Briefing Paper No. 25 March 26, 1996

Briefing Paper

What Would A School Voucher Buy?
The Real Cost Of Private Schools

by David Boaz and R. Morris Barrett

David Boaz is executive vice president of the Cato Institute and the editor of Liberating Schools: Education in the Inner City. R. Morris Barrett is a writer in New York.


Executive Summary

American schools are failing because they are organized according to a bureaucratic, monopolistic model. A school voucher of $3,000 per student per year would give more families the option of sending their children to non-government schools. However, many people believe that such a small amount could not possibly cover tuition at a private school; they may be thinking of such costly schools as Dalton, Andover, and Exeter and concluding that all private schools cost in excess of $10,000 a year.

In fact, Education Department figures show that the average private elementary school tuition in America is less than $2,500. The average tuition for all private schools, elementary and secondary, is $3,116, or less than half of the cost per pupil in the average public school, $6,857. A survey of private schools in Indianapolis, Jersey City, San Francisco, and Atlanta shows that there are many options available to families with $3,000 to spend on a child's education. Even more options would no doubt appear if all parents were armed with $3,000 vouchers.

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1996 The Cato Institute
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