Can Parents Afford To Send Children To Public Schools?

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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?