Unions to underprivileged children: You can’t escape

Horace Mann, generally regarded as the father of America’s current public school system, once prophesied: “Let the Common School … be worked with the efficiency of which it is susceptible, and nine tenths of the crimes in the penal code would become obsolete; the long catalogue of human ills would be abridged.”
I often wonder: How’s that workin’ out for you? Not only are the crimes not becoming obsolete, now they’re being committed in the schools themselves. The Edmond Sun recently informed us that even in Edmond, where I live, the middle schools require policemen and “drug recognition experts.” And recently I had occasion to visit Edmond Memorial High School and had another eye-opening experience. The solitary sign on the door had a very simple message. Not “Welcome to Edmond Memorial, Home of the Bulldogs” or anything like that. Rather, they just got right to the point:


Clearly the situation is worse in other Oklahoma schools than in Edmond. Yet regardless of how unsafe or ineffective the public schools are, some folks are determined not to let any children escape. In a letter to the editor published February 25 in The Oklahoman, for example, labor union official Jamie McCoy of Midwest City criticized a school-choice bill which would allow a tax credit for any Oklahoma taxpayer who makes a contribution to a charitable organization which provides tuition assistance to low-income students currently trapped in the worst of the worst public schools.  
“It sounds good,” McCoy wrote, “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.”

McCoy’s concern for per-pupil expenditures is understandable. But what she fails to understand is that 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.

As long as children remain trapped in underperforming and unsafe schools, the union’s talking points ring hollow.

About the Author:
Brandon Dutcher is vice president for policy at OCPA (ocpathink.org), an Oklahoma based conservative think tank.