kitchen table math, the sequel: cheap private schools - ?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

cheap private schools - ?

I've been wondering about something.

Is there a way to create cheap private schools?

Relatively cheap, I mean?

Relatively cheap private schools middle-class parents would be willing to pay for -----

I'm asking today because I just came across this passage from an editorial by Paul Peterson while scouring the internet for more spending x scores graphs:
Universal public high school is relatively new in this country. As late as 1900, more than two-thirds of all US high-school graduates got their diploma from private schools; public schools were turning out only 62,000 graduates a year. In later decades, school districts expanded the "public option" in education; by 1960, 90 percent of high-school age students were enrolled. When something is free, people will use it.

Today, though, only about 10 percent of elementary and secondary students attend a private school. Private schools now attract only two kinds of families: 1) the well-to-do, who are willing to pay the high cost of private schooling; and 2) those seeking to preserve their religious traditions.

Anything available on the cheap will drive out the more expensive -- except for those with hefty wallets or strong convictions.

Health lessons from schools
Paul E. Peterson
New York Post
fyi: Yes, this passage comes from an editorial about the health care bill (back when the public option was still on the table), but that's not the point.

The point is: the cheap drives out the expensive. I'd never heard it put so succinctly.

Public schools are fantastically expensive ($30K per pupil in my district last school year). Yes, we have special education and a zillion mandates, but from my perspective one of the main reasons public schools are fantastically expensive is that constructivism costs an arm and a leg.

If you're running a constructivist school, you have to have tiny little classes so the kids can work in groups without the decibel level breaking the sound barrier; you have to have mixed-ability classrooms because.....well, just because, which means kids move through the curriculum at a snail's pace; you have to have spiraling curricula which also means kids move through the curriculum at a snail's pace; you have to have SMART Boards and laptops and Smart Phones and lord knows what else because it's the 21st century; you have to have literacy specialists and math specialists because the failure rate with balanced literacy and fuzzy math is high; you have to have lots of parent reteaching at night and/or parent hiring of tutors because the kids aren't great at discovering and constructing knowledge.... I could go on.

I've been thinking about "cheap private schools" ever since reading about the Knowledge Schools in Sweden. It's true that, technically, a cheap private school costs more than a public school, but when you contemplate the many costs of getting a slow, fuzzy education instead of a fast, coherent education, the money you'd spend on a 'cheap private school' might start to look like a bargain.

A year ago I was talking about the issue of school spending and quality with a friend, and I said, "A good education costs less; a bad education costs more."

She pointed out that this principle is true on two levels: the school budget but also the life of the child. A bad education costs the child.

Suppose you put together a bare bones K-5 or K-8 school with the fundamentals parents want....

Could you do it?

What would it look like?

66 comments:

Matthew K. Tabor said...

This is what it looks like:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFQ6j-BPwTs

... for about $7k per pupil, I believe.

http://www.basistucson.org

Catherine Johnson said...

wow -- thanks!

RMD said...

Bob Luddy, who started the Franklin Academy charter school in Raleigh, founded a series of private schools, Thales Academy. The tuition was $5K a few years ago, and I believe his costs are in the $6,500 range. Franklin Academy averages 1 year and 4 months of achievement for every single academic year on the areas measured by the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

Also, Cheyenne Mountain Charter Academy gets about $6,800 per child to educate their children, and has amazing results (check out their CSAP scores online). Their high school was number 1 in the state in 2007.

If you really just want to educate kids, it's not nearly as expensive as if you have other goals in mind.

Crimson Wife said...

There is a new full-time homeschooling co-op starting next year in my area. Basically the parents wanted to start a private school without having to worry about all the red tape of officially making it a school. They're charging $400/mo., which is less than half of what the typical secular private school around here costs.

Liz Ditz said...

Matthew, thanks for that link.

I've been pouring over the budget for the relatively inexpensive private school I'm associated with. But it's still more than $7K, and I don't see how we could get it down to that level.

Here are some non-negotiables that affect our ability to lower tuition:

Out here in California, if a private school's student-teacher ratio gets more than about 15:1, prospective parents get less enthused. The idea that "low student-teacher ratio" MUST mean a better education seems stuck in parents' minds. The fact is, most of our teachers think that a 20:1 ratio would work for almost all of the classes. But we cannot go that high and be competitive in terms of attracting students, because of parents' beliefs.

So we are stuck with maintaining a larger faculty roster than we might prefer.

A second non-negotiable cost element is facilities. Our current site is by no means palatial -- we're leasing a former parochial school, built in the 1950s. No SmartBoards, no wet lab, no indoor gym, an antiquated HVAC system, The site doesn't exactly match our needs as we've grown. We've been investigating other alternatives, but there are many barriers that apply to any start-up school. For example, we want to stay in the city we're located in, but there are quite a few zoning restrictions on where the new campus can be located, which has a big effect on cost. We're in Silicon Valley, so we're competing with for-profit enterprises for space.

