Feed on

The Pittsford Government schools (don’t call your local schools “public” that is a monstrous distortion of the term) spent over $17,000 per student in 2007 with a total budget of $106 million. This year they are hoping to spend $110 million or about $18,000 per student.

The Catholic grammar school we send our children to can educate for less than $5,000 per student and the Catholic high school we hope to send them to (if they are not “competed” out of business by zero-priced government schools) can do it for less than $9,000 per student per year.

From the perspective of a parent thinking about where to send a child to high school, here is roughly the choice they face:

  1. Go to a school that spends $18,000 on my child. Pay zero for the “privilege.”
  2. Go to a school that spends $9,000 on my child. Pay $9,000 for the privilege.

Note that if we were talking about K-8, the numbers in (2) above would be halved. Thus, given then fact that parents “choosing” government schools get a gift of $18,000 from other citizens while Catholic school parents pay every penny (and more) for their education, is it any wonder that the Catholic school sector has been hammered and is continuing to wither away? This would be happening whether or not we decided to attach the name “Catholic” to the non-elite private schools I am talking about.

The amount I pay in taxes is irrelevant for the above comparison because I pay them either way.Proponents of government schooling argue that people like me have a “choice” about where to send our children, but do we really? How many other businesses would survive in an environment where their competitors gave away a doubly expensive product for free by virtue of subsidies?

The fact that anyone still chooses Catholic schools is astonishing. It is generally believed that Catholic and government schools are of equal quality. In some areas the Catholic schools are better (like in most inner cities) and in some areas the opposite is true (such as where I live). How much better would a Catholic school have to be in order to justify giving up an $18,000 annual gift to send your children there? Well, if you look at the educational research, there is simply no way a school can be THAT much better – we don’t even see that kind of a difference across the worst and best public schools.

Think of the nature of the competition this way. If the quality of Catholic schools and government schools were identical, then you would be indifferent between sending your children to either only if the net costs of each were the same. However, it costs $18,000 more to send your children to Catholic schools than government schools where I live (I say this with a straight face because government school proponents believe dollars of spending matter – if that is the case, the $18k that Pittsford spends per student means those kids are getting “more” of something than the $9k Catholic school kids). Would you pay $18,000 more for an item of identical quality? How much better would the Catholic school have to be before you were indifferent between spending $18,000 on a Catholic school, or nothing on a government school? It is almost inconceivable to expect those kind of differences in quality (though perhaps I am being too pessimistic, I think FedEx is that much better than the USPS).

Alternately, if you choose to send your kid to Catholic school from K-12 where I live, you will have spent $81,000 per child in tuition for those 13 years. By sending them to government school, you spend none of that, and also have the school district give your child twice as many goodies as the Catholic schools give you. In other words, if the net gift of going to government schools is $18,000 per year, then (ignoring the time value of money) by sending your child to Catholic school you are giving up a gift of $234,000. We have two children, so we would be giving up something closer to $400,000 (you get a multi-child discount at the Catholic schools).

Despite this, government school supporters smugly believe they are operating on a level playing field. They argue that I am not entitled to receive my $6,500 in annual property taxes back although I do not use the government school system and although the system is repugnant to me. Even if every dollar of taxes were refunded to me, my choice of Catholic schooling would still leave our children in a worse position (spending wise) than their government school counterparts.

How many people are really able to spend $400,000 because of a belief? At some point, the price of one’s beliefs becomes too high. I am not here advocating for vouchers – that is a plan limited in scope which does not fundamentally alter what I am showing you above. I am advocating an end to government schooling, nothing less.

2 Responses to “Free, Open and Fair Competition”

  1. Speedmaster says:

    A few thoughts …

    1. >> “I think FedEx is that much better than the USPS”
    I think FedEx is free of unions, which are deep in the USPS and UPS.

    2. >> “From the perspective of a parent thinking about where to send a child to high school, here is roughly the choice they face:”
    There’s also the constant knowledge that not only are you forced to pay for the education of your neighbors’ children at the muzzle of a gun, even then you can’t choose a superior product for them, you are forced to overpay for an almost always inferior product, often run by and for the convenience of teachers’ unions.

    3. As I have conversations with people, these perceptions are VERY common: that parents are too stupid to educate their children “properly.” (feel free to define that as you wish), and that the poor would simply go uneducated. The thing I _consistently_ hear is that it is both moral and economically sensible to force us to pay for government schools since we benefit from living in a society of educated people.

  2. Speedmaster says:

    My three kids are in Catholic school and will be as long as I can afford it. I definitely notice that when I go to the school for any reason, I am treated as a customer, I most definitely do not get that feeling at government schools as a parent.

    I also like the fact that I have some say in curriculum and I’m less worried about my kids being used as fodder for the latest statist/leftist creeds.

Leave a Reply