The Show Me a Brighter Future Scholarship Program (Senate Bill 581), is a program designed to assist low-income Missouri students and those who qualify for Individual Education Programs (IEP) to have access to a quality education that fits their learning needs.
Benefits of education choice and a tax-credit funding model are as follows: increased educational outcomes for choice participants, increased education outcomes for students who choose to stay in their public school, no taxpayer money flows away from public schools to the scholarships and the state realizes savings that can then be directed into other pressing state fiscal needs.
Each parent’s reason for wanting to send his or her child to a different school is as varied and complex as the way each child learns. Many do it for educational fit, the hope of a better education, specialized learning needs, student safety and so on. For many, the one-size-fits-all schooling in a traditional public school doesn’t actually fit all students. Many children need a unique education solution or some type of personalized learning.
The first question most people ask is, “What are the ramifications of choice programs on students?” Studies on education choice overwhelmingly show positive increases in education outcomes for students. Fourteen of 18 empirical studies on education choice participation were positive, two showed no effects, and only two indicated negative effects. This means 78% had positive gains, and 89% were positive or neutral.
With the positive education outcomes for students, it is not surprising that college enrollment dramatically increased for these students. In fact, the Florida tax-credit program participants had a 15% increase in college enrollment, and the enrollment rate was 46% higher than students who did not participate in the tax-credit program.
The next logical question is, “How did the choice programs affect the students who chose to remain in their traditional public school?” The results were even better, with 94% of those students having positive education outcomes.
The Show Me a Brighter Future program will be funded by private corporate and individual donations instead of state appropriations. This model means no taxpayer monies will be flowing away from public schools to fund the scholarships. In addition, the donation limits for the tax credits are capped at $25 million for the first year of the program.
States that implemented tax-credit scholarships have seen per-student savings from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Arizona’s programs saved taxpayers between $437 and $8,504 per student. Florida’s program saved taxpayers between $1,122 and $1,658 per student. Georgia’s program savings range from $298 to $1,734 per student. Iowa’s program savings ranged from $3,600 to $5,919 per student. Indiana’s program saved between $4,098 and $5,426 per student. Pennsylvania’s programs saved between $3,027 and $5,839 per student. Rhode Island’s savings ranged from $3,355 to $7,252 per student.
These savings could potentially be used to increase funding for public schools or other state needs. Aggregate savings to taxpayers ranged from $1.7 billion to nearly $43.5 billion.
To reiterate, education choice programs increase education outcomes for participating and nonparticipating students, along with increasing college enrollment. Tax credit-funded programs are privately funded and thus do not use taxpayer funds or take money away from current public school funds, while saving taxpayers millions of dollars to be used for other pressing needs. Education choice programs are a win-win-win for students, parents and taxpayers, and should be wholeheartedly embraced in Missouri.
Thayer native Dr. Jerry Hobbs (email@example.com) is the executive director of the Missouri Education Reform Council headquartered in Cape Girardeau.