School Choice Saves Kids, Taxpayers $4 Billion

Critics of expanding school choice in Pennsylvania often claim it will “cost too much” or drain precious resources. But in fact, school choice already saves Pennsylvania taxpayers more than $4 billion every year—more than $1,300 for every family of four.

In 2009-10, Pennsylvania school districts spent $14,300 per student. In comparison, public charter schools spent about $2,400 less per student, on average (and cyber schools more than $3,300 less), as documented in our recent policy points on charter school funding.

Private and nonpublic schools—which benefit from more than $200 million in state aid for student textbooks, transportation, and special needs students—enroll close to 300,000 students. About 40,000 of these students receive scholarships through the Educational Improvement Tax Credit, with the average scholarship amount being around $1,000. Even counting the the tax credit for private donations to scholarship organizations as a “cost” to taxpayers, private school choice saves more than $12,000 per child leaving a school district.

Homeschool students receive no taxpayer subsidy, saving taxpayers $14,300 for each of 22,000 homeschoolers. Even the proposed voucher program—less than half the amount, per student, of district spending—would represent significant savings for taxpayers.

If the 380,000 students attending schools of choice returned to district schools, at current spending levels, taxpayer costs for education would rise by $4.3 billion.

Total Taxpayer Savings from Students Attending Schools of Choice
2009-10 School Year
Savings Per Student* Number of Students** Total Savings
Private and Nonpublic $13,279 287,092 $3,812,403,692
EITC Scholarship Students $12,235 38,646 $472,848,486
Home School $14,301 22,000 $314,622,000
Public Charter (Total) $2,367 73,054 $172,903,936
Cyber Charter $3,366 20,406 $68,685,860
Total 382,146 $4,299,929,628
* Includes All state funding for nonpublic schools plus tax credits for EITC scholarships as cost; homeschooling enrollment estimated based on 2007-08 data
Sources: PA Department of Education, Summaries of Annual Financial Report Data; Public School Enrollment Reports,