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How to Save on Primary Education

Posted By Jaimie On 05/06/2009 @ 12:05 pm In Family | 27 Comments

There’s a lot of discussion and talk about public versus private universities and how to get the most bang for your buck in the arena of college, but often overlooked is options for primary (ie. K-12) education. Some people believe in using the public schools while others believe in sending their kids to a private school, but there is lots of middle ground.

We spent a lot of time this year looking for that middle ground. My oldest child will be starting kindergarten this fall, and although I find a lot of positives in our school district as a whole, my particular local option falls short in our eyes. While our particular neighborhood local public option leaves a lot to be desired, yet we couldn’t fathom how we would be able to afford the private options in our area. We felt there had to be some compromise we could find, and we were right, we just had to know where to look.

Resources and Questions to Ask

I used a variety of resources to research our options for my son this fall. He is currently enrolled in a special education public school program, so I asked his teachers for recommendations. I used some online resources such as greatschools.net to look at ratings from parents and teachers as well as standardized type scores. Finally, I called and visited prospective schools and asked a lot of questions.

What questions did I ask? Every situation is unique. For us, my son has a delay in verbal intelligence relative to his non-verbal intelligence. We looked for a school where he would be well-integrated and receive adequate resources to help him excel. Since you know your child, you’ll what questions to ask. Here are some things you should ask about:

  • Ratings (standardized tests)
  • Attendance levels
  • Special education programs
  • After school and extracurriculars
  • Fine arts programs
  • Physical education programs

Primary School Options

  • Local public school: The first and simplest option is your local public school. Don’t assume that this option is settling for substandard. There are many public schools that are excellent, and yours may be one of them. Do the research, look at the ratings, and visit the local option.
  • District offers school choice: Our district offers school choice, in that we can apply to have our child attend any of the schools in our city. The process is one of lottery, so there is no guarantee on getting into a different school, but the option is there to attempt.
  • Charter schools: There is in our city several charter schools, some free of charge to residents. One of these programs may be a better fit for your child than your local option.
  • Religious schools: If you are of a particular religious faith (or even if you are not) a religion-based program may have better tuition rates than another private school.
  • Private school: There is as well this option – usually the most expensive but many have assistance programs you may qualify for.

Don’t assume expensive is best! We’ve all been conditioned, by advertising or nurture or some combination, to assume that the most expensive option is the best option. You get what you pay for after all, right? However, as in every saying there is some truth and some fallacy. You do get what you pay for, to some degree, but there is a wide range of good and better hidden amongst any options.

Consider your options and get the best bang for the buck for your child. Don’t bankrupt yourself sending your child to private school but don’t compromise on their education. There are always options and a middle ground may be reached.

In our case, my son was accepted into another local public school through the lottery system that I felt was a better choice for his needs. And the best part is that it’s no farther from our house than his original elementary school and it is still free!

(Photo: mrhayata [3])


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