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Private elementary/High school education - is it worth it/good idea?

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  • Private elementary/High school education - is it worth it/good idea?

    Here is a subject I can't figure out - we live in FL, and have 3 small kids, in probably one of the best school districts in Central FL (9/10 on Greatschools.com). However, nearly all my physician colleagues send their kids to private prep schools starting at pre-k, which I think is outrageous. My wife and I did ok and we went to public schools (i actually grew up in this district.)

    There are some benefits to private school, including better teacher:student ratios and amenities, but major drawbacks which I think include insulation from the rest of the world.

    I think it makes sense to see how things go, given the fact that thru High School, in today's dollars, the elementary/middle/high school education approaches 300k per child. To be honest, I can't even believe I am contemplating it, though my wife thinks its the best investment we could ever make for our kids. Since pretty much every MD I know is putting their kids in PVT, i wonder if I am just succumbing to peer pressure.

    Am I crazy? What are your thoughts?

  • #2
    If you are asking whether sending your kids to private school is good for your net worth, even if we generously include the future net worth of your children in the calculation, I have to believe the answer is a resounding no. There may be other benefits to private school that I am unaware of, but surely this has a massively negative ROI compared
    to sending them to the public schools you are already paying for.

    Comment


    • #3
      If the public schools are good, I don't see much benefit to private schools. Certainly not worth the cost. Possible drawbacks would be isolating your kids to a certain social class. We have a similar situation where most of the docs I work with send their kids to private school and I have zero intention of doing so.

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      • #4
        If you have a good public school system then I think it is a no brainer to stay public. I grew up in a very good public school just about 5 miles from an equally good private school. The only difference I could tell was that they had a little more momey to get themselves in trouble...and maybe they had less money because it was private.

        If you want to help your kids out to the tune of 300k each, pay for professional school instead of grade school.

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        • #5
          My parents sent me to top flight private elementary/high schools (despite being in a good public school district) because their philosophy was they wanted to invest heavily in their kid's education at every step of the way.

          I went to State U for undergrad/med school, partially to save money.  They helped me with both, though undergrad was almost free due to scholarships.  Their goal/plan all along was to do this for all their kids, and they never had a plan to retire early.  My dad is 70 (psychiatrist) and works more hours than me.

          Those same schools now cost $18k/year for kindergarten.  I've got 3 kids and with my salary the only way that math works (while also hoping to support college or anything beyond) is to work constantly and to work forever (not either/or -- I would have to do both).  The math worked better for my parents, though they still sacrificed to a degree (in terms of work ethic), however I'm fairly sure my tuition to salary ratio is way worse for me than it was for them.  My dad works now only because he wants to, not because he paid for private grade school education.

          Instead we moved to the suburbs (last year) into a really good school district and are currently using the local elementary school.  I don't think it makes much difference at this level, and I'm not sure it makes a difference in terms of test scores at higher levels.  I do believe it helps provide a high floor for all students (which in some cases can be worth the $), but it does not raise the ceiling for all or help all reach that ceiling.

          Having said that, if money was NOT a concern in any shape or form, I would at least consider private schooling just because there are some advantages that don't show up in test scores/profession that you can't always get in public systems.

          My active involvement in acting and theatre helped me because a better speaker, more social, and more self-confident.  However I know I was a terrible actor -- in a public school I would never have gotten a role in anything because of the increased competition.  Thus I also would not have taken the acting classes for 6 years (7th-12th grade) because I would have known I would never have made it into a play.  And I would never have developed some abilities and traits that still serve me well now, despite not being a good actor.

          I also had required sports in high school -- I enjoyed them but I was also not great.  I wouldn't have made it on the team in public school, but still got to be on the team (as a proverbial bench warmer in swimming), and thus was also incredibly fit and had the positives that come from being on a sports team.

          Financially it's a 100% loser, as Donnie said.  If you do it, you have to be convinced the finances don't matter, or that there's some benefit that your child won't get otherwise.  I know many people that use them to keep up with the Joneses -- just don't do it for that reason.

