School choice programs would provide fiscal savings for public school districts

Over the years, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation has published numerous estimates of the fiscal savings for public school districts associated with school choice programs. In short, because school districts do not lose all or even most of their funding when a student leaves — for any reason — they retain more money per pupil after such a departure. To quantify these savings, we have to compare the retained revenue to the forgone costs of educating the student.

Most recently, our 2019 publication “The Economics of Building a Voucher or ESA Program in Georgia” found that nearly every county* school district in the state would realize cost savings on average when its students left for a new school choice program. Today we are updating the data from that publication and adding a second estimate based on school districts’ observed behavior when students leave for reasons unrelated to school choice (e.g., when their family moves elsewhere).

The table below shows Georgia’s 159 county school districts, their enrollments, their estimated per-pupil savings from school choice based on their observed behavior, and their estimated per-pupil savings from school choice based on their full ability to manage variable expenses. 

Clearly, school districts do know how to reduce expenses when students leave, for whatever reason, and they have additional capacity to reduce expenses if they so choose.

*Only county school district impact is estimated, due to difficulties obtaining all data used in the study for city school districts.

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