Monday, February 25, 2008

Next argument, please

In a letter to the editor published today in The Oklahoman, labor union official Jamie McCoy of Midwest City writes:

In "Bipartisanship for the children” (Opinion, Feb. 10), Brandon Dutcher is again demonstrating his persistence to push for vouchers and tax credits. Senate Bill 2148 is promoting itself as the "Great Schools Tax Credit Program Act." The bill would give money back to any Oklahoma taxpayer who donates money to fund scholarships for low-income students to attend private schools.

It sounds good, but vouchers or tax credits reduce the resources available to ensure great public schools for every child. Our per-pupil expenditures are already among the lowest in the country. Dutcher continues to suggest limiting the funding for public education is good for Oklahoma.

It's hard for me, as an Oklahoma teacher, to understand how our legislators can justify taking away tax money that funds a public education offered to every child.

If McCoy truly is concerned about "per-pupil expenditures," one wonders why she didn't do even basic research on the tax-credit plan before denouncing it. She would have discovered that, um, per-pupil expenditures would increase, not decrease, under the plan. As Dr. Susan Aud explains:

When a student uses school choice, the local public school district no longer needs to pay the instructional costs associated with that student, but it does not lose all of its per-student revenue, because some revenue does not vary with enrollment levels. Thus, school choice produces a positive fiscal impact for school districts as well as for state budgets. ... Instructional spending per student has consistently gone up in all affected public school districts and states. School choice has not prevented those states and districts from spending more on the students who remain in public schools.

Indeed, accountant and OCPA research fellow Steve Anderson, formerly a state-certified teacher with 17 teaching certifications, has prepared a spreadsheet showing that under the plan McCoy denounces, expenditures would increase by more than $200 per pupil -- and that's if only 2,500 scholarships were granted. The per-pupil expenditure would rise with each additional scholarship granted.

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