Monday, June 11, 2007

Education in America: Value For Your Money?

I suppose that schools haven't been in the news much lately... school is out for the summer here in Arizona, everybody else is graduating, getting ready for prom, or just excited for the end of the school year. This year I haven't heard any stories about valedictorians not being able to give their speeches because they want to mention God, gay proms, or male prom queens. It's been slow in that department recently.

This is also the time of year that homeschoolers often start looking for bargains on next year's curriculum, and are perhaps getting rid of last year's curriculum to make room for more books and pay for the next year. Since I have a baby that will eventually need an education, I'm holding onto all of the ones that I can reuse.

On Saturday, I got a great deal on some books. $15 for a brand new Bible curriculum set that was brand new (retails for $60), in the shrink wrap even. $15 for a second grade math Teacher's manual, that also retails for $60. I got a book for my future toddler for $5, and next year's science student edition for $2 (I got the teacher's edition earlier this year at Half-Priced Books for $5).

So far, I've spent $152.95 on books for next year. I have a few more books to buy, and if I buy everything new, I'll have to spend about another $180. So it costs about $330 for me to educate a child for one year. My baby will cost less when he gets older because there will be fewer books needed to buy for him.

How do our public schools do? About $600 of my property tax money went to schools alone last year... I don't even live in a fancy house or anything... I'm guessing that about 1/2 of the homeowners in this school district pay more than me. Every year, I pay the public schools enough to educate my daughter for almost 2 years. Only, I'm only contributing enough to educate someone else's child for 1 year.

The NEA web site says that it costs an average of $7552 to educate a child for a year NEA link. That's not even including additional costs for special education students... which I would expect would cost more. Wow, that's probably twice what I will have to spend on books for my daughter's entire education!

How does this compare to other schools? Our church has a private school that operates separately from the church. Those students pay less than $2000 a year in tuition. The Kindercare that I used to work at had an accredited, all day Kindergarten... if parents sent their kids there for 40 weeks, it would cost them $7040... less than what the public schools cost. And Kindercare will take your Kindergartener from 6 AM to 6 PM, PLUS provide breakfast, lunch, and snacks! They also provide supplies and workbooks.

Public school supply lists are getting out of hand as well. I've seen some of the lists... they have the basics like crayons, pencils, erasers... although sometimes they ask you to bring an outrageous amount of one supply, like 10 boxes of crayons or something. But they also want you to bring tissues, copy paper, dry erase markers, and I think I saw toilet paper once. PLUS the teachers always seem to be going out and buying supplies for their classrooms. Just what are the public schools paying for?

I do realize that they have to pay for some things that I as a homeschooler do not have to pay for. They have to pay the teachers (which I think should be given a fair salary), buildings, overhead, busses (although some districts charge for that, especially with increased gas costs). But if Kindercare can provide more services for less money, shouldn't our public schools be able to do better than they do?

I think that we often pay our taxes out without really thinking where all the money is going to. It becomes a collective pot of money that sometimes the government does really stupid things with, like teapot museums or berry research in Alaska. Not that education is stupid, but we should get more value for our money.

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