The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Public versus private schools: Who goes where, by state

The proportion of children who attend public school ranges widely from state to state, from a low of 79 percent in the District of Columbia and Hawaii to 93 percent in Wyoming and Utah, according to the Education Law Center’s annual school funding report, released Monday.

And in every state, private school students on average come from wealthier families than public school students. In some cases, much wealthier: In the District, private school families’ income is more than three times that of public school families’ income, on average.

None of this is particularly surprising, but private school enrollment rarely comes up in discussions about public school funding. The Education Law Center argues that it’s an important factor because when wealthy families opt out of public education, schools are left with higher concentrations of poor children, and there is less political will to boost funds for public schools.

The graphic below, reproduced from the report, offers a snapshot of private school enrollment and family income for each state. The relatively few Wyoming families who choose private schools, for example, aren’t much wealthier than the average public school family.

The graphic is based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The blue bars show the percent of children in public schools; the orange bars show the difference in wealth between private and public school families.