Ten Thou$and per Child, per Year?

How much does it cost to educate a child in America, per year?

This is the question that was going through my mind while watching the last debate of the 2012 presidential race. Throwing more money at education ain’t gonna do a da*n thing to improve it. Pardon my fren*h.

The most recent study I found compares costs from 1961 up through 2008.

Current expenditures per pupil in fall enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools: Selected years, 1961-62 through 2007-08
School Year Current expenditures in unadjusted dollars Current expenditures in constant 2008-09 dollars1
1961-62 $393 $2,808
1970-71 842 4,552
1980-81 2,307 5,718
1986-87 3,682 7,105
1990-91 4,902 7,857
1995-96 5,689 7,904
1996-97 5,923 8,002
1997-98 6,189 8,214
1998-99 6,508 8,490
1999-2000 6,912 8,765
2000-01 7,380 9,048
2001-02 7,727 9,309
2002-03 8,044 9,482
2003-04 8,310 9,586
2004-05 8,711 9,754
2005-06 9,145 9,865
2006-072 9,679 10,178
2007-08 10,297 10,441

So then I did some figgurin’.

My son, Nicholas, was born in 1989. If we had sent him to kindergarten, he would have started in 1993. Do you know–roughly–what the government would have spent to educate my child for me over the course of 13 years?


Know how much my husband and I spent educating him ourselves over the course of those 13 years?

$2,500.00, maybe.

What is wrong with this picture? It shouldn’t cost the government $112 THOUSAND dollars to educate a child through 13 levels of school. Keep in mind this was years ago as well. A child entering kindergarten today can expect the government to pay closer to $140,000.00 for his education by the time he graduates, and IF he graduates at all.

This is insanity.

What adds to the insanity is the fact that many students fail to make it to high school graduation, and a high percentage of those who do make it to graduation still read at a low level and cannot problem solve at a ninth grade level!

The problem of education is so freakishly complex, that it is going to take a miracle to solve the issues plaguing the System. I agree.

In the meantime, I’m not waiting for the government to solve its education crisis. I’m very happy that my kids can read and problem solve at a very high level. Without ever entering a classroom. Without a penny of government assistance.

And their Mama ain’t even that smart! Logic? Are you kidding me? I’ve got precious few logic skills!

But I set expectations for behavior and enforced them. Moms do that sort of thing; it’s not unusual. If I can raise kids who can read and problem solve pretty darn well, anyone can.

Nicholas grew up to be a perfect SAT scorer. For less than $2500 COMBINED expenses throughout his 13 years of schooling. Accidental? Not at all.

I know what it takes to raise smart kids. Most teachers know, too. But they are hamstrung in the classroom situation. They CAN’T MAKE kids learn. They desperately  need the help of parents. Many parents, however, can’t even control their own kids. How can teachers control kids whose parents can’t control them? This is insanity!

What is the general attitude of students today towards their own education and attending school? Positive or negative? As goes the attitude, so goes the student.

But Wait.

If we plugged in mastery learning when kids are mentally mature enough to handle presented concepts, they would ALL have an equal chance at success. One size does NOT fit all in the realm of education, but America is all about educational OSFA.

Give early elementary school teachers liberty to present concepts to children as they feel each child is ready, not when the textbook says all children should be ready. Restructure this system and enable students to start young building success upon success upon success. Mastery learning completely eliminates failure in young children because the teacher doesn’t move the student on until the current lesson is truly absorbed and understood. This takes time and teacher discretion, something that is not currently built into our system of schooling.

Give me a child and $2500. I’ll give you a student who reads well and can problem solve at a high level within 13 years or less. I can do it if the parents are supportive. If the parents work with their children at home. If the parents set high expectations for success for their students. If the parents encourage reading at home. It doesn’t cost a lot of money to educate a child outside of the politics of the school system.

I will always salute the classroom teacher. But he or she is crippled without the assistance of motivated, involved parents. But parents have to be teachers as well. They have to model the kinds of behaviors they want to see in their children.

Parents who are involved in their children’s education ensure that the government reaps a marvelous ROI. Thank you to those parents. America needs you now more than ever!



About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.


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