Should I get a loan?

No, you should not get a loan to pay for private school elementary or high school.

A loan means you don’t have the money

A loan means you don’t have enough money to pay for the school. A loan means you would spend more than you have, every month. That is not sustainable for the long haul of tuition for private school which can go on for decades.

Debt has specific uses

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By Sander van der Wel from Netherlands – Depressed, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Debt is appropriate for a business venture where you can reasonably expect to recoup it and then some – such as a highly employable four year college degree or a medical emergency. Or for a house where the deductible interest usually (depending on interest rates) makes the loan cost less than paying cash outright.

Everything else is a pants on fire debt emergency. Don’t add to it.

Here are your options

  • Cut expenses
  • Increase income
  • Choose a lower cost school
  • Choose a public school

What!

Public school?

Yup, public school is an excellent option. Seriously consider it. It is ok to not go to private school. It is not ok to destroy your family life and health in the pursuit of this singular goal.

Confront reality, and then adjust

Confront reality, whatever that may be – don’t put yourself in bondage and mortgage your future time just because you wished things were different.

Instead, you can send your kids to public school and pick up a  tutors and religious education on the side to augment the education. That is an acceptable and perfectly fine version of private education. So is home schooling. Remember the goal: an education for your child that results in a balanced, centered, inquisitive and knowledgeable adult with an internal morale compass. There are lots of paths to get to the end result without selling your future on this  one way of achieving your goals.

Getting in to a private elementary school

One of the advantageous of a private school is the alignment of values, approach and focus with that of the family’s interest and needs.

This is a two way street

Many prospective parents are surprised to find this go both ways. Quickly dispel the notion that you paying gobs of money means you are a customer. Incorrect. You are paying for part of the expenses for a community you are joining (and ideally, have been long part of). And this means it goes both ways.

Many private schools often don’t have enough openings. Others have certain entrance criteria (this doesn’t mean academic) and will not diverge from that criteria, even if it means leaving seats empty or shutting down. That is what makes them special – the ability to focus on their particular mission.

In short, this means your family must earn and keep a spot in a private school. That means not only selecting a school that is a fit for you but the school selecting you.

Where does your family fit in compared to other applicants?

To do this we will examine existing models constructed from the research at (where else) a private education institution – in this case Harvard University  – where Michael Porter describes the five competitive forces that should be considered in shaping strategy[1]. These forces include rivalry, threat of new entrants, threat of substitutes, bargaining power of buyers and suppliers.

In your own situation what is your value to the school community?  If you were the school would you select your family as compared to others? Why? And why not?

Remember financial aide is often managed through a blind trust so the ‘I can pay the tuition’ might not be a factor. Or it might be. Depends on the school. And for grade schools, academic excellence doesn’t exist. And for college it might be one of those necessary but not sufficient items.

In our own situation we are members of the religious community where our child goes to school so we offer continuity and shared values.

Our differentiation

Additionally, we enrolled during the last large economic downturn when interest in private education waned because of financial challenges for many families. For us the religious framework was more important than the bank account.

What about you?

What about you? Is a new school forming that needs students and aligns with your vision of a school? Or is the school almost entirely families from one part of town/culture/group and you family can introduce much needed diversity in the classroom?

Investigate and understand. We have seen a class with 85% boys in the class turn away more boys because they wanted a higher mix of girls. Your value proposition can be as simple as having a daughter who is interested in the school.

Lay aside your tendency to fighting for what you think is the right school for your child – you might be wrong

You might be thinking that school ‘over there’ would be perfect for your child. And that might be the case but more than likely the school ‘right here’ is the ideal fit and will seem all to familiar. It might even be your local public school.

The point here is to find out instead of blindly applying to what you think is the ideal or best private school. And consider your families relative position in the five forces competitive model.

And finally, do your research

Do your research. I assure you that is it much better to find out your situation is not a match before your child joins the school rather than focusing on getting in no matter what.

