VOL. 116 | NO. 116 | Monday, June 17, 2002
Dont forget about education costs, when planning family
Educating children takes cash, and lots of it
This is the third of a four-part series on the cost of raising children in this area from pre-natal care through college. Next weeks topic is the cost of putting a child through college.
By SUE PEASE
The Daily News
Many parents begin saving for their childrens college education, when their young scholars are still in diapers. And, thats a good thing when considering a four-year college degree can cost more than $100,000.
Even years before the higher education challenge, when children enter grade school, the costs can seem overwhelming.
As in other counties around the nation, Shelby County offers many options for schooling children in a wide range of costs.
Memphis City Schools
The majority of students in Memphis and Shelby County attend public schools.
Memphis City Schools have about 118,000 students enrolled each year, while the Shelby County districts student population is at about 46,000.
And while the public schools dont charge tuition, it still takes money to educate each child.
In Memphis, per pupil expenditure is $5,887 per year, according to a MCS report. Local taxes cover the students costs.
The price is low compared to other states expenditures, said Bob Archer, MCS associate superintendent.
But, it is important to look at per pupil expenditures closely, Archer cautioned. For example, some districts might include student transportation in the number while others dont, so its important to compare "apples and apples."
A total of $691 million in revenues was needed to cover the 2001-02 budget and a breakdown of those numbers looks a little like this: 30.7 percent from Shelby County taxes, 13.2 percent from local sales tax, 11.1 percent from Memphis city taxes, 1 percent from local funds, 0.5 percent from federal funds and 43.5 percent from the state.
Most of the money is funneled into instruction.
According to MCS documents, 70.4 percent of the revenue is spent on instruction and support.
Administration takes 1.1 percent of the pie, 2.4 percent goes toward student transportation, 13.7 percent for facilities and 6.4 percent for student support.
A big benefit in attending Memphis City Schools is that it can offer many diverse programs because of its size as well as a diverse student population, Archer said.
"We serve those students who appear at our door, bar none. And, that does give you a diverse student setting, which is an advantage in my mind as you prepare for functioning in the world," Archer said.
Shelby County Schools
Cost numbers are fairly similar in Shelby County.
In the county district, $5,669 was spent on each student last year, said Mike Tebbe, Shelby County Schools director of communication.
But in his opinion, the numbers are low.
"We are $397 below the state average in a state where the per pupil expenditure ranks between 46th and 49th in the nation," Tebbe said.
Tebbe said the Tennessee Report Card ranked Shelby County schools as No. 10 on performance out of 138 school systems in the state.
"So, we do very well with inadequate funding, but goodness knows what we could be with adequate funding."
About $250 million was needed to fund last years county school budget. Most of the money came from revenues from the state sales tax 51 percent. Shelby County property tax made up 26 percent, 17 percent came from local option sales tax and 1.5 percent came from federal funds, Tebbe said.
How the money is divided once it makes it to Shelby County schools is similar to the Memphis City Schools, although the percentage going into classrooms is slightly higher 78 percent, compared to the city schools 70.4 percent. In addition, 3 percent goes to student transportation, 3.8 percent to food services, 6.7 percent to operations, 2.6 percent to central services and 2.8 percent to maintenance.
Even with a good grade on the Tennessee Report Card, Tebbe is concerned about maintaining adequate funding, especially in light of the states budget crunch.
"Tennessee is at a very, very dangerous crossroads. We can decide were getting into the 21st century and start funding education adequately or continue on this path you can only afford to go along at a bare bones budget for so long," he said.
Even with an uncertain budget future ahead, Tebbe believes there are many advantages to a Shelby County School education.
"When you have exceptional teachers and exceptional parent involvement like we have, you have a winning combination," he said.
For parents looking for an option other than public schools, Shelby County has many private schools that would affect the parent pocketbook more directly.
There are more than 30 private schools in the area charging anywhere from $1,400 to more than $8,000 for tuition per year.
Many are parochial schools.
One such parochial school, St. Benedict at Auburndale school in Cordova, teaches students in grades pre-kindergarten through 12th grades and tuition ranges between $3,860 and $4,500 a year, said Sharon Masterson, SBA information director. However, it cost more to educate children than those tuition rates, about $2,000 to $3,000 more each year for each student, Masterson said.
Those funds come from the annual fund drive and other fund raising programs.
As with many parochial schools, parents often choose them for their religious denomination.
Ann OLeary is an administrative assistant in the St. Benedict development and admission office and has children who attend the school, as well.
Because OLeary is Catholic, choosing a Catholic school was important, she said.
She also wanted a smaller class size, which she believed she could get in a private school environment.
Another private school, Tipton-Rosemark Academy, in Tipton County, teaches students in pre-kindergarten through 12th, with upper grades costing $4,125 per year, said Ronald Yaussy, middle school principal.
The school is a non-denominational Christian school. Yaussy believes parents choose the program for low tuition costs along with a quality education.
"We were next to last in tuition rate, so students get a quality, Christian education for the money compared to most other private schools," he said.
While there are many denominational schools in the area, there are many other options in private schooling, such as Montessori schools.
One such school is the Lamplighter School in Cordova, which offers instruction for students 3 to 14 and tuition ranges from $6,595 to $8,745 a year, school officials said.
Montessori schools follow the Montessori methodology for academic achievement, a different approach from traditional methods, which is why many parents choose the school.
"The Montessori method develops the whole personality of the child, not merely his intellectual faculties, but also his powers of deliberation, initiative and independent choice, with their emotional complements," said Nancy Candler, admissions and development director for the school.
While private and public schools are the most popular choices for parents, some choose not to send their children to school, opting instead to educate them at home.
Wolfchase-area resident, Dane Williams has four children and another one on the way, and has chosen to homeschool them.
Williams, Memphis Area Home Education Association president, said it is difficult to put a price on homeschooling, because it varies from family to family.
He said he spends about $150 to $200 a month on books and supplies.
The biggest benefits of homeschooling for him are knowing exactly what is being taught and the "endless possibilities" as far as extracurricular activities.
"We like the ability to know our children are getting the whole ratio of learning. You cant beat one-on-one," Williams said.
He said some people view the option as controlling, but he feels it is his duty as a parent to educate his children.
"I cant put down other people for sending their children to school, but for me, personally, its my job, Im supposed to teach my children."