           
          An alt-brown look at medicine, money, faith, & family
          www.RogueDadMD.com

          Comment


          • #6


            I know many people that use them to keep up with the Joneses — just don’t do it for that reason.
            Click to expand...


            Not to keep up with the Joneses but it may not hurt to marry the Jones son/daughter or later develop a business relationship with Old Man Jones or even work for him. I also attended a private school, and there are numerous examples that come to mind of relationships built in elementary and high school that resulted in a substantially positive changes of fortune down the road. Docs generally work outside this world, in a meritocracy of grades and test scores, but in business, the value of relationships is undeniable, and these relationships can spark at a very young age.

            There are other advantages of private schools, as mentioned above, including smaller classes, better facilities, fewer disciplinary issues, sports participation requirement, better developed college counseling, etc. and if money were no object, it would be an easier decision. In my household, we assessed the attributes, aptitudes, strengths and weaknesses of our children and on this basis, one went private and the other public. When asked why the Elder went private the Younger went public, I usually reply that we like the Younger better.

            Private school is very expensive, and for most, in the long run, it probably will not make a huge difference. I felt like I was better prepared for college than the public school cohort, but this usually equalizes quickly.

            Comment


            • #7
              That's a fair point. I have life long friends from those schools but I haven't leveraged them for my career in any way. Had I gone into business and spent more time becoming friends with The Joneses that would've been helped.

              Idk yet if we will do different things for different kids. We've got 3 kids and with 2 in daycare easily spend more than the cost of just one in private school. But I've been assuming that was a short term thing and would get some (not all) of that back for other things soon. Maybe I won't. No idea.
              An alt-brown look at medicine, money, faith, & family
              www.RogueDadMD.com

              Comment


              • #8
                my wife and i went to public schools because that was our only choice.   while it was good enough certainly for us to both become physicians, and we were both determined to send our kids to public schools, in the end, both are currently in private.

                my older son would have thrived academically anywhere, but benefits socially from having a stable group of similar friends and closer supervision to help bring out his inner voice.  he enjoys learning brazilian dancing and kung fu at school.  i believe he has been stimulated by having two teachers per twenty kids.  there is great ethnic but not economic diversity.  if we had to choose between private school during the developmental years and public later, we think this way prepares him best.  its up to us to prepare him, and we decided that this was a good way to spend money.

                younger son--would have thrived socially anywhere with kids, but needs teachers who know him and like him to survive.   he is smart enough, but certainly needs help completing tasks he has less interest in.  hopefully he is college material.    it is conceivable that he may get into a better college than he might otherwise.  the most i can say about private/public was that it was easier on the parents who both work to send them to the same place.  it's not 18k per year though.

                some of you guys are public school snobs.    clearly private schools are a financial luxury.  beyond that, they are a choice.  it is certainly understandable that a lot of physicians may value education above other alternatives and choose to spend their monies that way.  if it is because they are busy, that is disappointing (to me).  however, in our situation, the parents are all motivated to make sure kids are well educated, so there is no situation where a few stragglers are limiting the progress of the rest of the class.  we hope that they are teaching each other to work together and be competitive in the greater world out there.

                good luck with your decision.   you will face this and many more.  probably we split hairs on most of these questions and in the end, they don't matter much.  i do think if your goal is early retirement, private school will leave a mark.

                 

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                • #9




                  some of you guys are public school snobs. ???? clearly private schools are a financial luxury. beyond that, they are a choice. it is certainly understandable that a lot of physicians may value education above other alternatives and choose to spend their monies that way. if it is because they are busy, that is disappointing (to me). however, in our situation, the parents are all motivated to make sure kids are well educated, so there is no situation where a few stragglers are limiting the progress of the rest of the class. we hope that they are teaching each other to work together and be competitive in the greater world out there.
                  Click to expand...


                  So well said. Some parents might value a nicer home or car or life experiences. Others value education for their kids and utilize their money there.  They have the money. What is the point of hoarding it for retirement if they can put it to good use earlier on.

