Can Parents Afford To Send Children To Public Schools?

By  | 

The Wall Street Journal has a shocking story about how public school systems are forcing kids to “pay to play” in athletic and music programs. The story looks at an Ohio family that had to pay cash to register their children for Spanish and Earth Sciences, to get them into optional courses like band and to get them to run cross-country and track. So even thought the kids are in public schools, they’re paying $4,446.50 for these activities.

The article says that skyrocketing personnel costs, cuts in taxpayer funding and lower tax revenues from the recession are driving this.

My own kids start school next year, but even though my mom is a public school teacher, we decided to send our kids to parochial school. But my siblings send their little ones to Denver and Arapahoe County public schools in Colorado. They report that pay-to-play is a significant issue. Or so they hear for older ages. Already my brother has had to buy cleaning supplies for his daughters’ school. The school has also saved money by asking parents to serve as a teacher’s aide several days throughout the year

Because part of the problem has to be that average spending per pupil has skyrocketed 44 percent since I was in school two decades ago. And public union personnel costs are so high that they now amount to 80% of expenses in school districts. With Medicaid squeezing state budgets, school budgets are competing more than ever for scarce dollars.

Apparently the practice of public education being completely taxpayer subsidized is something new. The article says that in the early 19th century, public schools received some funding from taxpayers but also charged tuition.

Are you being asked to foot the bill at public schools, beyond whatever you pay in taxes? Does your daughter’s biology lab require her to bring her own safety goggles? Does this bother you? Would you rather schools just drop those boutique classes that only serve the high-achieving smarties, such as Advanced Placement Macroeconomics?


  1. saltlines

    April 16, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    Pay-to-play is actually the worst. I was a cheerleader, and not only did I have to pay $330 a year to the district to just be on the team, there were about $1000 worth of extraneous costs, like uniforms and camp and competition fees. It was crippling to have to pay all that- on top of all the other fees the school required. And after school fees, SAT’s and ACT’s are like $50 each, and each AP test is now $90. College application fees are also in the $80-$90 range. Shouldn’t there be a subsidy for that?
    And as a “high achieving smartie” myself, I’d like to put forth the idea that maybe it’s the remedial courses that should be cut. I was not only an AP track student, but I was a teaching assistant for 10th grade remedial english. As much as the teacher and I tried to get the 15 or so students in the class to really try to learn, they really just didn’t care. Consistently throughout the year, the average grade in the class was a D. It seems to me that school money should be spent on students who actually care, not on future community college dropouts.

    • bootsy

      May 31, 2012 at 8:07 pm

      Exactly, saltlines. I went to a state school that rewarded high achievement & tried to offer remedial help where needed, but if the student did not show a willingness to learn, then the were simply expected to just not prevent anybody else from learning. Our school was between two private schools – we had consistently higher exit scores & happier students. We did have to pay for some activities, such as camps & excursions, but all subject were available to all students equally (financially, in any case). In Australia, btw.

  2. Vicky H

    May 31, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    (If you cut the AP classes, in a few years sites like this will go bankrupt, because no one will be reading them. Just saying.)

    And sports and extra-curricular activities have always charged kids for things like uniforms, but charging for Spanish or Biology class is outrageous! These are basic classes required for college admission, and I hope any school who tries to charge for these has their accreditation threatened!

  3. Idaho

    May 20, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    Maybe if the schools would stop buying fancy new math textbooks every two years they could support their own bands/teams. Seriously – I’m pretty sure geometry has not changed in the last 2,000 years?

    Schools want everything to be shiny and new and latest-greatest-technology. School should not be a consumer arms-race. In this world, kids are going to NEED to learn how to get by with what they have, how to make do, etc. Schools should not be teaching them that they deserve the best of everything and someone else will pay.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *