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School Choice and Education Tax Credits

The Virginia Institute for Public Policy (VIPP), an independent, nonpartisan, education, and research organization, published published a study by Adam Schaeffer. It provides a way forward in Virginia for supporters of school choice.

The study explains why “supporters should put their energy behind broad-based education tax credits rather than ones targeting special populations and should promote school choice as a general education reform that will benefit all citizens—parents and nonparents, rich and poor, taxpayers and the state and local governments. basics of school choice policy and politics.”

Below is the executive summary from the study, "Public Education Tax Credits for Virginia: The Way Forward on School Choice" (requires Adobe):

“The factual argument in favor of school choice becomes more compelling with each passing year; choice improves the academic performance of the children participating in the program while modestly improving public school performance and saving large amounts of money. And yet it remains very difficult to pass school choice legislation.

“There are many reasons it is difficult to enact school choice. At the most basic level, our system of government makes it relatively easy for a powerful minority to block legislation. The teachers unions, along with all those directly benefiting from a government monopoly on education, constitute an extremely powerful minority, and they have been very successful at blocking this popular and manifestly effective education reform. Most reforms, however, face an entrenched minority that stands to lose much and therefore fights hard to keep its advantages.

“The question we ask in this paper addresses what can be accomplished within these constraints: what policy and argument are most likely to win the day for school choice in Virginia?

“We analyze a wide range of evidence, including a survey of school choice policy elites and a large survey of the general public, in order to draw conclusions about the best approach to school choice in Virginia. We find that education tax credits are by far the most promising school choice policy for Virginia and that broad-based tax credits that include both a personal-use and a donation component are the most promising kind of tax credit. Model legislation derived from the policy and from political principles discussed below is presented in the appendix to this paper, along with real-world examples of how the legislation would work.

“A policy needs an argument, however, and much of this paper will investigate how the public thinks about school choice reform and which arguments in favor of choice are most effective. We find that the “financial” argument in favor of school choice, which explains that choice policy helps to save money while improving education, is the most effective message supporting education tax credits.

“This paper concludes with a discussion of three promising ways of presenting education tax credits to the public while emphasizing the fiscal benefits of school choice. The “public model” would emphasize the financial frame as first among equals under a broader, higher-level argument that school choice through universal tax credits would mitigate problems affecting the public as a whole.

“The pure “financial model” would emphasize the fiscal and tax-cut side of the tax-credit issue to the exclusion of most other concerns. The “early-education model” would harness the political momentum behind policies expanding access to preschool to promote education tax credits and school choice by emphasizing the educational and financial benefits of those policies.”

Please take the time to read the entire study. If you find the study satisfying browse the VIPP website for other studies and papers. You will not be dissatisfied.

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