[1]“The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategy.” Harvard Business Review. August 13, 2008.

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

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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.

A new education secretary

In November of 2016, the incoming administration appointed Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary and today she started her nomination hearings. What does her nomination mean for the education system?

Betsy is chair of Amercian Federation for Children, a group advocating for school choice for parents and students through the use of charter schools.

They claim the following:

  • Every 26 seconds a child drops out of a public school in America
  • In many of our nation’s largest cities dropout rates exceed 50%
  • America is lagging behind more than a dozen other nations in math and literacy.[1]

These are astounding numbers.

Old School House Sign - Source: Wiki Commons
Old School House Sign – Source: Wiki Commons

Their proposed solution is to introduce choice via charter schools and her appointment is a clear support of that philosophy in the public education system.

I have no idea if a voucher approach will work but I suspect (acknowledging I am the least qualified person in the world to talk about this) that a sudden switch to a voucher approach will leave areas where no education options are available.

The result would be similar to food deserts. These have occurred in cities with big box grocers understandably focusing on higher income areas. The under served areas are left with few if little options and lose access to fresh produce.

Source: http://americannutritionassociation.org/newsletter/usda-defines-food-deserts
Source: American Nutrition Association 

I hope a new national approach results in improved academic achievement for all students but urge caution.

Slow and careful changes with an exploratory approach  may make sense here. For example, can the power of the internet remove geographic barriers to educational access? How can they assure that there isn’t a generational gap for specialty programs such as special needs programs, programs focused on the arts, STEM and vocational studies while they experiment approaches?

We will watch this closely from the lens that every child deserves to use their time in school to have the opportunity to grow to their full potential and be an active part of the broader community.

[1] http://afcgrowthfund.org/school-choice-facts/

Doing your research

You have decided to send your child to a private school! Good for you! And good for your children and the broader community!

However, in doing so you suddenly switch from a mindset of a exploring a single school system to lots of choices. You soon realize you aren’t selecting a school. Instead you are starting a two way conversation about joining a community.

It can be overwhelming and you don’t want to start from scratch. The good news is there are many information sources out there to help you out.

The leader in our area, the DC School Hub, provides families in and near the national’s capital with information daycare, nursery school, preschool and independent and private schools.

What is wonderful about this resource is the variety of perspectives. They include descriptions of the areas schools, messages from the heads of

DC School Hub schools and detailed stories written by parents *for* parents describing their children’s experience. In about ten minutes of reading you can learn from decades of real experience.

They even list  who has spots open for new students.

Look around for something similar in your area. Even if there isn’t one, reading through the DC School Hub will provide a framework for the kinds of questions you should be thinking about when selecting a private school for your child.

The key take away here is you want the variety of perspectives – the head of school, teachers, parents and the students. That depth of information is too much to gather and absorb during a school’s open house so a site is a valuable resource. In addition to visiting the school, read the information on these sites and ask neighbors, colleagues and family members about the schools you think might be a match. We were very surprised to learn that someone we know quite well was both a teacher and a board of trustees member at our child’s school and had all kinds of helpful tips for us.

The worst you will get by asking around is a shrug or a lecture on why all children should attend their local public school or advice on how to better spend your money. And hear them out – that is information for you to consider as well.

The Informed Electorate

On Tuesday November 8th, Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States by winning the required electoral college votes with a separation of only 112,000 votes.

It was a contentious election cycle with harsh words and harsher accusations flung by all parties.

Despite which side you were in favor of it is clear that the election was close, complex and nuanced.

Thomas Jefferson once said that “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.

An educated citizen starts with the education of children where a diversity of thought and training only enriches the discourse. Your job, with the help of others, to educate your children.

If you are considering, or already sending, your children to private school – great job! On paying for private school we discuss motivations, financial approaches and the down sides of electing to send your child to a private school.

By Ali Zifan, via Wikimedia Commons