Research & Commentary: School Vouchers as a Solution to Georgia’s Dire Education Problems

Published February 17, 2008

Student achievement in Georgia is simply awful, and the state’s high school dropout rate puts it near dead-last in the country on this measure as well. These results come even as public education spending in the state jumped by 119 percent in real termsduring the past 25 years. Georgia’s per-pupil spending increase during that quarter-century far exceeded the 68.7 percent national increase during the same time period.

Studies in Georgia and across the nation have found that per-pupil spending is not a significant factor influencing student performance. Twenty-one states, including seven in the Southeast, have consistently achieved higher graduation rates than Georgia despite spending less per pupil. The impulses of state and local elected officials to raise taxes and spend more money per pupil are not the solution to low student achievement. This tactic has failed repeatedly and will continue to do so.

In a marketplace, cash follows the consumer. Institutions that provide value to consumers flourish, and those that do not wither. But that’s not true in education, because of the government monopoly on the tax revenues that fund schooling. Parents who want to send their children to private schools must still pay for the government schools they don’t use. Many parents who are dissatisfied with public schools cannot afford to double-pay for education: once in taxes to pay for the government schools they don’t use, and then again for private tuition at a private school of their choice.

The solution is education vouchers. An education voucher gives parents, instead of politicians, the ability to determine what schools and educational methods are most appropriate for their children. That causes institutions to improve their services in order to attract students. Without vouchers, the freedom to choose educational institutions is restricted to the wealthy and those who are fortunate enough to win one of the few scholarships available at private educational institutions. Without effective choice, parents are unable to place pressure on public schools to improve.

Giving public funds directly to citizens in the form of vouchers, including school vouchers, is not a radical idea. The G.I. Bill and Pell Grants for college students, food stamps, low-income housing vouchers, and Social Security are all examples of voucher programs already in place. In addition, student and parent satisfaction with school voucher programs is well documented in places such as Milwaukee, New Orleans, and Pittsburgh.

The articles below discuss school vouchers in more depth, providing background and insight for readers interested in learning more about this issue.

Return on Investment? Public Education in Georgia
This Center for an Educated Georgia study suggests future increases in education spending will likely not improve graduation rates. During the past 25 years, public education spending in Georgia spiked 119 percent when measured on a per-student basis and adjusted for inflation.

Georgia Educational and Demographical Rankings
The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute finds that Georgia in the bottom third for several educational performance indicators while being in the upper half for education expenditures. It shows that educational performance is not based on the amount of money spent per pupil.

Will School Vouchers Improve Public Education? Yes: New Studies Show All Students’ Scores Rise
This Atlanta Journal-Constitution article cites two recent studies examining the effectiveness of private schools versus public schools. It highlights evidence showing competition helps all students, even those who remain in public schools.

How Lack of Choice Cheats Our Kids Out of a Good Education
ABC-TV reporter John Stossel challenges the public school establishment for its variety of failings and explains the need for school choice.

Advocate Offers Lesson on Worth of Vouchers
This article describes the many benefits of school choice, addressing the idea in an international arena.

A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on How Vouchers affect Public Schools
The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice finds that school voucher systems benefit not only students attending private schools on vouchers, but the overall quality of public schools as well.

Study: Competition Brings Success
A study by the Friedman Foundation shows the usefulness of competition in the school system and busts several myths about vouchers.

What Would A School Voucher Buy? The Real Cost of Private Schools
In this Cato Institute Briefing Paper, David Boaz and R. Morris Barrett explain how vouchers are economically viable and the benefits choice would bring. They also describe many flaws in the government-monopolized school system.

Voucher Programs Offer Public Systems Much-Needed Competition
Blogger Bill Rost of Mushroom Chronicles addresses several concerns about vouchers, including difficulties over government funding for religious schools, taking money from public schools, and quality control for education.

Three Objections to School Vouchers … Answered
Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast responds to three popular misconceptions about vouchers, regarding funding, government dependence, and regulation.

For further information on the subject, visit the Education issue suite on The Heartland Institute’s Web site at

Nothing in this message is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. If you have any questions about this issue or the Heartland Web site, you may contact Brian Costin, assistant director of government relations for The Heartland Institute, at [email protected].