Return on Investment

Return on Investment

A Wise Investment: The Productivity of Public and Private Schools of Choice in Wisconsin

Corey A. DeAngelis, Ph.D.
Reason Foundation
[email protected]
ORCID: 0000-0003-4431-9489
May 15, 2019



Using Governor Evers’ publicly available Accountability Report Card data from the 2017-18 school year, Corey A. DeAngelis, Ph.D., director of school choice at the Reason Foundation finds that private schools participating in choice programs and independent charter schools tend to offer the citizens of Wisconsin more “bang for the buck” than traditional public schools.

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In A Nutshell

School Choice not only works, it also proves to be a wise investment. In this study, DeAngelis calculates the cost-effectiveness of private schools participating in school voucher programs, and charter schools, compared to district-run public schools in Wisconsin by dividing the Accountability Report Card score for each school by the public dollars invested in each school. Using a conservative analytic approach, he finds that private and charter schools tend to be more cost-effective than district-run public schools in the state overall and for the vast majority of individual cities.


27% LESS Funding Overall

Private schools receive 27% less than district-run public schools in per-pupil funding overall, and all 26 cities included in the analysis demonstrate funding advantages favoring traditional public schools.

75% MORE Cost-effective in Racine

And 50% more cost effective in Milwaukee, the cities with the highest proportions of students using private school choice programs in the state.

36% Cost Effective Advantage For Private Schools

Private schools produce 2.27 more points on the Accountability Report Card for every $1,000 invested than district-run public schools.



School Choice is a Wise Investment

  • At the time of the report, district-run public schools across the 26 cities received $10,759 per pupil and private schools received $7,853 per pupil.
  • District-run public schools in the 26 cities deliver 6.40 report card points for every $1,000 invested by the public.
  • Private schools deliver 8.67 report card points for every $1,000 invested by the public.
  • Private schools produce 2.27 more report card points than district run public schools for every $1,000 investment — a 36% cost-effectiveness advantage favoring private schools in Wisconsin.
  • Six cities have productivity advantages favoring private schools by over 50 percent: La Cross (76%), Racine (75%), Madison (75%), Wauwatosa (58%), West Allis (51%), and Milwaukee (50%).