Paying for private school

Tips and tricks for sending your child to private school

Tag: parents

The school district shuffle

Housing is one of the largest expenses a family takes on. And reducing that expense is a potential source of funding for your children’s education.

Villa Haas Mansion - Source: Wiki Commons

Villa Haas Mansion – Source: Wiki Commons

We purchased our home knowing that we were sending our child to private school. And this meant avoiding housing in the best school districts and saving a lot of money.

The numbers

In California, for example, housing in the best school districts cost 50% more. The median home value in California is $472,100 in 2015. A house in a great school district that cost 50% more would be $708,150. That is an additional $263,050 right there. And that doesn’t include the lower cost of upkeep for will be a more forgiving neighborhood. And the lower cost of ongoing operations in a smaller house (air conditioning, heating, hot water, replacing the roof and so on).

A good kind of peer pressure

US Currency - Source Wiki Commons

US Currency – Source Wiki Commons

We did exactly this in the DC area and our house is  now worth about $400,000 (on a really good day). That might seem like a lot but it’s on the low end – even for our neighborhood.  We live in a largely blue collar neighborhood with wonderful salt of the earth people. The only pressure to keep up with the Jones is to be self-reliant. With two mechanics on our street the idea of someone else washing our car or mowing the lawn is readily frowned upon. This “peer pressure” is a further financial turbo boost and part of the education of your child.

Sure the house won’t be as fancy as the more expensive version but that has its own appeal. And you are doing this for the benefit of the kid. Stop caring what other people might think of you. Embrace voluntary restrictions on consumption. Grow up. Be the adult here. You can still be cool. Forget square footage. These days it is all about how much more environmentally friendly your smaller (and presumably older) house is for the planet. Brag about your stewardship of the planet. Your an environmentalist now!

Tiny House. Source: Steven Walling, Wiki Commons

Really Tiny House. Source: Steven Walling, Wiki Commons

Your child will eventually move away from home – but the values, mental models, and behaviors they pick up at school will be part of their identity for their entire lives.

 

I look forward to seeing you in our neighborhood soon as you downsize. You are welcome to use our leaf blower – I will show you how to use it.

 

“The beautiful thing about learning is no one can take it away from you.” — B.B. King

 

Occasionally, when other parents find we send our child to private school, they discuss their thought process for their own children.

Wait and see

For the few that consider private school as a possible path, a recurring theme  I have heard for those that can afford it is that they will wait to see if the child has potential to justify the expenses.

Old School House Sign - Source: Wiki Commons

Old School House Sign – Source: Wiki Commons

And I get that one wouldn’t want to waste money but I struggle with their wait-and-see viewpoint.

Who should go?

Shouldn’t all children be educated to their potential, even if it is not ‘success’  by conventional  standards? Indeed, isn’t a struggling child the ideal case for a private education and most likely to see beneft?

If it makes sense for your situation, move now to develop that potential and make it inevitable.

Tell your children they are a more worthwhile investment and more important than a supersized house.

Villa Haas Mansion - Source: Wiki Commons

Villa Haas Mansion – Source: Wiki Commons

Is it wrong to go to private school?

In a conversation with friends, they made the case that it is wrong for parents to not send their children to public schools.

Are they right?

It is wrong and elitist to send your child to private school?

The argument proposed has a similar stance to that of insurance or immunization – we all have to do it for the overall system to be effective.

Their line of thinking was this: the diversity of income, education and perspectives creates a better situation for all.

For example, the mechanic can provide both material support and assess the conditions of the shop class. The lawyer can monitor what is expected, and, if needed, use the legal system to ensure the children are getting the resources needed. Meanwhile the single parent who is working three jobs benefits from the extra set of eyes and benefiting from the diversity of the community. The worse the school district the better the benefit.

Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=700891

High Court Bench – Source Wiki Commons

This is a compelling argument. So let’s take it further. If we seek to optimize this benefit it would make sense that we all live in public housing. Clearly, it is unethical to pick a house based on your preference. Surely a well heeled lawyer could do wonders to improve the community. And a police officer and their family would be a welcome presence to thwart malfeasance. Along this line of thinking if you are an involved parent you can make the most difference if you send your child to the *worst* possible school available. Certainly your child will suffer as a result because of the time it takes to reform a school but it is for the greater good. Right?

Similar arguments have been made for public transit and even employment sharing. And on paper it sounds good.

The role of self interest and competition

The observed reality is a bit different.

In a resource constrained environment a lawyer will understandably use their limited time to focus on the needs of *their* child which they understand best and have a prime interest in. Other children might lose attention as a result. After all, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. And that wheel might sue. And the police officer in a dangerous public housing project will want to protect *their* family. Why should they have to patrol their own neighborhood after a long overnight shift after already doing that somewhere else? Should they have to work for free after a long day? Isn’t that a shared responsibility of everyone in the neighborhood?

Instead, grade the schools

An alternate model is one where schools competes to serve the needs of all the attending children. Those that fail too many for too long shut down. Those that do well can grow their system and benefit from economies of scale. This free market approach does require regulation (and for education, lots of it) but in aggregate it is a pretty good system in other areas. That is today’s private school system.  And home schooling. And the public school charter school system.

Indeed, the reason we send our child to a private school has nothing to do with academics and everything to do with the school naturally working faith and reverence into each day. That is important to us. For others it might be a school with a world class music program.

We donate beyond the required tuition and will likely send money long after our child has graduated because we want to see the religious framework of that school continue. Many of the children attend for free based on economic need. And you should see the children who graduate. They are concerned about social justice, have a sense of right and wrong internalized and have the academic framework to be able to make a difference. And that is good for everyone.

 

 

Are you a bad person for sending your kid to private school?

A recent slate article proposed that if you send your kid to private school you are a bad person.

The thesis for this claim is that if every single child to public school they would improve.

No studies or data are presented to back this up.

And she might be right – but convince us!

Will putting more people into a bad system help? Maybe. But why didn’t it help from the previous generation? Or the one before that? Were those parents lazy? Didn’t they use their influence and connections to improve the education system? Is it better?

An alternate approach is creative destruction. In a system where bad actors (second rate phone companies, restaurants that get everyone sick) are allowed to fail and good actors (first rate phone companies, barf-free restaurants) are enabled to thrive, over time, the bias tends towards more good actors.

That is the private school system. A public school can be reformed but, until folks move away it can also continue to operate “as is”. Indeed, private schools put pressure on public schools to get better by their higher performance. I emotionally get the “we all need to go to public schools to improve it”. Then I think of the clogged roads and how teleworking is opting out and improves

caption2

Does more here help? Image attribution: CC BY-SA 2.5, Link

my circumstances and enables more of a scare resource (roads) to be more available to those who need it.

We can do better than sacrificing a child’s education in the hopes that doing so might improve the over all system. A better use of these energies is to educate the children who need it now and thereby raising the standard upon which all schools are evaluated.