Competition Works!

This is the conclusion of David Figlio and Cassandra Hart in their new study of Florida’s pioneering Tax Credit Scholarship Program (FTC) for Education Next.

Now in it’s ninth year,  FTC offers corporations substantial tax credits (up to 75 percent of their total state tax obligation) for contributing to authorized scholarship organizations that then pay for low-income students (some 90 percent of tuition and fees) to enroll in private schools.

There are now more than 104,000 students nationwide attending private schools under such tax credit programs (compared to 60,000 using vouchers); Florida’s is the largest, with nearly 30,000 students participating.

Though the study was comprehensive, its focus was narrow: the researchers wanted to know what impact the FTC had on nearby public schools.  The effects were “relatively small,” Figlio and Hart report, but “they consistently indicate a positive relationship between private school competition and student performance in the public schools.”  And interestingly enough, they found those effects even before students left for the private school, showing that the public schools responded even to the “threat of losing students.”

This is welcome news to choice advocates, whose hopes for charters, vouchers and tax-credits has always been to improve traditional public schools.

–Peter Meyer

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