Around the country, states are creating and expanding educational options through the use of vouchers, education savings accounts (ESAs), and tax credit scholarships. Similar proposals have been put forth in Missouri. To inform the discussion regarding these proposals, the Show-Me Institute conducted a survey of private school leaders in Kansas City and Saint Louis. The survey asked school leaders to indicate their willingness to participate in a state-sponsored private school scholarship program at various price points and with varying regulations. This paper presents the findings of our survey. Additionally, we use the survey responses to generate estimates of the costs or cost-savings that would be incurred if the state created a private school scholarship program. The research questions and some of the key findings are below.

At what price point are private schools willing to fill available seats with students supported by a state-sponsored scholarship program?

  • Seventy percent of private school leaders in Kansas City and Saint Louis indicated they are interested in a state-sponsored scholarship program.
  • A relatively modest scholarship of $3,000 would entice more than half of the schools to participate in the program, opening up more than 2,000 seats to new students.

What regulations or program requirements are private schools willing to accept when participating in a state-sponsored scholarship program?

  • Private schools are sensitive to program requirements and are less inclined to participate when strings are attached. Specifically, most private schools want to maintain their current admissions procedures and they are less likely to participate if they are required to provide transportation.
  • Religious private schools are concerned about maintaining their religious identity. Seventy-one percent indicated they would not participate if they students were allowed to opt out of religious services or classes.

What would be the fiscal impact of a state-sponsored private school scholarship program?

  • Estimates vary depending on the scholarship amount and the assumptions in the model, but a well-designed voucher/ESA or tax credit scholarship program could save state and local school districts millions of dollars. The most cost-savings would be realized with a scholarship of $3,000.
  • Vouchers and education savings accounts could generate significant cost-savings, but the biggest savings could come from a tax credit scholarship program where the credit is worth less than 100 percent of the donation. This type of program could generate cost-savings in excess of $20 million.

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About the Author

James Shuls
James Shuls

James V. Shuls is an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and Distinguished Fellow in Education Policy at the Show-Me Institute.