May 27, 2024

Missouri Budget Project: School Vouchers Would Increase Costs for Local Taxpayers

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The Missouri Budget Project is a nonprofit, objective public policy analysis organization. They’ve looked at vouchers, and determined that they are not a good deal for taxpayers.

State lawmakers are considering legislation that would expand the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program, or vouchers. The expansion of school vouchers and associated tax credits would divert state funding from local, neighborhood public schools. However, many public school costs, like buildings and utilities, are fixed costs that do not automatically decrease based on student population. If state funding for neighborhood schools decreases, local funding must increase to cover those fixed costs. Missouri Budget Project projected the fiscal impact of vouchers on a sample of school districts across the state. While the financial impact of vouchers would vary widely by district, some increases could be substantial and may require a local tax increase.

If a Missouri child uses a tax credit voucher to attend a private school, state funding that went or would have gone to the public school the child attended would be reduced in accordance with the formula that allocates state funding to public schools.

Although some costs “follow the child” and may change with the number of students attending a school, like teacher salaries and support services, each
school also faces many “fixed costs” that do not decrease. For example, expenses like building maintenance, heating and cooling, and other utilities are fixed, noninstructional costs that vary only slightly with attendance.

If state funding for a neighborhood school is decreased, local funding would need to increase to cover the amount that state funding had contributed to those noninstructional costs for the departing students.

The budgetary impact on neighborhood schools and school districts could be considerable, depending on a number of factors, including the number of students that switch to private schools.

Read the article for further details on how vouchers really work, no matter what state you’re in.


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