Thursday, October 2, 2008

What Does it Cost to Educate a Child

How much money does it take to educate a child? It's a question that comes to my mind this time of year for two reasons: teacher strikes and politics.

One of our local school districts went on strike at the beginning of the year. Two of the issues were teacher pay and health benefits. They began by demanding an 11% pay increase. They settled with a 5% increase over three years and increased health benefits. The average teacher salary in that district is $58,500 without benefits and $80,000 with benefits. That's more than $10,000 and $28,000, respectively, than what my family lived off of this year. From my perspective, those teachers are paid plenty and I don't understand why I should foot the bill to pay them more.

Now, with the election season upon us, we are hearing more about how the schools need more money. We already spend $497 billion (2005 figures) on education. Just how much more is enough? How about if we just give them all of it? Will that be enough?

So, how much does it cost to educate a child in America today? Well, it depends on where you live. Here's the 2005 figures:
New York spends the most -- $14,119 per student.
Utah spends the least -- $5,257 per student.
My state, Washington, is in the middle -- $9,982.69 per student.
My school district, Tacoma, is pretty high -- $13,245 per student.
Then there's little old me. I spent $577 this year on two students.
I look at those figures and I am astounded. With so much money being spent on each student, how could they possibly being doing such a bad job? In contrast, I spend a tiny fraction of what the public school spends yet my children are not only doing well but are at least one year ahead of public school students in every subject. Oh, what I could do with over $9,000 per student!
Is money really the issue? Or could it be the fact that public schools are a monopoly? With public schools being the only option for most people, do schools have any incentive to do better? What about the fact that unions make it impossible to fire ineffective teachers? Bad teacher? Tough! Can't fire them. Or is it the fact that public schools were originally designed to teach students to conform, among other things?

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10 Comments:

Luke said...

That is astounding. With that kind of money, they could buy each student their own full Sonlight Core (with all the great books), pay mom (or dad) several grand to stay home with the kids and teach them, and still have money left over.

Crazy.

~Luke

Mommy to One said...

Exactly! Make the schools compete for that money and watch American education rise to the top. No competition and, well, check the fruit.

Dr_Zinj said...

Actually, it cost little old you about $12,000 to home school each of your children.

You need about $7,800 a year for food for yourself.
You need a minimum of $12,000 per year for rent and utilities in Tacoma, Wa.
You need about $3,700 for food for your kids for their one meal a day "at school".
Add the $577 for supplies and then divide by 2 kids and the cost to provide education for them comes out to about $12,000 per year.

JoAnn said...

In counting the cost to homeschool...

Why would I count food that I would eat whether I homeschooled or not? I need to eat whether or not I'm teaching the kids.

Why would I count rent and utilities that I would pay whether I homeschooled or not? I have to pay these whether or not I'm teaching the kids.

My kids would take a sack lunch from home. Using our actual grocery budget, that comes to approximately $1.33 per meal per child. Multiply that by 180 school days, and lunch costs just $240 per child for the whole school year. Compared that to your inflated $3,700 for lunch. Oh, and they'd be eating that food regardless of where they school.

Our supplies were purchased a few years ago and probably cost $50 for several years worth. Bought everything on penny and ten cent sales at various stores.

So, no it doesn't cost $12,000 to homeschool children. You cannot count costs that would be there regardless. You are quoting costs of living life; these costs would still be there even if my kids went to public school and would be in addition to the cost to public school them. So, if you count them against homeschooling, you'd have to count them against public school as well.

EconPro said...

No, you're right, it costs a lot more than $12,000. I'm not sure why the cost of food was included in the other example. But the cost of employment that you aren't being paid should. So, let's ignore you for a second, and there's a mother who wants to do the same thing as you. However, she gets $40,000 a year at her job, she has to quit her job to homeschool, therefore the opportunity cost is an additional 20k per child given two children homeschooled.

Whether or not you would work in this case isn't as important as what the example illustrates. That this isn't for everyone, and the cost of 80K (which as a figure is preposterous and your only valid link explains the salary for a teacher with a masters, even more useless without a stat for how many teachers have a masters) gets "amortized" over class sizes much larger than 2 students, plus the fact that single parents would lose an ability to have these same benefits that you mention get taken away in addition to their salaries. Teacher's make 70% of what they would make in the private sector.1 Listen, you might make a better teacher than these people with these fancy degrees do, however, what about Jane-6-pack next door?

