How much is your child’s education worth?

by Rocket Finance

In my last post, I shared that even though things are financially tight for us, we still send our five-year old to a private school. I figured this might raise some eyebrows and Mike from Four Pillars was the first to point it out. Why are we incurring such a large expense when the money could be put to great use elsewhere in our budget? Especially our retirement fund . . .

In this post, I will list the reasons that Mrs. Rocket and I have chosen to send our children to private school even though it requires financial sacrifice. We did not make this decision lightly. In fact, I come from an “education” family. My grandmother was a public school teacher for over 43 years. She actually began teaching in a one-room school house in rural Wisconsin. She was also a pioneer in special ed and had a great impact on many lives in the Madison area. She is a great believer in public education. I have spent hours speaking with her about educational techniques and philosophy.

Both of my parents graduated from public school and went on to attend public colleges. My father has a master’s degree from a private school. Both of my parents have been private school educators for over 30 years. My dad is a teacher and administrator who has worked in six different schools and also sits on private school accrediting committees. My mother is an elementary and junior high teacher.

My wife and I attended private schools growing up and met while attending at a private college. Her degree was in Early Childhood Education and mine was in Secondary Mathematics Education. After graduating, I worked in several public schools both as a coach and substitute teacher.

So why did we choose private education?

1) Worldview – As parents, we have been given the responsibility to train our children “in the way they should go”. We believe that the worldview that is presented in most government schools will not benefit them in life. I have observed what passes for intellectual development at many public schools firsthand and I desire to protect my children from it.

2) Discipline – We want our children to learn to respect authority. That requires teachers who live a life that is worthy of respect and who have the resources and freedom to exert that authority. My child’s teacher is not perfect . . . but I know her and she has my complete trust.

3) Dress code – Our daughter’s school does not require uniforms, but a conservative and appropriate dress code is enforced. She will not be allowed or pressured to wear clothing that is immodest or sloppy. Furthermore, when my son begins school, he will not have to deal with young ladies who are dressed in a distracting manner.

4) Academics – My job over the last decade requires that I see grade point averages (GPA) and standardized test scores for college applicants. On the whole, there is a huge discrepancy between the test scores for private school grads and public school grads. While GPA’s for public school grads are soaring (I just saw a high school graduate with a 4.7 today), their standardized test scores are anemic. The average ACT score in the United States (on a scale of 1-36) is 21.1. You must also remember that only the top level students even take college standardized tests. Only 1.5 million students took the exam in 2007.

The average ACT score for students from my daughter’s school is 27. The small private school from which I graduated had a higher average than that.Young people are graduating from public schools without the necessary skills to function in the world. It is clear to me that public school grades are watered down. A banker friend of mine hates to hire public school graduates and told me that he spends months teaching them to add and subtract well enough to work as a teller. He was always begging me to send private school students his way. I have observed the incompetence that passes for math education first-hand.

My daughter started half-day kindergarten at the beginning of September. She will be reading the newspaper by Christmas.

5) Safety – The incidence of molestation, abuse and violence are far less at private schools versus public schools. I want my daughters and son to be as safe as possible. We spend all kinds of money to keep our kids safe while riding in automobiles, but how much time have you spent making sure that your child is safe in his school? Do you know all of the teachers and staff – to say nothing of the students. . . While working in public schools, I have observed teachers hit and choke students. I have also observed students touch other students inappropriately. I even saw a fight between two girls that ended when one girl stomped her opponent’s head into a road-side curb. It is certain that things like this do happen at private schools from time to time, however, supervision is greater and there is little tolerance for such offenses.

I understand that not all public schools are bad and not all private schools are great. I have objective proof that my daughter’s school is superior to the public schools in my area, furthermore, if her school fails to deliver what is promised, I can immediately find another institution that will get the job done.

There always seems to be a belief in the community that “our schools are okay, it’s everybody else’s schools that are bad”. Sometimes it is referred to as the Lake Wobegon Effect. Do you know for sure that your child’s school offers the best possible education available to your child? And what if it does not meet your expectations, do you have the freedom to choose another school?

A private school education is critical to the development of our children. Our school is academically rigorous, teaches the value of hard work, and values the virtues that we as parents hold dear.

We believe that we cannot afford to send our daughter to public school.

Photo by AJ Kandy

  1. 16 Responses to “How much is your child’s education worth?”

  2. By Four Pillars on Sep 22, 2008 | Reply

    Thanks for answering the question.

    I don’t have an opinion on your choice since I’m not familiar with the schools you are looking at.

    It sounds like you have good reasons behind your choices and I think that is the most important thing.


  3. By plonkee on Sep 23, 2008 | Reply

    I suspect that most people send their kids to private school because they want to shelter them from real life. There isn’t actually a problem with this at all, it’s just not a guarantee that real life won’t hit you smack in the face anyway.

    I’m sure your daughter’s school is very nice, my only concern for you is that you are losing money each month. I will be much happier when you get rid of the house in Wisconsin.

