25. Tuition for Public School Attendance

All parents of children in primary and secondary schools should be required to pay tuition for each child. Tuition raised directly from parents should be set at a rate so that about 50% of the total cost of education is funded by these tuition receipts.  The other 50% would be provided through the general funds of the state and/or local governments (a pool of taxpayers that includes those without kids) because education is a public good that benefits everyone.  One of the more important benefits of tuition would be a greater sense of commitment by the parents to the school and to their children’s education. Though it serves an incredibly valuable public good to have all members of society sufficiently educated to help ensure a civilized existence for each individual within a society, gargantuan quantities of resources are too easily wasted by the substandard direct oversight which so often naturally results from the total or near total subsidization of a student’s education by people other than those directly benefiting or involved in a student’s education (namely the student, his/her parents, and the teacher, and the school principal). A free or heavily subsidized education by such distant third parties tend to result in students, parents, teachers, school administrators and everyone else involved in the education system to be more careless about or to insufficiently address both economic and procedural inefficiencies within the educational system. By bringing greater control of budgets back to the school site, especially to the school principal and teachers, and by making parents, and to a lesser extent, students pay at least some of these costs, an awareness of the expense of an education would be more prominent on the minds of everyone.

#1 Calculate Average Annual Per Student Expenses

To begin constructing a tuition schedule, each school district must first determine its per capita student expenses at the end of each year. In other words, the school district would add up everything it spends to keep the district running, including administrative expenses, utilities, maintenance, teacher salaries, etc. It is this figure that would serve as one of the two basic figures used to determine actual individual family tuition payments for each child.

#2 Total Per Capita Family Income

The other basic figure needed to determine actual individual family tuition payments for each child would be the total family income generated in the previous year by all members of the family, regardless of age, divided by the number of individuals in that family. This family per capita income figure would be used directly with the school district’s per capita student expense figure to determine the actual amount billed by the school district to the family of the student.

The higher the family per capita income, the higher the tuition charges. At the low end of the income spectrum, families would pay only a fraction of the school district’s actual per student educational expenses, while at the high end of the income spectrum families would pay a multiple of this actual per student educational expenses. However, all parents, regardless of how little they may have earned or whether they have earned anything at all in the previous year, should still be required to pay a minimum tuition charge of $100 towards the district’s average educational costs for each student. If they cannot pay this amount before the due date, interest at market rates would be charged on the unpaid portion and continue to accrue without limit until the entire account is paid.

Tuition Rate Proposal (Assuming $10,000 per capita educational costs.)

Per Capita Income Tuition Rate Annual Tuition Paid
$0-4,999 $100 (minimum)
$5,000 2% $100
$10,000 5% $500
$15,000 10% $1,000
$20,000 25% $2,500
$25,000 50% $5,000
$40,000 100% $10,000
$60,000 150% $15,000
$80,000 300% $30,000
$100,000 600% $60,000

This formula should be a smooth algebraic formula rather than tax rate brackets. Like a progressive income tax, this progressive tuition schedule would constitute an additional element in a progressive tax system.

School Vouchers

Families who desire to send their children to private schools, would be allowed to pick the school of choice for their children and would be allowed to receive a voucher for 50% of their entire financial obligation (up to $5,000) under the cost plan stated above. In other words, if a family earned $40,000 per capita (using the tax rate stated above) and is thus required to pay 100% of the $10,000 in annual per pupil public school average cost (equal to $10,000), but decided instead to enroll their child in a private school, that family would be entitled to a voucher equal to $5,000 to be applied towards that private school tuition.

Families which earn more per capita would not be allowed a larger voucher because the voucher cap should be limited to 50% of the public school district’s average per pupil cost. This cap is set to compensate for and emphasis the role of the public education system’s principal function of universal education, often resulting in the enrollment of a disproportionate share of higher-cost and/or more troublesome students.

Families which earn less than $40,000 per capita would be subjected to a tuition rate lower than 100% (according the table above). Such families who desire to enroll their children in a private school would be entitled to a voucher equal to only 50% of their public school tuition rate. For example, a family with a per capita income of $20,000 would have a tuition rate of 25% of the average per pupil public school costs ($10,000) or $2,500. Thus, the value of their voucher would be $1,250 to be applied towards a private education.

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