But there is a minimum size -- a minimum number of square feet that it takes. We started looking at the square-footage requirements on a per-student basis and quickly figured out that was inappropriate. We've developed a pretty complex formula. One of the wrinkles was developing a way to allow for some larger classroom groupings.

A third budget-buster is insurance. Sheesh. We're talking risk insurance here, not benefits for faculty and staff.

I looked at the low-cost option available where I live. One's a "Christian college preparatory" -- the tuition is about $12,000/year for the first child. Only 40% of their teaching staff have master's degrees or higher, which is one way they're holding costs down. By comparison, at a much smaller school, we have only 10% of faculty with only a BA/BS. All of the MA/MS holders are in their field.

The local Catholic parochial schools are running from (low end) $4,900.00 (for the Catholic first student in the family) to $5,600 (non-Catholics) to (high end) $6,250 (for the Catholic first student in the family)to $8,600 (non-Catholics). The large co-ed Catholic high school charges tuition of about $13,000, with additional fees for books and other activities such as athletics and performing arts.

Turning from cost pressures on an existing school to the cost of setting up even a "bare-bones" school -- it's not free. The California Charter Schools Development Center estimates a start-up cost to be somewhere between $83K and $281K, just for salaries and facilities.

California school finance is notoriously complicated. I think the funding from the school district to the charter would be somewhere around $7,000 at the high school level.

I know that my local charter high school at first thought that they would be self-sustaining, but have continued to raise money from the parents and the community.

Lisa said...

Some great stuff for me to delve into more deeply.

Bare bones? I want the school to address serious academics ie. arithmetic in prep for higher mathematics, good grasp of grammar in prep for focused writing, history/geography, solid sciences
I can take care of home ec, life skills, drug education, uses of computer programs, how to make power points, etc at home. My public school kids waste so much time on non-academics it's scary.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with Lisa. The grammar taught to my 2nd grader is inadequate, IMHO. My child's knowledge of grammar improved after I started teaching it in the evenings using the Michael Clay Thompson LA Island series. The same goes for Math. My child is doing much better in Math since I started doing Singapore Math at home in the evenings and weekends. I could not let my child just do the Everyday Math at the public school.

Bostonian said...

We are sending two children to Catholic school for $10K, which is relatively inexpensive. The school building is not as nice as that of the public school, and there is no playground. So be it.

Parents should consider sending their gifted children to school early to reduce the intellectual mismatch between them, their classmates, and the curriculum. The Catholic school let our son enter Kindergarten a full year early (was 4y 2mo old in September)
and will let our daugter enter at 4y 9mo old. We have transferred the boy to public school for the 2nd grade.

There should be a voucher system where parents can send their children to any school that teaches the core subjects. That would certainly include Catholic schools.

Cranberry said...

It doesn't cost much to educate my children. It costs a great deal to educate a few children. Our district is reputed to be good with special needs students, thus it draws more sped kids to us. The "cost per student" reflects overall spending, and no longer breaks out sped costs.

So, it's possible to educate students privately for much less than the public cost, because the school has the freedom to avoid heavy sped costs. A new private school would also be freed of the overhang of pensions. Transportation costs also fall away, as the school isn't required to provide busing.

I'm not advocating that sped kids not receive an education. I think that requiring each school district to pony up for unlimited sped burdens in isolation is bad policy. It leads to a poisonous atmosphere between parents and teachers. The school district has a clear conflict of interest between providing an education and balancing the budget. In our state, everything else in the school budget is subject to cuts, but not sped. That builds resentment.

Linda said...

This is not PC, but some kids have such severe handicaps/medical conditions that they should not be in the education system at all. I know of a 7-12 school that spent 4 years trying to remove one kid; not toilet trained, unable to speak, mental age about 2 years. Highly disruptive, of course.

SteveH said...

"My public school kids waste so much time on non-academics it's scary."

And the time on academics is very inefficient with mixed-ability and group projects.


I'm interested in what Crimson Wife talked about"

"Basically the parents wanted to start a private school without having to worry about all the red tape of officially making it a school."

Is it possible to have a homeschool that doesn't inlcude your own kids, and to charge money? Is a "homeschooling co-op" a particular thing defined by the state?

I've always thought that group homeschools could be a great way to try out or start up a private school. Maybe that's all you ever need. Many parents are willing and able to teach certain subjects. You could pool resources to buy a van. You can take adantage of town and state-sponsored sports and music opportunities. You could be done with academics by noon.