Lastly, your point on the public education monopoly is a joke, since the private sector does compete with it. Class size is smaller in private school meaning you will need more teachers. Therefore, if you remove the public sectors subsidized education - what do you think will happen to the cost of private education, that these same parents don't have your level of privilege to homeschool or can't afford to pay private school, if you remove the subsidy system? Or are you not qualified to teach your kids economics? I'm all for homeschooling, especially in countries such as the one I teach in now, South Korea, which uses a largely private system and a female parent will spend more than what she can make in an office to educate two children privately. But that's why on average women here have 1.2 children, because they can't afford to have 2.0. And to be really cynical, let's add your opportunity cost (forgone wages) + your measly $577 = you've overpaid by your wages plus $577 over the tax system since your taxes didn't change unless you actually quit a job to take up homeschooling. I feel bad for those teachers who do go to school and then more school, and then get reamed out in a blog by someone who can't properly quantify the cost to educate per child is much higher in her scenario than in the one she portrayed.



1 http://www.aft.org/salary/2007/download/AFT2007SalarySurvey.pdf

Anonymous said...

I'm a college student who was looking up different articles for a psych paper. This was very educational for me. Especially what EconPro had to say. Thank you

Mike said...

Part I -
Wow! I was Google'ing the costs per year to educate a child in public school, and stumbled across this blog. I live in NW New York state, which now claims the dubious honor of being one of the highest areas for school taxes in the country. We really wanted to understand why we spend as much as $6k per year and will spend those amounts for the duration that we're gifted with owning a home. I'm dissapointed to find out that it funds the institution that produced some of the respondents here.

I was particularly irked by the comments of Dr_Zinj and EconPro. Assumptions about homeschooling were rampant in their statements. The jaded reference to the AFT website by EconPro was an obvious tip to their politics, and likely to their profession.

To address the specifics... I can't do any better than the point-by-point that you did with Dr_Zinj's comments except to say that his Doctorate was evidently not in a logic based discipline. To EconPro however, I would like to make these comments...

Mike said...

Part II -
I am the father in my homeschooling family. It is our choice to dedicate the time necessary to provide a quality education and, more importantly, upbringing to our children. The opportunity cost that you mention is at the expense of the children in homes where both parent work. We make it a point to live within our means and teach that to our children as well. We enforce our values with our children, and don't allow the values of a liberally educ(indoctrin)ated, entitlement professing, morally declining educational institution to do that for us. We're the parents, not you. Our reward is a 6-year old reading Sherlock Holmes and a 9-year old doing chemistry. Furhter we relish seeing them enjoy their time at "school" vs. dreading getting on the bus. They honor us by respecting us and developing opinions based on our guidance not those of a stranger seen a few times a year at a parent-teacher conference.

As far as the comment about the levels of education for homeschooling parents, both my wife and I have Masters degrees, mine Engineering then Management, and hers in SLP. But, it doesn't take even the first year of a college education to teach the core skills that public education has steadily been failing at, not all of which do I attribute to the educators. It's the family unit that uses public education as the first shift baby sitter, then the television as the second shift before bed, that is primarily failing the children. The resources that we have as homeschooling families abound, and are open to the choice of the family, not dictated by the districts. Influences such as the least common denominator effect, socialization vs. education, and intolerance concern me in the districts' approach.

While I agree that the statements about teacher's salaries were ambiguously referenced assumptions, so too were EconPro's calculations that the homeschool education of a child costs $20k per child. Don't counter useless facts with more useless assumptions. If you think that you can make more money in the private sector, please stop teaching and cease indoctrinating our kids to your rhetoric in public or private schools.

As for the comment about "jane six-pack" that was an uncalled for slur about homeschooling families, and shows your intolerance and ignorance. Homeschooling families represent many walks of life, but most if not all are honest, upstanding, homeschooling parents. They love their children dearly and live within their means to provide them a quality education more worthy of praise than anything I've seen in the public sector. Again, don't use hyperbole to make a point that is much less appropriate in the community that homeschoolers represent than in the community that public schools represent.

As to the blind compliments of Anonymous, please grow up and develop your own opinions. Take a statistics class to realize that statistics are used to "scientifically" validate opinions on both sides. Statistics are often backed up by other statistics, based on facts collected by fallible individuals, even the best of whom still have agendas. I hope this response finds you before you become part of the establishment that was and is post-secondary education.

Joann, thanks for this website, and specifically this post.

Mike said...

