Just Facts conducted extensive research to develop a methodology that reliably measures private school spending. Beyond analyzing academic papers and government reports, Just Facts performed data checks and corresponded with the Dept of Education and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis to ensure accuracy.
First, let note that public schools have a disproportionate number of students with disabilities, who cost more to educate than other students. In 2019–20, students with disabilities comprised 1% of students in regular private schools and 14% of students in regular public schools. Accounting for this difference, the average cost of educating children in public schools is now 58% greater than in private schools. BUT government data on spending excludes some key items. These include:
- state government spending on administration.
- the unfunded liabilities of pensions for government employees.
- the costs of post-employment non-pension benefits (like health insurance) for government employees.
Such costs are common in public schools and rare in private ones.
Coupled with data on student outcomes, these findings have major implications for the state of the public education system and how to improve it. The actual amounts paid by individuals at private schools are often much lower because they receive discounts for reasons such as having low income, siblings in the school, or a parent who is a teacher.
To determine the cost of private schools, Just Facts measures all income to them, including tuition payments, charitable donations, and government spending on private school programs. The bottom line result is that the average inflation-adjusted cost of private K–12 education in the 2019–20 school year was $9,709 per student. This compares to the DOE’s figure of $17,013 per student for public schools—or 75% more than private schools.
Public schools, spending an average of $343,663 per classroom per year, have given you:
-only 37% of U.S. residents aged 16 and older that can correctly answer a question that requires basic logic, addition, and division.
-only 22% of the college-bound high school students who take the ACT exam can meet its college readiness benchmarks in all four subjects (English, reading, math, and science).
-66% to 75% of all young adults in the U.S. unqualified for military service because of poor physical fitness, weak educational skills, illegal drug use, medical conditions, or criminal records.
-the drug overdose death rate has quintupled since 2000, and if it remains at the current level, one in every 40 people in the U.S. will ultimately die of a drug overdose.
-15-year-old U.S. students ranked 31st among 37 developed nations in math, even though the U.S. spends an average of 38% more per K-12 student than other developed nations.
Public schools cannot be logically blamed for the entirety of this ruin because many other factors may be involved. However, public schools play a role—and often a major one—in all of these outcomes. Hence, there is clearly room for improvement.
One of the most effective and time-tested ways to improve products and services is competition. Competition is a disciplining force for both buyers and sellers. In a competitive environment, producers must provide goods at a low cost and serve the interests of consumers; if they don’t, other suppliers will. This process leads to improved products and production methods and directs resources toward projects that create more value. It is a powerful stimulus for economic progress.
There is a near monopoly in public funded, anti-choice schooling. If families could be treated as consumers and had the right to freely choose which kind of education they would prefer for their children, choice would for both government and non-government schools improve. education. At least 22 high-quality studies have been performed on the academic outcomes of students who remain in public schools that are subject to school choice programs. All but one found neutral-to-positive results, and none found negative results. Among 23 experimental (or quasi-experimental) studies that have been conducted on the academic outcomes of students who experience school choice:
- 13 found statistically significant positive effects.6 found no statistically significant effects.
- 3 found statistically significant negative effects.
"Follow the science!"
Private school choice generally increases public school funding per student, which is the primary measure of education funding. As explained by Stephen Cornman, a statistician with the DOE’s National Center for Education Statistics, per-pupil spending is “the gold standard in school finance.” It’s the funding per student that matters, not the funding per school.
Private school choice boosts per-pupil funding in public schools because the public schools no longer educate the students who go to private schools—which spend much less per student than public schools. This leaves additional funding for the students who remain in public schools.
For each non-disabled public school student who moves to a private school, the cost to educate her declines from an average of about $16,000/year to $10,000. This leaves an extra $6,000 in funds to support the administrations and unions(1) at the public schools. The savings can be even greater if the law caps the amount of money for private schools to less than $10,000.
School choice initiatives are typically designed to help children whose parents can’t afford private school. Even though some of the benefits go to students who are already in private schools, the net result has been that most school choice programs save money (note: only 8% of public school spending is for operations and maintenance).
Instead of increasing per student funding for public schools, the money saved through school choice could be used to reduce taxes or pay down government debt. In 2021, federal, state, and local governments spent $745 billion on K–12 education, costing every household in the U.S. an average of $5,764. Over the average U.S. lifespan of this amounts to $438,000 per household. Compared to private schools, public schools are costly and ineffective.
1. Although choice could help students, parents, and taxpayers, it would harm teachers unions by depriving them of dues and power. Private schools are less likely to have unions.
In turn, this financially harms left-wing/democratic politicians, political action committees, and related organizations, which get tens of millions each year from teachers’ unions. Unions also give many unreported donations to left-wing/democratic Party causes.
The National Education Association sent an open letter to democrats stating that “opposition to vouchers is a top priority for NEA,” which is why left-wingers/democrats oppose school choice. Nevertheless, public school teachers are more likely to place their own children in private schools than other parents, like joe biden, BObama, mrs. clinton, and liz warren, who personally attended and/or sent their own children to private schools.