However, I can't imagine that states would allow this to go very far, not because they don't think they will work, but because they might work too well.


I have also thought that an inexpensive, but very rigorous, college was possible. Just provide excellent teaching and keep overhead low. Professors would just teach, but they would have to teach at least 4 courses. Back when I taught math and CS full time at a college, we had a number of adjunct teachers who had regular jobs in industry. Some were leaders in their area. They wanted to teach even thought they were paid next to nothing.

What about homeschools where some of the classes are taught in the evening when many parents are available? It's more useful than baking cookies for the PTA. Parents and non-educators have a whole lot to offer academically, but they are kept out. That adds a lot to the cost.


It's nice to think of ways around the system, not ways to fix the system. Talking about the CCSSI standards is a lose-lose proposition.

Beth said...

No offense, but while everyone's talking about the importance of standard grammar, I'd like to point out that you don't "pour" over a budget, you "pore" over it.

lgm said...

>> In our state, everything else in the school budget is subject to cuts, but not sped. That builds resentment.

Aye. I'd rather see a federal special education district with a dedicated team and court to determine placements. I'd like to see those placements cross school district lines or be in county regional facilities as these can be more economical decisions. As a resident of a district that people like to hop to for sped services, it's getting ridiculous to see that the lucky residents of this district get to pony up to build more sped classrooms, while a few of the districts next door (within 10 miles) are closing schools.

I'd like to see that the unclassified students growth is closely monitored, and that inclusion be ended when it affects the academic growth of the rest of the class. The ability to use the excuse of 'inclusion' as a reason for not covering the grade level material needs to be ended.

>> So, it's possible to educate students privately for much less than the public cost, because the school has the freedom to avoid heavy sped costs. A new private school would also be freed of the overhang of pensions. Transportation costs also fall away, as the school isn't required to provide busing.

Tranport cost depends on the law. Here the public district provides transport to private schools within the district's boundaries. So the cost would be in the levy for the school tax rather than in the private school fees.

Without a retirement plan, the school would be attracting - if looking for low turnover - retirees with pensions, people who are doing the job as a service, or people who have spouses with pensions. Same for medical. That would limit the pool of candidates.

cranberry said...

I wasn't thinking of not offering a pension plan. Much of current public school spending supports pensions for retired teachers. A new school wouldn't have a pension obligation to generations of retired staff. When people here get upset about public school budgets, they often forget that it's not ALL spent in the classroom this year. Much of it was effectively spent in past years, when people who are now adults were attending school.

Crimson Wife said...

"Is it possible to have a homeschool that doesn't include your own kids, and to charge money? Is a 'homeschooling co-op' a particular thing defined by the state?"

Here in CA, there is no such thing under the state ed code as "homeschooling". HS kids are either enrolled in a private school (can be a single-family one or an ISP like Calvert or Seton), a public school (including virtual charters and district ISP's), or are tutored (there are very strict requirements and it's mostly child actors & athletes who do this).

I'm not 100% sure, but I would presume the students in the co-op would be legally enrolled in private schools established by their parents. There are a number of private school regulations that specifically exempt single-family schools.

The parents are free to pool their resources and hire a teacher, rent a meeting space, purchase curricula and supplies, etc. This happens frequently but typically the co-ops are part-time. The difference with this new one is that it would be 5 full-days.

K9Sasha said...

lgm said: I'd rather see a federal special education district with a dedicated team and court to determine placements. I'd like to see those placements cross school district lines or be in county regional facilities as these can be more economical decisions.

My state has ESDs (Education Service Districts) that serve some of our special ed students. A single ESD provides services to several school districts. Our local one covers something like 3-4 counties, and all the school districts in them.

The ESD provides teachers for students who are severely developmentally delayed, have severe autism, or are deaf (or blind, I assume). The ESD doesn't have it's own school building, but uses existing classrooms in local districts. They pool children from several districts together so it's more cost efficient. For example, all the deaf children go to school in one school district, and within that district they all attend one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school.

The ESD also provides specialists to work with students, parents, schools and teachers. At our last staff meeting, we had the autism specialist from the ESD speak about autism and asperger syndrome traits and behaviors so teachers who don't know anything about autism or asperger's might recognize it and have a better idea of what to do and what to expect when those children are in their classes.

Another way the ESD saves school districts money is by providing a lending library of teaching materials, such as movies, for local school districts. I was able to borrow some movies from them last year to make learning about bones and muscles more memorable. By having a communal ESD library, each school district doesn't need to spend money on their own.

Given what a great resource the ESD is, and how much more efficient it is for serving small populations of sped students, I'm surprised more states don't have them.

lgm said...

