The Network for Public Education and the Schott Foundation for Public Education released a report grading the states on their support for public education and documenting the extent to which states are allowing the privatization of public funds.

The report can be found here.It will be regularly updated to reflect changing events.

The livestream of the press briefing, featuring John Jackson, president of the Schott Foundation, Carol Burris of the Network for Public Education, and me is on the Schott Foundation Facebook page.

Here is my perspective on what we learned.

Currently, 9% of American students attend private and religious schools; 6% attend charter schools; and 85% attend public schools.

The public does not realize that every dollar spent for a charter or a voucher is a dollar subtracted from public schools. No state has added extra dollars for charters or vouchers. They simply take money away from public schools, which most students attend

Charters and vouchers are a substitute for fully funding our public schools.

As we saw in the dramatic wave of teacher strikes this past spring, our public schools, which educate 85% of all students, are being systematically underfunded.

Privatization is diverting money from public schools.

Take Indiana, for example. There are more than 1 million students in Indiana. Of that number, 35,000 use vouchers. This is 3.5% of the students in the state. Vouchers cost the state $153 million this past year, which causes budget cuts in every district. The Fort Wayne Community Schools alone lost $20 million. Nearly 60% of the voucher students never attended a public school. The voucher program is an explicit way for the state to fund religious schools. In addition, Indiana has 4% of its students in charter schools, another loss to district budgets. Please note that despite the rhetoric of the politicians, the overwhelming majority of students are choosing public schools, not using vouchers or enrolling in charters. This is the case even though more than half the students in the state are eligible for a voucher.

Consider Florida. Its state constitution explicitly bans the spending of public dollars in religious schools. In 2012, Jeb Bush pressed for a constitutional amendment that would remove that explicit ban (he called his amendment, Proposition 8, the “Religious Liberty Amendment”). Despite the appealing name, the voters decided by a margin of 55-45% NOT to repeal the ban on funding religious schools with public dollars. Nonetheless, Florida now has four different voucher programs. Their total cost, according to calculations done by Carol Burris, the executive director of NPE, is nearly $1 billion annually. Florida has 2.7 million school-age children. About 250,000 (10%) are in privately managed charter schools; another 140,000 (5%) use vouchers. Despite the widespread availability of charters and vouchers, despite the Legislature’s love affair with school choice, the overwhelming majority of students in Florida enroll in public schools.

While writing this privatization report, Burris calculated that about $2.4 billion is diverted from public schools to voucher schools, which are not accountable and are often evangelical schools that do not teach modern science or history and are not subject to civil rights protections.

Add to that the likely cost of charters. There are 3 million students currently enrolled in charters, out of a total student enrollment in the U.S. of 50 million. States vary in the amount they allot to charters. If the average state allotment is $5,000–and it could be higher–then that is another $15 billion subtracted from public schools to pay for privately managed charters.

That’s $17 Billion withdrawn from the public schools that enroll 85% of students.

In other words, the great majority of students are losing funding for their public school to support the choices of a very small minority.

Even in states where public officials are under the thumb of the choice lobbyists, there is no stampede for vouchers or charters. A small minority in every state are choosing to attend a charter or voucher, even in a state like Florida.

The vast majority are enrolled in public schools, and their public schools are cutting budgets, laying off teachers, increasing class sizes, and losing programs like the arts, so that a tiny minority can use public dollars to attend charter schools or voucher schools, where teachers are less qualified and less experienced.

This diversion of public dollars is hurting public schools whose doors are open to all.

The real cost of privatization is paid by the 47 million children who choose public schools.