Transparency in education funding and charter school reform are good ideas, yet this push for reform is being used to spread misinformation about educational opportunities. Namely, the idea that school choice costs taxpayers.
Here’s the truth: education choice programs save tax dollars.
On average, Pennsylvania spends nearly $18,000 per student—among the highest in the nation. But choice programs educate students for a fraction of that cost. Take Philadelphia, where school districts spend a colossal $24,597 per student. Philly charter schools get the job done for just over half of that: $13,588.
Likewise, as seen in the table below, tax credit scholarships cost between one-seventh and one-tenth traditional public school per-student cost.
Education Savings Accounts—with an average grant of $6,227—would educate Pennsylvania kids for just over one-third the cost of traditional public schooling.
No matter the type of education, whether tax credit scholarships or ESAs all of these funds go to students.
Plus, with ESAs a school district can keep funding for student it no longer bears the expense of educating. Suppose average per-student cost is $19,000. If the student takes a grant of $6,000 and exits the public system, the district keeps the remaining $13,000. As additional families choose different schools for their kids, per-student funding in their home district can rise.
Total funding for programs like EITC and OSTC pales in comparison with the overall state and local education funds. With caps totaling $185 million–pre-K included—Pa’s tax credit scholarship programs represent less than 1 percent of the overall education spending.
Every child deserves a quality education, and options like the EITC, OSTC and ESAs can help achieve that goal while saving tax dollars. It’s time to have an honest discussion about school funding, educational quality, and the best path forward for all Pennsylvania children.