In NY, districts have similar resources available through BOCES,by county or region. We do have BOCES run classrooms in the district, but aren't sending anyone outside the district to another district, just to the centralized facility or a a private school. The district must pay for using BOCES resources. Due to the increasing number of qualifying students and the high transportation costs to get to the centralized facility, it's become cheaper for the district to hire the speciality teachers and bring the students to the neighborhood school. The last number presented at a s. board meeting was a $35K annual saving per student for not using BOCES.

Liz Ditz said...

Thanks Beth -- everyone needs a proofreader.

Cranberry said...

lgm, I've heard the argument that it's cheaper to provide some services "in house". Has anyone looked seriously at the pension obligations, though? In our district, teachers with sped qualifications are paid more. After 3 years, they have tenure. If they're hired for a particular student, that student passes through the system, but the school district is left with the long term cost of the specialist. It's to avoid these sorts of costs that many businesses prefer to hire consultants. They may be more expensive in the short term, but they represent a cost savings over the long term.

Matthew K. Tabor said...

BASIS Tucson takes normal kids - not academic superstars - and turns them into high-achieving AP standouts. I haven't seen or read of another school that comes close.

CassyT said...

Come to Colorado and see what $6800 gets. It's not just Cheyenne Mountain Charter that's strong on CSAP scores, Peak to Peak Charter, Liberty Common Charter, and Ridgeview Charter are top schools in the state, and all receive less than $6800/pupil.

lgm said...

>>Has anyone looked seriously at the pension obligations, though?

If I understood correctly, the fee BOCES charges includes funding the pension and retiree medical obligation for their employees. The cost savings likely comes from hiring a new teacher instead of the BOCES veteran. The savings would decrease each year as that employee went up the ladder.

Catherine Johnson said...

yippee!

22 comments!

I actually met a self-imposed deadline today, so haven't been around - can't wait to read!

concernedCTparent said...

I think Van Damme Academy in California is a bargain at $10k. It's the kind of education I homeschool to achieve.

SteveH said...

"Van Damme Academy in California"

Very interesting. I read the interview with the Head of School on their website. For $10K, it sounds like a bargin. Do they have any details on their curriculum? Do you know how they are set up to allow kids to move at their own pace?

Allison said...

so 7k is the number no one can get below?

I can't afford to send 3 kids to school at that price.

And in fact, the bigger question is this:

even if you magically had the money to spend on education, would you? Would you really spend 20% of your gross income per year on K-5 education? 6-8? 30%? 15%? Would you even be willing to spend 20% for MIT?

21k a year for a family of three kids means a quarter of a million dollars assuming the price doesn't rise from present dollars. Is that REALLY worth that amount of money? What's the opportunity cost of not saving that, or investing for retirement, or starting a business with it?

I vote no. But of course, I don't have that, so that helps me make my decision.

Amy P said...

Our kids' school is about $6k a year for elementary with class sizes around 12 and separate art, music, Spanish and PE teachers. However, it's in Texas, it started as a free homeschool co-op, it's right next to a college and draws on graduate students to teach courses (like Aristotelian logic for 8th graders!), a lot of teachers have kids at the school, and the they aren't paid a bunch. The upper grades are more expensive. The high school is still a work in progress (we only have up to 10th grade right now). I still don't know if it's going to be practical to run a high school on such a small scale. I'm committed to sending our kids there until the end of 8th grade, but I'm waiting to see how the high school does. For all I know, our kids may eventually want to swim in a bigger pond with more extracurricular options. We have two kids now and basically manage on one good (but not lawyer or doctor good) salary. We have one paid-off car and we still rent. I don't know how we would pay for three or four kids in private school at the same time, but I will cross that bridge when/if I get to it.

concernedCTparent said...

Steve- I don't know precisely how they allow students to move at their pace, but the curriculum is quite challenging and they cap class sizes so that teachers have time to give significant feedback/corrections on the work. They use Singapore Math in the elementary grades and according to the Head of School the students must achieve 100% before moving on.

Writing is a significant part of the curriculum and more importantly, there is explicit instruction on how to go about it. She mentioned that typically the middle school students are responsible for about 12 essays a year that go through various stages of pre-writing, writing, draft, and multiple editing sessions with copious feedback from the teacher at each stage. Also, the topics are carefully chosen (no free-writing about feelings or journaling) and the goal is to develop an ease with essay writing in topics of literature, history, etc. that prepares these children to succeed in high school and college.

Singapore Math, explicit writing instruction, history, science, literature - the core of classical liberal arts curriculum-- definitely a bargain, I think.

Crimson Wife said...

"Even if you magically had the money to spend on education, would you?"