Part II -
I am the father in my homeschooling family. It is our choice to dedicate the time necessary to provide a quality education and, more importantly, upbringing to our children. The opportunity cost that you mention is at the expense of the children in homes where both parent work. We make it a point to live within our means and teach that to our children as well. We enforce our values with our children, and don't allow the values of a liberally educ(indoctrin)ated, entitlement professing, morally declining educational institution to do that for us. We're the parents, not you. Our reward is a 6-year old reading Sherlock Holmes and a 9-year old doing chemistry. Furhter we relish seeing them enjoy their time at "school" vs. dreading getting on the bus. They honor us by respecting us and developing opinions based on our guidance not those of a stranger seen a few times a year at a parent-teacher conference.

As far as the comment about the levels of education for homeschooling parents, both my wife and I have Masters degrees, mine Engineering then Management, and hers in SLP. But, it doesn't take even the first year of a college education to teach the core skills that public education has steadily been failing at, not all of which do I attribute to the educators. It's the family unit that uses public education as the first shift baby sitter, then the television as the second shift before bed, that is primarily failing the children. The resources that we have as homeschooling families abound, and are open to the choice of the family, not dictated by the districts. Influences such as the least common denominator effect, socialization vs. education, and intolerance concern me in the districts' approach.

While I agree that the statements about teacher's salaries were ambiguously referenced assumptions, so too were EconPro's calculations that the homeschool education of a child costs $20k per child. Don't counter useless facts with more useless assumptions. If you think that you can make more money in the private sector, please stop teaching and cease indoctrinating our kids to your rhetoric in public or private schools.

As for the comment about "jane six-pack" that was an uncalled for slur about homeschooling families, and shows your intolerance and ignorance. Homeschooling families represent many walks of life, but most if not all are honest, upstanding, homeschooling parents. They love their children dearly and live within their means to provide them a quality education more worthy of praise than anything I've seen in the public sector. Again, don't use hyperbole to make a point that is much less appropriate in the community that homeschoolers represent than in the community that public schools represent.

As to the blind compliments of Anonymous, please grow up and develop your own opinions. Take a statistics class to realize that statistics are used to "scientifically" validate opinions on both sides. Statistics are often backed up by other statistics, based on facts collected by fallible individuals, even the best of whom still have agendas. I hope this response finds you before you become part of the establishment that was and is post-secondary education.

Joann, thanks for this website, and specifically this post.

Mike said...

Part II -
I am the father in my homeschooling family. It is our choice to dedicate the time necessary to provide a quality education and, more importantly, upbringing to our children. The opportunity cost that you mention is at the expense of the children in homes where both parent work. We make it a point to live within our means and teach that to our children as well. We enforce our values with our children, and don't allow the values of a liberally educ(indoctrin)ated, entitlement professing, morally declining educational institution to do that for us. We're the parents, not you. Our reward is a 6-year old reading Sherlock Holmes and a 9-year old doing chemistry. Furhter we relish seeing them enjoy their time at "school" vs. dreading getting on the bus. They honor us by respecting us and developing opinions based on our guidance not those of a stranger seen a few times a year at a parent-teacher conference.

As far as the comment about the levels of education for homeschooling parents, both my wife and I have Masters degrees, mine Engineering then Management, and hers in SLP. But, it doesn't take even the first year of a college education to teach the core skills that public education has steadily been failing at, not all of which do I attribute to the educators. It's the family unit that uses public education as the first shift baby sitter, then the television as the second shift before bed, that is primarily failing the children. The resources that we have as homeschooling families abound, and are open to the choice of the family, not dictated by the districts. Influences such as the least common denominator effect, socialization vs. education, and intolerance concern me in the districts' approach.

While I agree that the statements about teacher's salaries were ambiguously referenced assumptions, so too were EconPro's calculations that the homeschool education of a child costs $20k per child. Don't counter useless facts with more useless assumptions. If you think that you can make more money in the private sector, please stop teaching and cease indoctrinating our kids to your rhetoric in public or private schools.

As for the comment about "jane six-pack" that was an uncalled for slur about homeschooling families, and shows your intolerance and ignorance. Homeschooling families represent many walks of life, but most if not all are honest, upstanding, homeschooling parents. They love their children dearly and live within their means to provide them a quality education more worthy of praise than anything I've seen in the public sector. Again, don't use hyperbole to make a point that is much less appropriate in the community that homeschoolers represent than in the community that public schools represent.

As to the blind compliments of Anonymous, please grow up and develop your own opinions. Take a statistics class to realize that statistics are used to "scientifically" validate opinions on both sides. Statistics are often backed up by other statistics, based on facts collected by fallible individuals, even the best of whom still have agendas. I hope this response finds you before you become part of the establishment that was and is post-secondary education.

Joann, thanks for this website, and specifically this post.