Briefing Paper No. 86

School Choice in the District of Columbia: Saving Taxpayers Money, Increasing Opportunities for Children

By Casey J. Lartigue Jr.
September 19, 2003

Executive Summary

Members of Congress and President Bush have put forth proposals that would establish school voucher programs in the District of Columbia. Those programs would allow pupils to use vouchers to attend the parochial or private school of their parents’ choice. Could private schools increase the range of academic options in the nation’s capital by educating students currently attending District of Columbia public schools?

An analysis of the private and parochial schools in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area reveals the following:

  • Private schools in Washington and sur-rounding areas charge less on average than the D.C. public school system spends per pupil.
  • The D.C. public school system, which has suffered from overspending and budget deficits in the last few years, could find its enrollment reduced by almost 10 percent as a result of a voucher program.
  • Private schools in Washington could immediately accommodate about 2,925 students now attending public or charter schools. Allowing all independent and parochial schools in the Washington metro area to participate in a school choice program could add almost 3,500 more spaces, since there are more than 6,000 seats available in local, nonpublic schools.

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Casey J. Lartigue Jr. is an education policy analyst at the Cato Institute.