2023 EdChoice Spending Share: School Choice Currently s Drop in the K–12 Bucket

Recently, the new governor of Arizona claimed that the state’s education savings account (ESA) program will “likely bankrupt” the state. According to her, last year’s expansion of the Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Accounts program would cost the state $150 million per year.

Let’s say we discount the work Marty Lueken has done at the Fiscal Research & Education Center demonstrating that school choice is financially beneficial for school districts because of the money they are able to keep when a student leaves.

Even then, the line between $150 million in new spending and fiscal calamity is weak at best. When numbers reach this size, they’re only meaningful to us when we are able to give them context.

That’s where this blog post comes in. Here we’ll be indicating how much money states spend on private school choice programs as a share of the total amount of money states spend on current K–12 education altogether, as most recently reported by the National Center for Education Statistics of the U.S. Department of Education.

Current expenditures do not include any spending for property and for buildings and alterations completed by school district staff or contractors, or paying down interest on school debt. Instead, current expenditures include the day-to-day operation of schools and school districts. Looking at those makes for the easiest comparisons of spending that directly affects students and classroom learning. And at the very least, this ratio will give a conservative sense of how small private school choice currently is relative to other K-12 spending.

When possible, we calculated the reported total credits claimed for a tax credit scholarship program. When unavailable, we used the total value of all scholarships distributed through that program. Individual credits and deductions are not included in this analysis.

Altogether, private school choice programs have allocated $4 billion to students in the last year, which is just 0.60 percent of the $682 billion spent on current expenditures by public schools and 0.51 percent of the $794 billion spent on all expenditures, including capital outlays. It’s not for us to determine whether states or public schools are on the brink of bankruptcy, but if they were, private school choice programs have nothing to do with that.

Here are the results, organized from greatest share to smallest. To give some context, I’ve also indicated each state’s ranking in last year’s post.

  1. Arizona (3)
    ESA, Tax-Credit Scholarships (4) | $542.0 million | 5.22% of Arizona’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($10.4 billion)
  2. Florida (1)
    ESA, Voucher, Tax-Credit Scholarships (2) | $1,456.8 million | 4.71% of Florida’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($30.9 billion)
  3. Wisconsin (2)
    Vouchers (4) | $438.2 million | 3.85% of Wisconsin’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($11.4 billion)
  4. Vermont (4)
    Voucher | $53.7 million | 2.72% of Vermont’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($2.0 billion)
  5. Ohio (7)
    Vouchers (5), Tax-Credit Scholarship | $554.6 million | 2.33% of Ohio’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($23.8 billion)
  6. Indiana (5)
    ESA, Voucher, Tax-Credit Scholarship | $268.3 million | 2.31% of Indiana’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($11.6 billion)
  7. Maine (6)
    Voucher | $54.0 million | 1.83% of Maine’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($3.0 billion)
  8. District of Columbia (8)
    Voucher | $19.1 million | 0.89% of D.C.’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($2.2 billion)
  9. Louisiana (9)
    Vouchers (2), Tax-Credit Scholarship | $49.2 million | 0.57% of Louisiana’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($8.6 billion)
  10. North Carolina (10)
    ESA, Voucher | $86.1 million | 0.55% of North Carolina’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($15.5 billion)
  11. New Hampshire (14)
    ESA, Voucher, Tax-Credit Scholarship | $17.2 million | 0.55% of New Hampshire’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($3.1 billion)
  12. Pennsylvania (11)
    Tax-Credit Scholarships (2) | $160.4 million | 0.54% of Pennsylvania’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($29.9 billion)
  13. Georgia (11)
    Voucher, Tax-Credit Scholarship | $109.2 million | 0.53% of Georgia’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($20.8 billion)
  14. Iowa (13)
    Tax-Credit Scholarship | $18.6 million | 0.30% of Iowa’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($6.2 billion)
  15. Alabama (15)
    Tax-Credit Scholarship | $17.7 million | 0.23% of Alabama’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($7.6 billion)
  16. Oklahoma (16)
    Voucher, Tax-Credit Scholarship | $14.7 million | 0.22% of Oklahoma’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($6.6 billion)
  17. Illinois (17)
    Tax-Credit Scholarship | $75.3 million | 0.22% of Illinois’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($34.0 billion)
  18. Nevada (18)
    Tax-Credit Scholarship | $9.3 million | 0.20% of Nevada’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($4.8 billion)
  19. South Dakota (19)
    Tax-Credit Scholarship | $2.2 million | 0.15% of South Dakota’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($1.5 billion)
  20. Montana (29)
    Tax-Credit Scholarship | $2.3 million | 0.13% of Montana’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($1.8 billion)
  21. Utah (20)
    Voucher, Tax-Credit Scholarship | $7.3 million | 0.11% of Utah’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($5.7 billion)
  22. Arkansas (26)
    Voucher, Tax-Credit Scholarship | $5.1 million | 0.10% of Arkansas’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($10.4 billion)
  23. Mississippi (21)
    ESA, Vouchers (2) | $3.9 million | 0.09% of Mississippi’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($4.5 billion)
  24. Virginia (22)
    Tax-Credit Scholarship | $14.1 million | 0.08% of Virginia’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($16.8 billion)
  25. Kansas (23)
    Tax-Credit Scholarship | $4.3 million | 0.07% of Kansas’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($6.0 billion)
  26. Maryland (27)
    Voucher | $10.2 million | 0.07% of Maryland’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($14.5 billion)
  27. Missouri (NR)
    Tax Credit ESA | $6.2 million | 0.06% of Missouri’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($10.4 billion)
  28. Rhode Island (25)
    Tax-Credit Scholarship | $1.3 million | 0.05% of Rhode Island’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($2.5 billion)
  29. South Carolina (24)
    Tax-Credit Scholarship | $3.2 million | 0.04% of South Carolina’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($8.9 billion)
  30. Tennessee (28)
    ESA, Voucher | $2.2 million | 0.02% of Tennessee’s combined program and public K–12 current expenditures ($10.1 billion)

Not included on this list is West Virginia, as we’re still awaiting initial account funding data from their new Hope Scholarship program. All other states are tied for last with zero dollars spent on private school choice programs.