August 24, 2017

Luis A. Huerta, (212) 678-4199,
Daniel J. Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

More balanced and empirically robust assessments needed to estimate costs and benefits of subsidizing private school choice programs, review finds

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Aug. 24, 2017) — A 2016 report from EdChoice asserted that tax credit scholarship programs through Scholarship Tuition Organizations (STOs) have saved state treasuries billions of dollars since 1998. The report analyzed savings from tax-credit scholarship programs. However, an academic review of the report questions the calculation method and claims made regarding the estimated financial savings for state governments.

The report, The Tax-Credit Scholarship Audit: Do Publicly Funded Private School Choice Programs Save Money?, was reviewed by  Luis A. Huerta and Steven Koutsavlis, Teachers College, Columbia University, for the Think Twice think tank review project. Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, is funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Twenty-one programs in 17 states now distribute scholarships to students via STO tax credit programs sometimes called "neovouchers." The programs allow individuals and corporations to contribute to a nonprofit organization that distributes the money in the form of scholarships. According to the authors of the report, states can save money as a result of students leaving public schools and entering private schools.

Huerta and Koutsavlis in their review note that because states do not collect or publish data on scholarship recipients, no formal accounting exists. As a result, they recommend that policymakers "develop statutory language that will allow researchers to develop better and more accurate answers to thorny policy questions."

They add that the findings of the report are too speculative to provide useful guidance for policymakers. In their conclusion, they write: "When weighing the implementation of TCSPs, policymakers must look beyond measures of cost efficiency and seek more balanced and empirically robust assessments that would allow them to make informed decisions about how to proceed with effective and equitable school reform polices."

Find the review on the GLC website:

Find the EdChoice report at:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review can also be found on the NEPC website:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

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