Editor’s note: Our critics often assert that giving lower-income families access to more learning options hurts district schools. Below we have assembled evidence showing that these claims are false. Empowering Florida’s lower-income families to access the best education options for their children does no harm.
June 2015 Second Circuit Court decision in McCall v. Scott (Florida Education Association lawsuit against Florida Tax Credit Scholarship (FTC) program for low-income students)
Conclusion: Court determines that FEA’s allegations of FTC program causing harm to traditional district schools were insufficient to establish standing. Court offers an opportunity to amend complaint to include additional factional allegations to support their claim of harm. FEA declined the offer. Circuit Judge George Reynolds dismisses case with prejudice.
“… Whether any diminution of public school resources resulting from the Tax Credit program will actually take place is speculative, as is any claim that any such diminution would result in reduced per-pupil spending or in any adverse impact on the quality of education. The purported injury asserted here – the loss of money to local school districts – is necessarily speculative…(and) requires speculation about whether a decrease in students will reduce public school costs and about how the legislature will respond to the decrease in students attending public schools… Hence, any claim of special injury to any Plaintiff is speculative and conclusory.”
Link to decision: Second Circuit Court – McCall v. Scott
August 2016 Appellate Court decision in McCall v. Scott
Conclusion: The First District Court of Appeal upholds the lower court decision ruling that the Appellant’s claim that the FTC program creates “special injury” or harm to district schools is without merit.
“… The trial court correctly determined that Appellants lacked special injury standing because they failed to allege that they suffered a harm distinct from that suffered by the general public. Indeed, Appellants failed to allege any concrete harm whatsoever.”
“Appellants’ diversion theory is incorrect as a matter of law. A close examination of the statutory provisions authorizing the (FTC program) exposes the flaws under Appellants’ argument.”
“Further, even assuming that Appellants’ diversion theory was legally sufficient, Appellants’ allegations that the (FTC program) has harmed them are conclusory and speculative.”
Link to decision: First District Court of Appeal – McCall v. Scott
January 2017 Florida Supreme Court decision in McCall v. Scott
Conclusion: Court declines to hear the case, reaffirming First District Court of Appeal that there is no evidence showing that the FTC program harms district schools.
Link to decision: Florida Supreme Court – McCall v. Scott
Collins Center for Public Policy 2007 Fiscal Analysis
Conclusion: The FTC program did not have a negative impact upon K-12 General Fund Revenues for public education for the three years studied (2002-2004).
“In fact, K-12 General Fund revenues increased over $2 billion during a three-year period while the state accrued $139.8 million in actual revenues by saving the difference between the value of the $3,500 scholarship and the value of K-12 per pupil revenue. These savings would allow the state to increase per pupil spending by an average of $17.92 per year for the 2.6 million children in the public schools during this period.”
OPPAGA December 2008 and March 2010 studies examined the fiscal impact of FTC scholarships
Conclusion: No evidence that the FTC program adversely impacts the state budget or school district budgets.
From December 2008 report: – “…in Fiscal Year 2007-08, taxpayers saved $1.49 in state education funding or every dollar loss in corporate tax revenue due to credits for scholarship contributions. Expanding the cap on tax credit would produce additional savings if there is sufficient demand for the scholarship.”
From March 2010 report: “For Fiscal Year 2008-2009, OPPAGA estimates that the scholarship program saved (a net of) $36.2 million.”
Florida Revenue Estimating Conference 2012 Analysis of FTC scholarship tax credit cap increase
Conclusion: Fiscal impact created by increasing scholarship cap is offset by the savings of the cost of the scholarship vs. per-pupil FEFP dollar amount.
Line 55 of the analysis shows net FEFP savings for 2012-13 as $57.9 million, $57 million for 2013-14, $48.8 million for ’14-15, and $36.1 million for ’15-16.
EdChoice 2016 Tax-Credit Scholarship Audit (Martin Lueken)
Conclusion: FTC program saved taxpayers between $372 million and $550 million since its inception in 2003 (as of 2014), or $1,100 to $1,700 per scholarship recipient.
Urban Institute 2019 report by Matt Chingos on effects of private school choice on college enrollment and graduation.
Conclusion: Several findings in the study. Chingos compared college enrollment and graduation outcomes of scholarship students with a group of similarly disadvantaged students in public schools.
Scholarship students up to 45 percent more likely to get college degree.
FTC students were 11-20 percent more likely than similarly disadvantaged students in public schools to earn a bachelor’s degree. Those who were on the scholarship for at least four years were 45 percent more likely to earn a degree.
FTC students were 16 to 43 percent more likely than similarly disadvantaged students in public schools to attend a four-year college. Those who were on the scholarship for at least four years were 99 percent more likely to attend college.
FTC students were 12 to 19 percent more likely than similarly disadvantaged students in public schools to attend either a two OR four-year college. Those who were on the scholarship for at least four years were 38 percent more likely.
“The available evidence indicates that FTC enrolls students who are triply disadvantaged. They have low family incomes, they are enrolled at low-performing public schools (as measured by test scores), and they have poorer initial test performance compared with their peers.”
Original 2017 study: The Effects of Statewide Private School Choice on College Enrollment and Graduation
David Figlio (Northwestern) and Cassandra Hart (UC-Davis) June 2010 academic study examined the competitive impact of FTC on district school achievement.
Conclusion: Found that the academic achievement in district schools most impacted by tax credit scholarships increased.
“Our results indicate that the increased competitive pressure faced by public schools associated with the introduction if Florida’s FTC Scholarship Program led to general improvements in public school performance.”
Link to study: Competitive Effects of Means-Tested School Vouchers
In 2006, the Florida Legislature required that every scholarship student in grades 3-10 take a nationally norm-referenced test approved by the Department of Education every year. Those test scores are reported to a research team under contract with DOE to write an annual evaluation. Evaluations are currently done by researchers at the Learning Systems Institute at Florida State University.
Conclusion: FTC students make roughly the same annual learning gains as students from all income levels nationally. This is despite the reality that the FTC students are typically the lowest-performing students from the lowest-performing public schools in their area, with an annual household income of $26,578 for a family of four. Fifty-three percent of all scholarship students are from single-parent households. (NOTE: Cassandra Hart October 2011 study examining characteristics of scholarship participating students can be found HERE.)
From the 2011-12 report: “There exists compelling causal evidence indicating that the FTC Scholarship Program has led to modest and statistically significant improvements in public school performance across the state. Therefore, a cautious read of the weight of the available evidence suggests that the FTC Scholarship Program has boosted student performance in public schools statewide, that the program draws disproportionately low-income, poorly-performing students from the public schools into the private schools, and that the students who moved perform as well or better once they move to the private schools.”
In May 2014, former state Senator Nan Rich claimed $3 billion over the subsequent five years “…will be taken out of our public schools and be put into vouchers.”
Conclusion: The statement was analyzed by Politfact in June 2014. They rated the claim Mostly False.
“Based on the program’s size, it’s possible that it could fund a voucher program in the ballpark of $3 billion over the next five years. But there’s no guarantee that money would otherwise have gone to public schools. And, private school vouchers tend to cost less than what it costs to educate a child in public schools, which complicates how much money taxpayers would pay if the children in private schools instead went to public schools.”
Link to Politifact analysis: Politifact on Sen. Rich’s voucher claim