We could afford to send our children to the local Catholic schools. However, we're choosing to homeschool for elementary so that we can save up for private secondary school. I feel confident in my ability to provide at least as good an education in the early years. But once my kids hit a certain level, I'm going to need to outsource.

Right now the tentative plan is to use the Stanford EPGY Online High School for 7-8 or 9 and then prep school like Exeter or Andover for 9 or 10-12. We're not sure yet when we'll feel our kids are mature enough to be in a boarding school.

Beth said...

I have a general question for commenters on this thread.

My question is, is there anything you want your kids to learn or do in school which is *not* about academics?

I ask this because as I see my kids' experience in their (very expensive, BTW) private school, I'm realizing more and more that there are a lot of non-academic things going on that I really do care about.

Right off the bat, the reason we left the public schools in the first place was because dd #1 was depressed. The school thought there was no problem because her academic performance was adequate.

So for me, a kid who goes to school and comes home happy is huge. Other things I see her doing at her present school, like learning how to speak comfortably in front of a group, and developing real, independent interests, are very important to me.

For instance, dd#1 signed up for a computer class after school, and now practices python on her own (not assigned).

Someone mentioned a small school that has no playground. That would be a dealbreaker for me.

So how about it? Are there non-academic aspects of school that are important to you?

lgm said...

>>So how about it? Are there non-academic aspects of school that are important to you?

Sports, fine arts, and clubs are important to me. I see sports as setting the lifetime habit of fitness and good nutrition. I'd like to see sports be done as rec level clubs or intramurals as well as having the competitive teams. Fine arts b/c they transmit our heritage and I know many parents would just ignore it if it was their responsibility. Clubs to develop talents and to provide leadership opportunities & an entry to adult life since the district is not offering classes is such areas as speech & debate, AP science, honors math, or management.

It's been suggested that these all be done as community activiites..but that's very expensive to do given the lack of nonschool facilities and transportation...why go to the expense of replicating what we have in one centralized school district over several towns?

lgm said...

>>so 7k is the number no one can get below?

>>I can't afford to send 3 kids to school at that price.

It's the health insurance scenario again. If the middle class all had school tax elminated, and market wages & retirement were paid for the staff, they could afford to pay out of pocket for their unclassified children. Many do, via private school. I would if I had a nonreligious private school available.

The cost of the medical and psychological needs for the 1/6 that are classified is $10K/school year more than the unclassified...making school unaffordable to many. That cost can be trimmed by paying market compensation and by changing the way the business is done. It's a fact that all-day inclusion costs more than noninclusion, in terms of support staff, transportation, and in terms of how little gets accomplished in the classroom. The inclusion model needs to be changed to something more economically viable or the funding needs to be changed.

momof4 said...

I don't know what happened to my last post, but I wanted to address lgm's issue of facilities for extracurriculars. In the areas where my kids were raised, public school facilities were routinely used for after-school and weekend activities sponsored and run by parks & rec, clubs and community groups of all kinds. These activities included a full assortment of sports, Hands-On Science, ES foreign language and various fine arts options.

Cranberry said...

I would love for schools to offer sports, music and art. For sports, anything which makes kids sweat is fine. All three subjects should encourage try things they haven't done before, rather than try to create a few stars.

The trouble comes in when the "nice to haves" are legislated to be the "must haves." I've heard of many high school students who could have graduated early, but must complete a year of mandatory P.E. before they can collect their diploma.

It's great to offer a stipend to teachers who oversee an extracurricular activity. On the other hand, when budgets are cut, that means many extracurricular activities are cut because the system can't afford the stipends. The stipends are frequently very small, particularly when compared to the overall school budget.

It's a balancing act, though. So many sporty kids participate in club teams outside of school. When budgets get tight, must the public schools cut teachers to support a star system in sports? If the club sports are more important for college admissions, why not use the money for sports for activities in which all can join?

In the public setting, teachers remain in their disciplines. The math teacher doesn't lead the chorus. One teacher equals two and a half aides in the public budgeting process. So, for a public school, two and a half FTEs aides for inclusion have a higher priority than a music teacher. They aren't contractually obligated to offer music.

In the cheap private model, teacher can and do take on other roles. That's the old prep school model. Parents can also lead extracurricular activities, with the school's cooperation. Public schools vary widely in their willingness to cooperate with parent volunteers.

lgm said...

momof4: what's the facility rental fee?

I live in a union state, so I can't just rent a room. I have to rent a janitor at time-and-a half. Two actually, b/c their contract reads that they can't work alone. It was $100/hr for a cafteria on a Sat., min. 4 hrs., the last time I rented on behalf of a nonprofit youth group.

lgm said...

momof4: what's the facility rental fee?

