Policy Documents

School Choice by the Numbers: The Fiscal Effect of School Choice Programs, 1990-2006

Susan L. Aud, Ph.D. –
April 1, 2007

School choice programs, which allow students to attend the public or private school of their choice using public funds, have taken root in the U.S. and are growing rapidly both in number and size. Their fiscal impact has become an important political issue. Proponents say school choice saves money because private schooling is more effi cient, producing savings for both
public schools and state budgets. Meanwhile, opponents say school choice drains money from public schools.

This study calculates the fi scal impact of every existing voucher and tax-credit scholarship program, in order to bring empirical evidence to bear on the debate over the
fi scal impact of school choice. Of the 18 voucher and taxcredit scholarship programs in the United States, twelve began operations before the current school year and their fiscal impact can thus be assessed. We did not include
school choice programs in Iowa, Illinois or Minnesota that provide personal tax credits or deductions for private school tuition, sine assessing their impact would be
prohibitively difficult.