Monday, August 09, 2004

The Cost of Public Education

It's that time of year again! Bookbags, backpacks, pencils and paper. Yup, that's right. It's the first day of school. There are a great many arguments these days about education. More specifically, public education; failing schools, the No Child Left Behind Act, and of course those eeevvviiilll school voucher programs. We hear constantly about how much we are, or aren't, spending on education each as a country. And the No Child Left Behind Act is a liberals dream in terms of the spending and "control" it offers. But what the cost to Joe Schmo? What does our "free public education" cost us?

Well, the bad news is I don't really know. I can however tell you what it's costing me. And it ain't pretty. Let's start with the initial source of funding for public schools, taxes. Here in Montgomery County AL, we have a sales tax rate of 10% (ouch). Now let's say for the sake of argument that I spend....say....$15,000 a year on taxable goods/services. It's probably a little more but that's a nice easy number to work with. Now with a tax rate of 10%, with that 15k, I'm also spending 1500/year in sales tax. Now let's set that aside for a moment. Let's go into Alabama's state income tax (oh how I miss Florida!). I pay about $45 every paycheck in state income tax (with claiming 4 dependents), which translates into about $1000/year. Now take into account that I have to buy their school supplies and workbooks, and in some schools parents have to buy their kids school uniforms (yes in public schools), and you start to get a pretty expensive "free education". Then of course to save money they "consolidate" the bus trips, so my kids make stops at 3 other schools on their way to and from school, making for a total one way trip of roughly an hour to an hour and a half. How much were those private schools again?

Most people are under the impression that private schools are only for the rich, costing sometimes in excess of $10k per year. While this is true for the elite schools, the Department of Education shows that average tuition for private elementary schools in America is around $2500/year, and average tuition for all private schools in America is under $3500/year. Still sounds like a lot of money eh? That my friends, is where the school vouchers come in. For most states, government funding for public schools is around $6500 to $7000 per student per year. Imaging if the state took just half of what it would spend on your kid(s) in public school ($3000) and instead of sending to the school that your child would go to, sent it to you as a voucher to send your child to whatever private school you choose. Imagine that, a choice in your child's education. Seems like a simple enough concept, so why isn't it put into practice more often? There are a varying amount of reasons. The leftists' desire for socialism over privatization, teacher's unions screaming foul. Mostly though, IMNSHO, it's because the government simply does not want to give up control over your what your child assimilates in school.

Nazism anyone?