I live in a union state, so I can't just rent a room. I have to rent a janitor at time-and-a half. Two actually, b/c their contract reads that they can't work alone. It was $100/hr for a cafteria on a Sat., min. 4 hrs., the last time I rented on behalf of a nonprofit youth group.

Anonymous said...

Van Damme: Our “back-to-basics” math program teaches math skills in incremental, logically-ordered steps, integrating each new concept with a review of those already mastered.

Sounds like Saxon.

ari-free

Anonymous said...

"The point is: the cheap drives out the expensive."

No, the rich will always want the expensive. But free drives out the relatively inexpensive.

ari-free

Allison said...

--If the middle class all had school tax elminated..


Yes, and this is vastly different than a *voucher*. Don't take my money and then tell me what I'm allotted to get for it. Just give me my money.

But I can homeschool for less than 7k a piece, and the difference is that my homeschool has a Tremendous Economy of Scale that my tuition bills don't. It costs almost no more for me to teach 4 or 5 than 1--the increase is in paper and pens, basically. While many Catholic schools do have sliding scales for the nth children, it's still high.

But is 7k really the magic number in today's present dollars?

concernedCTparent said...

"Sounds like Saxon."

Nope. Singapore Math.

Allison said...

Let me ask it differently.

The marginal cost of an additional child in a school is practically zero; a classroom of 26 costs no more in teaching, admin staff or facilities than a classroom of 25.

So when these schools are charging $7k, is that because they're already at capacity where the marginal cost is zero, and adding another student really does increase their costs? How? If not, why not lower the tuition?

Another idea is that enough parents have gotten used to shelling out that much money that it's a price point enough people don't blink at. If you're, say, a two income family, and you've been spending 1k-2k a month per kid on daycare since year 0, then spending 7k a year isn't difficult to manage, so you're comfortable with it.

Cranberry said...

In calculating the costs of homeschooling, you should consider the loss of an adult salary to the household. Thus, you don't start at 0, you start at -(after-tax and expenses wage). For example, if that number's $21,000, if you homeschool 3 children, your cost's already $7,000 per child.

I assume the magic number will vary with the local cost of living. The costs will be higher on the coasts than the midwest.

Even if you enroll your child in a public school, you may be spending a significant amount on education. There's also the cost of afterschooling. Tutors in our area are reputed to be able to charge $80 to $100. I don't know what Sylvan, etc, are charging, but there's enough demand to keep multiple tutoring chains and private tutors in business. Our public schools charge fees for transportation and extracurricular activities.

If bus service costs $400 per child, and tutoring costs $1600 each year, and sports and chorus participation cost $350 per year, the difference between public and private isn't $7000. It's $4650. If you're renting in a good school district, moving to a less affluent community may make the move to an inexpensive private school affordable.

momof4 said...

Cranberry, I have no interest in supporting a star system in school sports, either. My experience has been that stars are created in the clubs because it takes years of high-level training to learn the skills and tactics. One coach, whose school team had just won its third consecutive state championship, said that all any school coach could do was to help with teamwork, since there wasn't time to teach skills. His championships were won by the kids who had played on the two most successful club teams in the state. BTW, I've not met any kid who plays at that level who has any interest in spending school time on rec-level PE-sport activity. What I would like to see and what would save money is to waive required PE, at all levels, for kids who either play a school sport (1 sports season=1 PE semester)or who can document regular participation in a non-school sponsored sport. I once publicly suggested that; resulting in a chorus of horror "But that would mean cutting PE teachers!"

lgm: You have a valid point re. costs. I was thinking more about use of outdoor fields, for which no charge was made. Still, I think it is possible (at least in non-union areas) to find a way to make use of indoor facilities affordable, if there is a real desire to do so. I have certainly heard of small schools allowing free use of classrooms, with parent/community sponsorship (including clean-up). Right now, the overall desire seems to let/make the schools do everything themselves; I just don't agree with it.

Laura said...

BASIS Scottsdale is another school that would fit the profile. It's an offshoot of BASIS Tucson - showing the idea of a rigorous curriculum and excellent teaching can be replicated in another place, besides Tucson.

Bob Compton made a movie about BASIS Tucson if anyone is interested - previews can be seen on his website http://www.2mminutes.com/ The link to 21st Century Solution is about BASIS Tucson.

Additionally both are charter schools, meaning you don't have to "pay" to attend, they are publicly funded. Though there is always a waiting list.

concernedCTparent said...

"What I would like to see and what would save money is to waive required PE, at all levels, for kids who either play a school sport (1 sports season=1 PE semester)or who can document regular participation in a non-school sponsored sport."

