When public education was established in the U.S. back in the 19th century, cost efficiency was undoubtedly a primary concern and a main motivating factor. A dozen children could be educated by a single well-qualified teacher for far less than the cost of hiring a private tutor for each family. Today the average cost of education in U.S. public schools is about $12,300 per student per school year. Private school can cost anywhere from $6,000-$50,000 per student per school year. Much of this money goes toward overhead, administration, transportation, insurance, and fringe benefits, not toward teachers’ salaries.
In 2014, over 50 percent of families with children in public school were classified as “low income,” e.g. making under $37,000 for family of four, while the cost of educating this family’s two children is $24,000. Meanwhile the quality of public education has deteriorated in the U.S. which now ranks fairly low, 14th, among other industrialized countries.
Parent involvement is directly correlated with student performance. Homeschooling and community cooperative schooling are becoming popular alternatives to public and private education, as well as charter schools. Top universities actively recruit home-schooled applicants, who, on average, test 37 percent above public and private school students. Is it time to rethink our educational system?
The world has changed drastically since the 19th century when our public schooling approach was established. Our children’s educational needs can now be met in a variety of ways. Every student with access to online educational websites, a library, museums, parks, a community center, and a caring parent/tutor/mentor has the opportunity to learn.
If homeschooling were encouraged this would help lower the overall cost of public education by reducing the number of students in each classroom and would also allow the public school teacher to give each student more personalized attention. If public schools allowed homeschooled children to participate in some school activities, such as band, theatre or use science labs and school libraries, then more parents might decide to homeschool their children. Opening up schools in this way to homeschooling families would be a much-needed step toward integrating family life with education. The primary role of a public school could be to assist families in the education of their children, not to be the sole provider of education.
Charter schools or vouchers have been proposed as a lower-cost higher quality alternative to public education. Charter schools are privatized educational services, using public tax dollars, a practice which fails to make a potentially necessary separation of business and state.
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Right now public education is in a bad place. Common Core is a mess of grinding tests and monotony. Public schools are headed by bureaucrats who don’t interact with the parents of their students, and the students themselves aren’t encouraged to choose things that interest them, and are instead forced to learn the same 500 facts in order to past tests.
When students are encouraged to learn things that they find interesting, it often covers a lot more than the specific inquiry, because they end up researching every detail and learning every facet of the topic, like the science of how it works or the history of how it was discovered. In this way, students build their own curriculums that are usually superior to a standardized curriculum.
Public education was established with the main selling point of cost efficiency. But that’s not necessarily true anymore. Public schools often cost more to run than online programs that can be proctored by parents. Before public education was established, many kids were taught by private tutors with much higher success rate. If we went back to that now, with our current technology, I predict we would see increase in our general testing scores.
So, with public education in its current state, what with cost inefficiencies and bad testing scores, it seems logical to transition to a more parent-involved, flexible curriculum way of teaching.