Arizona public school enrollment is projected to exceed one million students by 2013. Currently, Arizona ranks first nationally for highest capital outlay expenditures and second for interest on school debt expenditures, totaling nearly $2,000 per student. Arizona's private schools educate five percent of the state's K-12 student population. Developing policies that take advantage of existing and potential private school capacity could help ease the public school burden of educating significantly more students, while potentially saving hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
To shed light on this important segment of Arizona's education marketplace, this report details the results of the Goldwater Institute's first annual statewide survey of Arizona private schools, representing over 20 percent of private schools in Arizona. It shows that private schools serve a diverse student population and offer a variety of curricula at roughly half the average public school expenditure of $7,816 per student. The average private elementary and middle school tuition is $3,700, and 89 percent of private schools offer financial aid. Three-quarters of private schools surveyed are sectarian, but 83 percent of those schools do not require religious affiliation for admission. Ninety-three percent of private schools surveyed administer standardized tests annually. Nearly 80 percent of private schools surveyed offer kindergarten, and 49 percent offer preschool programs. Forty-three percent of Arizona private schools surveyed accept special needs students, and nearly half of them have room for more. Private schools typically have half the student population of public schools and have smaller classes, 14 students per teacher compared to 18 students per teacher in public schools on average.
Absent private schools, approximately 44,000 children would likely be educated in public schools, costing the state and localities an estimated $260 million annually. Currently, private schools have approximately 26,000 available seats. Educating 26,000 students in public schools costs over $200 million. Fully using Arizona's private school marketplace could reduce pressure on public schools, give parents more choices, and save hundreds of millions of dollars.