PA School District Uses Tax Dollars to Fight School Choice

The West Shore School District—my district, as it happens—has issued a “newsletter” with the clear, but unstated, goal of opposing Senate Bill 1, which would provide vouchers for low-income students. The taxpayer-funded newsletter clearly implies that the district would be harmed by “losing money.”

The loss of these students would not reduce necessary expenditures by nearly the amount of lost subsidy. This loss of funds would need to be made up by increased taxes or cuts to the educational program for those students who remain.

They could, I don’t know, perhaps think about cutting taxpayer funded newsletters before they cut the “educational program.”

But even so, lets do some quick math: The West Shore District spent $11,017 per pupil in 2008-09. State aid—which would be the amount of the voucher under SB 1—was $3,045. That is for each student who leaves, the district would keep about $8,000 in funding, which would go to the “fixed costs.”

The Commonwealth Foundation has estimated that “fixed costs” (including building costs, debt payments, transportation) are about 30% of school spending, but school unions claim these cost approach 60% of total spending. Even using that inflated number, districts can still easily pay their fixed costs as students leave.

In this example, using the average class size of 22, the West Shore District spends over $240,000 per class, of which perhaps $145,000 is “fixed costs”. If 5 students leave, the district would lose $15,000—but still have $227,000 to spend per class, or $82,000 above the fixed costs. In fact, as funds are freed up for the students who remain, the per-pupil spending would rise to $13,000.

West Shore School District
Spending Per Class of 22 $242,374
“Fixed Cost” Per Class (60% of Total) $145,424
Cost for 5 Voucher Students $15,225
Spending Per Class if 5 students leave $227,149
Spending Above the “Fixed Costs” $81,725
New Spending Per Pupil $13,361

Of course, this is a well-known fact that the defenders of the status quo somehow fail to acknowledge. In 18 out of 19 academically rigorous studies, vouchers had a positive impact on public school districts. There has never been a single study demonstrating that scholarships have a negative impact on district school performance or their ability to raise funds.

West Shore District Newsletter