July 11, 2007

RALEIGH – Charter, private, and home school students have saved N.C. taxpayers nearly $900 million in school building costs since 2000. That’s a key finding in a new John Locke Foundation Spotlight report.

Click here to view and here to listen to Terry Stoops discussing this Spotlight report.

“Legislators should lift the charter school cap and begin to offer tax credits to encourage families to pursue private and home schooling,” said study author Terry Stoops, JLF Education Policy Analyst. “If lawmakers take those steps, school choice options would play an even greater role in reducing the school construction burden on school districts and taxpayers.”

Stoops calculated the total savings school choice generated for each N.C. county from 2000 to 2006. The savings ranged from $184.8 million in Mecklenburg County to $58,000 in Washington County. Other counties with the most savings were: Wake, $100.1 million; Guilford, $62.4 million; Durham, $40.7 million; and Forsyth, $37 million. The average county saved more than $8.9 million thanks to charter, private, and home school students.

“Since 2000, school choice saved taxpayers more than $20 million a year in annual building – or capital – expenses,” Stoops said. “Over the last six years, the yearly capital savings totaled nearly $125 million.”

Taxpayers saved far more money in “upfront capital costs,” Stoops said. “If students in charter, private, and home schools enrolled instead in traditional public schools, school districts would have faced one-time costs of nearly $775 million to seat those students. School choice helped taxpayers avoid that cost.”

From 2001 to 2006, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction boosted its five-year projected school construction needs from $6 billion to $10 billion, Stoops said. Higher construction costs and increased demands will force the state to find more innovative solutions, he said.

“School district leaders need to look beyond the outdated method of assuming substantial, long-term debt to finance inefficient, bureaucratic, and costly school construction and renovation programs,” Stoops said. “As they look at other innovative options, they should recognize that school choice might be the most cost-efficient solution to North Carolina’s school construction crisis.”

School choice relieves taxpayers’ school construction burden because charter, private, and home schools receive no state or local government money for building costs, Stoops said. “Given the substantial savings documented since 2000, North Carolina lawmakers should take more steps to increase school choice options and ease the burden on school districts and taxpayers,” he said. “Otherwise, the state will lag further behind in its responsibility to provide adequate facilities for all district school students.”

Terry Stoops’ Spotlight report, “The Solution Is School Choice: We already know what to do about North Carolina’s school facilities crisis,” is available at the JLF web site. For more information, please contact Stoops at (919) 828-3876 or [email protected]. To arrange an interview, contact Mitch Kokai at (919) 306-8736 or [email protected].