How Much Are We Willing to Pay? Senator Gardner Releases Reports on Cost of Education Vouchers
JUNEAU - A recently released package of Legislative Research Reports illustrates the impact vouchers could have on state and municipal budgets, and the news isn’t good. Three reports were commissioned by Senator Berta Gardner (D – Anchorage), the sole Democrat on the Senate Education Committee.
“I had questions about the cost and implementation of vouchers, so when the proposal was pulled from the Education Committee, I looked for some non-partisan answers. What I found was quite troubling,” says Senator Gardner.
The first report answered the question of how much it would cost to roll private and religious students into the Base Student Allocation (BSA), that portion of education funding used for classroom services to students. The report found that “assuming the estimated 11,000 students enrolled in private schools are included in the foundation formula, the BSA remains at $5,680, and the students currently enrolled in private schools are distributed geographically and experience similar characteristics to those of the students currently enrolled in the Alaska public K-12 education system, the Foundation Program [Base Student Allocation] budget would increase by approximately $99.7 million for FY2014.”
It isn’t just the state who could be affected by a voucher system though. The second report asked about the fiscal impacts of a bill currently languishing in the legislature, Senate Bill 92, which allows for municipalities to provide a property tax credit for parents of students who attend private or religious schools. Assuming a $2,000 voucher per student, the municipality of Anchorage faces a reduction in property tax revenue of about $12 million. “The effect this would have on municipalities would be devastating. Not only does this bill envision helping a limited few, it would also severely undercut the ability of the municipality to fund roads, parks, and emergency services for all Alaskans.
As a companion to that second report, Senator Gardner inquired as to how many states use property tax credits as a form of vouchers. The answer? None. The question of how municipalities, or the state, will dole out a property tax credit to those who don’t own property remains open.
“What this shows,” Senator Gardner points out “is a self-imposed blindness to the negative impacts these decisions would have on our public education system and would go towards funding for-profit private and religious institutions.”
For links to the reports discussed above, click here:
Alaska State Legislature