Absolutely. Ironically, schools in my area seem to be pretty inflexible about the PE requirement. One of the high school students at my daughter's pre-pro ballet school is actually having to take a double-session of PE this year because her school won't let her graduate without doing this. This despite the fact that she trains 5 hours a day, 6 days a week in a rigorous classical ballet program. I've heard similar stories from other districts as well.

A day has only so many hours and athletic students shouldn't have to choose between a rigorous, academic course of study that requires a significant investment to time for homework and the need to train consistently for a certain number of hours under intense conditions. It's just ridiculous.

A huge problem aside from being a waste of time for these particular students, is that they risk suffering injuries during PE that jeopardize opportunities for scholarships and/or careers.

Anonymous said...

"Nope. Singapore Math."

oh! they should say so!
I found this:
http://www.vandammeacademy.com/pdf/Reclaiming_Education.pdf

It seems she was once in favor of Saxon but rejected it.

ari-free

Cranberry said...

On the question of marginal cost per child. One strength of a private school which can fill its classes is the ability to control class sizes over time. Parents' willingness to enroll their child at your school imposes a limit on the class size. If the local school's at 24 per class, you could offer a classroom size of 20. You can't offer a classroom size of 28, unless you have something to tip the scales in your favor, such as a religion.

Being able to set class sizes, and keep to them, is a huge strength. You don't have to move teachers around to deal with last minute increases in enrollment. You don't have to fire teachers when enrollment plunges. You can find the curriculum which works best with your staff. Life is more predictable, so you can find out what works best.

If all the costs are covered with 50 students, but you have 51 students enrolled, should you drop tuition by $137? Maybe. What happens if a student's family moves to another city, and you can't fill that spot? You shouldn't be one enrolled student away from closing the school.

lgm said...

PE...lol. The make-up (for excused absences) for gym class here is 'run a mile on the track' after school. Anyone in a jv or varsity sport can't use the sport practice as a makeup. So..my kiddo on the V CC team had the choice of running a mile to makeup gym class plus being denied participation in the next CC meet, or running up to 13 miles at the CC team practice and losing points on his PE grade. Only one missed class can be made up per day; so no running 5 miles and maing them all up at once. Defintely a political choice.

lgm said...

>>If you're renting in a good school district, moving to a less affluent community may make the move to an inexpensive private school affordable.

The sol'n for me is to move to a more affluent community where the public school has more choice. I was shocked to find out that the district that offers topnotch math and science here is not taxing any more than mine, which offers nothing in the way of honors math or science and is likely to go Title I. They even have fine arts. The sticker price on a house is higher, but the taxes are not b/c the district has more businesses in the community. Local conditions vary so highly.

Allison said...

--In calculating the costs of homeschooling, you should consider the loss of an adult salary to the household.

No, that's a bogus calculation. I'm already at home. I didn't quit to homeschool, and if there are other children in the home who are too young to be in school then I couldn't "go back to work" until the last one is of school age anyway. For even-slightly-large families, that's easily a decade.

Beth said...

Allison, maybe your household didn't lose a salary because of homeschooling, but that doesn't mean it's a "bogus calculation". For many households, the loss of an adult salary is a very real consideration. I would think it's especially an issue now, with many men losing well-paid jobs and unable to find a new one.

Anonymous said...

Regarding VanDamme Academy's math program: It *does* sound like Saxon.

concernedCTparent said:
"Nope. Singapore Math"

I'm curious, how do you know this?

I have always been intrigued by Ms VanDamme and her ideas on education, but, frankly, her use of what I assumed to be Saxon math made me question her judgement in other areas. If she is actually using Singapore math, I'll have to rethink my...er...thoughts.

At one point I saw on her website that they were thinking of doing something like offering franchising opportunities, so that others could set up VanDamme-like schools in other areas. Our area could sure use one. Especially if they use Singapore math!

concernedCTparent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
concernedCTparent said...

I had remembered reading that VDA used Singapore as the math curriculum about a year ago and tried to cite something when I posted, but of course I couldn't. When listening to some of the youtube videos from Van Damme Academy my understanding was re-confirmed beause there are a couple of references to Singapore Math during the VDA Writing Curriculum youtube videos.

In response to a question from a parent about advancing children by ability, Lisa Van Damme talks about using Singapore with her own daughter (with the assumption being that Singapore Math is the curriculum they use at VDA).

See: VDA Writing Curriculum part 7 (6:15)

Then again, in VDA Writing Curriculum part 8 (right at the beginning), she says that all of their 8th graduates have completed algebra or geometry and 25% have completed pre-calculus. This isn't surprising if these kids are learning math from the get-go, under the tutelage of a skilled math teacher, using Singapore Math. What I don't know is what curricula they use after Singapore Math 6 a/b.

Crimson Wife said...

