‘Neovouchers’: A primer on private school tax credits

Mar 4, 2013 by

voucher[1]By Kevin Welner –

In a March 1st statement on the Hoover Institution’s “Education Next” blog, Jason Bedrick of the Cato Institute offers his conclusion that policies he calls “scholarship tax credit (STC) programs” primarily benefit lower-income families. Because so little evidence exists, Mr. Bedrick avoids making many specific claims about the actual distribution of benefits. But he does make some broad claims that I think are worth engaging.

As a policy matter, there are many issues worth considering. There are, for instance, the basic questions applicable to all voucher and voucher-like policies concerning outcomes for students offered vouchers, competition effects, constitutional establishment clause (separate of church and state) issues, philosophical issues about liberty and choice, and societal issues about Balkanization and the role of public schooling in a democracy.

There is no question that these programs, which I have called “neovouchers” (for reasons I explain below), do indeed provide financial assistance to many lower-income families. This is particularly true in states like Florida that means-test the recipients and have safeguards in place to prevent donor self-enrichment. It appears to be much less true in states like Arizona and Georgia that have designed their programs with a much stronger free-market emphasis. In those states, the programs also provide a great deal of assistance to upper-income families. And attempts to amend those laws to better focus on those with greater needs have been thwarted.

‘Neovouchers’: A primer on private school tax credits.

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