    Alternatively, there’s always homeschooling. Mrs. Micah turned out fine on it.

  4. By rocketc on Sep 23, 2008 | Reply

    We considered homeschooling – it is our second choice, but my wife did not think she could handle it with a one-year old around. We may revisit that question when our youngest is school age.

    I am more than ready to sell the house too. 🙂

  5. By plonkee on Sep 23, 2008 | Reply

    I guessed it might be difficult with younger kids about as well. Still, it’s an option to consider – the quality of the social skills that kids learn in schools is vastly over-rated anyway.

  6. By kellyann on Sep 24, 2008 | Reply

    I have three children in Catholic School. My oldest Nick is now attending a Catholic College after 12 years of catholic gs and hs, my middle one is a sophmore in a all girls catholic high school, where my youngest who is in Catholic gs will also attend there. No matter how tight money is this was not a option we would give up. Our son is on a full ride to college because of the wonderful education he recieved at Catholic Schools. I live in philly where public schools are below the norm.

  7. By rocketc on Sep 24, 2008 | Reply

    Plonkee, you are right about the social skills development. Kids can be socialized through many different ways – community groups and teams, church, etc. School is not essential to social development. The biggest trap for homeschoolers is the phonomena where they think there kids are the greatest, smartest and most talented because they have no real measure. Sometimes it is difficult for them to have a proper grasp of where they “rank” in the world.

    Kellyann, that’s what I am talking about. I think that some parents will sacrifice and save for a flat-screen or a Disney vacation, but when it comes to education, they choose the cheapest, most convenient option. We believe that our children’s education is more important than our retirement fund . . .

  8. By plonkee on Sep 24, 2008 | Reply

    In my neck of the woods the most cost-effective option for the middle classes is considered to be moving somewhere with great state schools, rather than forking out for private schools. And of course it does mean that you have more money to pay for short breaks in Italy or France or wherever (not far from the UK).

  9. By Betty on Sep 25, 2008 | Reply

    I live in the New Orleans area and I have the greatest appreciation for private school. My son has gone four four years now. We are starting to save up now to send our other son, who is due this December. Both my husband and I went to public schools in our area and would never think of sending our children there. There are too many distractions. The teachers spend more time discipling than teaching. We agree that we would get second jobs before allowing our children to attend the public schools in our area. I appreciate this article because I totally agree with what the author is saying.

  10. By David on Sep 25, 2008 | Reply

    Another option is homeschooling,it worked great for my 5 kids who were always way ahead of their public schooled peers. My oldest son is making $150k in computer security at 24 years of age (yes, its more than I make!) My 18 year old daughter is a junior in college at a large private university with 4.0.

  11. By AnnMarie on Sep 26, 2008 | Reply

    Actually, “only the top level students” taking the tests isn’t actually true. For instance, in WI, nearly every high school student who wants to go to college takes the ACT because it’s required for the state schools, which accept kids even in the bottom 25% of their class. Those not just the “top level students.”

    In addition, private schools have the option of not accepting students who do not meet their standards, unlike public schools. Therefore, their averages on tests can be inflated simply because all of the students might be top 25% students if they were in the public school. (Some private schools accept any student. But many have grades/scores standards for acceptance, esp at the high school level.)

    Overall, I agree with you. If there were a non-religious private school in my town with a decent education theory, I would probably send my child there as well. Unfortunately, we don’t even have any decent charter schools less than a 30 mile drive and with gas prices, we’d be spending an enormous amount of money just for the commute not to mention the tuition for a private school. 🙁

  12. By rocketc on Sep 26, 2008 | Reply

    David, I have seen a lot of hs success stories. It won’t work for us right now, but might be an option in the future.

    AnnMarie, WI is one of the few states that require all students to take a standardized test. Virtually all who take the test intend to go on to college.

    Private schools might be more selective in who they accept. My point is that the high GPA kids whose scores I see, do poorly on standardized tests. Almost without fail.

  13. By Lacey on Oct 3, 2008 | Reply

    This was a great post!It is hard to decide what is best for your child’s future. I wanted to offer your readers a link to another blogger who is doing great work. He writes about our ‘childhood money messages’ and how the best approach to stability in today’s market is to resist letting these emotions control our buying/selling habits. It is really fascinating work, and something you should all check out. His name is Spencer Sherman, and you can view his blog at

  14. By Laura on Oct 27, 2008 | Reply

    Could you email me please? I fear my emails might be getting sent to your bulk/spam folder.

    Laura at BlogHer dot com


  15. By Anonymous on Nov 10, 2008 | Reply

    I stumbled across your site while researching lending club. I went to a private school for junior high and high school, and wouldn’t have it any other way. Kudos to you.

  16. By Andrew Knight on Nov 11, 2008 | Reply

    Hi Rocket Finance,

    I’m emailing you in regards to a followup email I sent you a month ago in response to a partnership, have you had a chance to think about it?

    If you have any questions or would more information, please advise me and we can go from there.

    Kind Regards,
    Andrew Knight

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