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Appeals Court to Consider Teachers’ Lawsuit Over Tax-Credit Scholarships
Tampa Bay Times | 5/9/16
Behind the Headline
Does Competition Improve Public Schools?
Education Next | Winter 2011
An appeals court heard oral arguments yesterday in a lawsuit that a Florida teachers union has brought against the state’s tax credit scholarship program. The lawsuit was rejected earlier by a circuit court judge but the union appealed the ruling.
The program allows corporations to make donations that are used to provide low-income students with vouchers to attend private schools. The corporations get a tax credit in return. The Florida Education Association argues that the program is unconstitutional because it uses taxpayer funds to support religious schools.
A study that was published in Education Next looked at the impact of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program on the students who remain in local public schools. The authors write
One popular argument for expanding private school choice is that public schools will improve their own performance when faced with competition for students. Because state school funding is tied to student enrollment, losing students to private schools means losing revenue. The threat of losing students to private schools may give schools greater incentive to cultivate parental satisfaction by operating more efficiently and improving the outcomes valued by students and parents. Alternatively, private school vouchers and scholarships may have unintended negative effects on public schools: they may draw away the most involved families from public schools, community monitoring of those schools may diminish, and schools may reduce the effort they put into educating students.
The authors explain
We examine whether students in schools that face a greater threat of losing students to private schools as a result of the introduction of tax-credit funded scholarships improve their test scores more than do students in schools that face less-pronounced threats. We find that they do, and that this improvement occurs before any students have actually used a scholarship to switch schools. In other words, it occurs from the threat of competition alone.