Beth-
Many of the homeschooling parents in my area work in flexible or part-time jobs. In my local support group there are moms (and a few dads) who work in IT, law, sales, architecture, psychology/counseling, interior design, landscape design, massage therapy, and a bunch who tutor or work as "educational specialists" for the local virtual charter school.

Allison said...

And some homeschooling parents work full time. Physicist Dave comes to mind.

Perhaps I wasn't clear enough. It's a bogus argument that I need to take into account the loss of income I'd supposedly suffer to homeschool in comparing homeschooling to the cost of public or private school. That's because for many, they don't lose that income--either they don't have that income to lose, or they are working anyway. If you're going to be home anyway, if you're out of work independent of the choice to homeschool, if you're working, then in all of the above, I don't need to count the money that I am supposedly giving up.

ChemProf said...

Coming late to the discussion, as usual, but in answer to Beth's question -- academics aren't the only thing for me, but they are by far the most important. If I had to choose between a school with no playground that used Singapore math and taught writing skills in isolation versus a school with a playground that focussed on journaling and "teaching the whole child", I'd choose the first one in a heartbeat.

In fact, that's exactly what we're planning to do, except that there is no school like that near us, so we're planning to homeschool instead. We're also the odd case that Allison is talking about -- two parents with flexible jobs. I recognize that we are very lucky, but we are also increasingly common.

VickyS said...

Even loss of an income, if it comes to that, is sometimes not as significant it may seem to be at first blush. Many incomes barely offset the combined cost of childcare, transportion, business clothing, take out meals and the like.

VickyS said...

Here is my idea for the homeschooling community: a homeschool center that operates during the day, say 8-5. Combination day care, tutoring center, homework help, community center, play date venue, library, computer access, exercise space, study hall, group project staging area...everything under one roof. Parent stays 100% in charge of homeschooling, but can make use of facilities, work a PT job or get to a doctor's appt. Can pay by the hour or the day, drop in or regular. You're not a school, and the government is not involved--but you provide some infrastructure that allows homeschooling to flourish in your community.

lgm said...

VickyS,that sounds like the YMCA except that parent has replaced teacher for certain subjects and it would be available during the day.

The basic problem is that many public elementary schools refuse to group by instructional need. A secondary problem is that sufficient competent instructors really aren't available in the core subjects of math and writing. Until that political problem is solved, there's no point in attending, unless the child happens to be both in the favored group and the luck of the draw puts him with a competent teacher.

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

In calculating the costs of homeschooling, you should consider the loss of an adult salary to the household. Thus, you don't start at 0, you start at -(after-tax and expenses wage). For example, if that number's $21,000, if you homeschool 3 children, your cost's already $7,000 per child.

No, *sometimes* you should consider that. But in other cases it's not applicable. Our family's plan was always that I would be a sahm so long as we had children who were not of school age. We have a wide age spread between youngest and oldest, so we had children below the age of six for 21 years. Then we became unofficial foster parents for two little boys whose mother prefers to leave them with us more than she wants them with her, and that service is important to us. So we've lost no salary from me being at home homeschooling our kids. Other parents do manage somehow to combine jobs with homeschooling. I think this would be too hard for me, but it's apparently not impossible for a good number of people.

I've also been astonished at what our friends with kids in public schools spend on back to school clothes, supplies, schoolbooks (they are not free in our state), field trip fees, and other school related costs. We also managed with only one car for years because I was at home, nor did I need the same work wardrobe. There are hidden expenses to homeschooling, but there are, I find, more hidden expenses that people miss from having kids in public schools and working an away from home job.

Homeschool co-ops: I know of co-ops in several states- including one state with heavy restrictions, one with almost no restrictions. There are nearly always ways to have them no matter what the school laws are- what? If a group of ten families wish to get together to study math or dissect frogs, the state will interfere? How can they?

There are programs much as VickyS describes in Washington state.
In other states parents do volunteer all the time to help teach certain courses. The co-ops can be formal or loosely organized. Some people use church buildings. Smaller groups meet in people's homes. My local homeschool group pays an art teacher for art instruction classes in a room at the local library once a week.

Catherine Johnson said...

It's 'pore'?

Not 'pour'?

I am gobsmacked.

Catherine Johnson said...

Poring over "Pore" and "Pour"

Catherine Johnson said...

This reminds me of the time I learned that "peruse" did not mean "skim."

Catherine Johnson said...

academics aren't the only thing for me, but they are by far the most important. If I had to choose between a school with no playground that used Singapore math and taught writing skills in isolation versus a school with a playground that focussed on journaling and "teaching the whole child", I'd choose the first one in a heartbeat.

Right - and that's exactly why I brought it up. There are many things I would happily give up in order not to have to have Trailblazers & character education.

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