Policy Documents

Tip Sheet: Maryland's Taxpayers' Savings Act

February 25, 2013

Problem

Maryland has struggled to balance its books in recent years and is barely getting back on its feet after the recession. Payments on state debt are projected to triple between 2007 and 2022.

The state spends approximately $12 billion, or one-third of its budget, on elementary, secondary, and higher education, according to the state department of budget and management and the National Center for Education Statistics. Maryland is the ninth-highest spender on K-12 education, according to the U.S. Census Bureau: It spends an average of $13,738 per pupil.

According to The Heartland Institute's 2010 State School Report Card, the Maryland public school system is merely average despite its high spending. The state ranked 16th in academic achievement, 20th in efficiency, and 22nd overall. Per-pupil spending is at an all-time high, growing almost 65 percent from 1999 to 2009. That growth is more than twice what could be accounted for by inflation.

Maryland ranks 38th on the Center for Education Reform's Parent Power Index, which measures families' equal access to quality education options.

Policy Solution

The Taxpayers' Savings Grants proposal is an innovative way to use empirically tested and parent-empowering reforms to spend public money more efficiently while giving families equal access to quality education options that fit their own diversity. The program gives grants of up to 60 percent of current state per-pupil spending on maintenance and operations to parents who move their children from public to private schools, saving the state approximately $5,500 each time a child is moved.

Approximately 50,000 students are likely to participate in the program in its first two years, according to rough calculations along the same line as studies of similar programs in other states, saving the state about $275 million during the next biennium.

Policy Messages

Point 1. The TSG program allows parents of children attending public schools to help the state save or put back into the public schools $5,500 per child who participates.

Point 2. The average Taxpayers' Savings Grant under this program would be approximately $8,000.

Point 3. Participation in the program in entirely voluntary for parents and schools.

Point 4. Students already enrolled in private schools would not be eligible to participate in the program.

Point 5. Parents benefit by being able to choose the schools their children attend. Surveys show parents want this kind of choice. Choices increase diversity.

Point 6. Students benefit because programs that empower parents lead to increased academic achievement.

Point 7. Teachers benefit from higher compensation, because schools will compete to hire them, and better work conditions.

Point 8. Marylanders spend more than $13,738 per child on public education, while many private schools spend a fraction of that and have student outcomes just as good, if not better.

References

Budget Impact of the Texas Taxpayers’ Savings Grant Program. J. Merrifield and J. Bast 
How Teachers in Texas Would Benefit from Expanding School Choice. J. Bast, H. Walberg, and B. Behrend 
2010 State School Report Card, H. Walberg & M. Oestreich

For more information on education policy contact: Joy Pullmann, Research Fellow at jpullmann@heartland.org or 312/377-4000