, if the benefits of a tiny, population-limited, regulation-cramped program are too small for you, can you think of any way you might make the program’s impact bigger?

And Ladner makes a similarly strong point, putting the findings into the bigger picture:

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….

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….

Are you paying attention, Colorado? All those policy makers and school choice supporters out there? This news is big, and helps make the case that a tuition tax credit program is a vital reform to help improve our state’s K-12 education outcome and to help save money for the state in the process. Win-win!!

In the meantime, check out our fabulous School Choice for Kids website (and become a fan on Facebook!) to take advantage of the options we currently have.