                  Why do we aim for Harvard or Yale when a good in-state school will do a decent enough job and make us physicians. Or even, why do we go to that small private liberal arts school that charges $60-70K per year when our state school can do it cheaper at $20K per year.

                  We try to justify it with statements like small class size , better student teacher ratio, more diverse and obscure courses. Well, the same can be said of private school too.

                  I feel that there is a certain amount of underlying envy and holier than thou attitude too. If you are a cardiologist or radiologist ( or dual income physicians) you have a ton of money and can afford to send 4 kids to private school. But if you are a pediatrician and sole bread winner that might not be possible. Also, if you have only one kid you can afford him to attend a private school easily. Three or four kids and all wanting to go to private school - not so much.

                  I have friends who live in some of the best school districts in the North East and yet send their kids to the prep schools and academies. For a parent living in the South with rubbish public schools that tries to somehow sneak in teaching intelligent design, we are amazed at their being in a top notch public school system and yet discarding it and send their kids to a more exclusive private school. But those parents have told me that within their local school district they find the private school to be a bit better and worth it. At least to them. Who are we to criticize them.

                  Finally, safety is an issue in public school. If you have higher income parents sending their kids to a private school there is less chance of violence that a local public school. That might be worth it to some parents.

                  In the interest of disclosure, my kid went to private school in the elementary years and is now attending a public school in middle and high school.

                  .

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                  • #10
                    Haha. Never heard of a public school snob. My background is that I grew up in the south. I had two older siblings go to expensive private high schools in the northeast. I subsequently applied and was accepted to two. Ultimately I decided to stay in public school because I couldn't wrap my head around the value proposition of these expensive schools. Yes, you do get to network with rich and powerful people, but at least speaking for my brothers, while they are friends with some of these people, there really hasn't been the occasion to exploit such connections in their careers. Unlike my brothers, I am now surrounded by these same rich and powerful people in my career that are now furiously shipping their kindergarten kids off to private school at $40k+ a year. Trust me, the hoi polloi in public school is better company!

                    Comment


                    • #11


                      Never heard of a public school snob.
                      Click to expand...


                      Yup. they exist. They feel that if public education is good enough for me and I have now risen to this great position in life, it should be good enough for you ( I am not saying you are one, just that I have seen people who hold these views).

                      The extreme cases feel that public schools should be the only option and instead of wasting money on private and charter schools, we should be only pouring money in public schools. Never mind that attacking the problem with money rarely pays.

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                      • #12


                        rich and powerful people in my career that are now furiously shipping their kindergarten kids off to private school at $40k+ a year. Trust me, the hoi polloi in public school is better company!
                        Click to expand...


                        If the rich people have gotten all the material needs they wish for, had their life experiences and have saved more than enough for their retirement why should they not spend the excess left over money on a private school. For you and me the $40K might seem outrageous but for them it is chump change ( hopefully).

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                        • #13
                          This is a personal question, obviously.  For me and my family, I wouldn't even consider a private school unless it was a religious school.  I feel that is a major component of becoming a well-rounded individual that is left out of the public education system, and while we instill those values at home, there is something said to becoming more deeply imbued in that life outside of the home, as well, and that might be something to consider paying for.

                          There is also the fact that particularly in adolescence that kids tend to do what their peers doing.  If they are part of a culture that pushes them to strive academically, to compete, and to look towards the future and this is what their peers are doing, this is what they will tend to do.  I think you probably have more kids moving in that same direction in a private school, though in a good public system, this might not really be the case.

                          Comment


                          • #14





                            rich and powerful people in my career that are now furiously shipping their kindergarten kids off to private school at $40k+ a year. Trust me, the hoi polloi in public school is better company! 
                            Click to expand…


                            If the rich people have gotten all the material needs they wish for, had their life experiences and have saved more than enough for their retirement why should they not spend the excess left over money on a private school. For you and me the $40K might seem outrageous but for them it is chump change ( hopefully).
                            Click to expand...


                            Many of these guys can certainly afford it. I just wonder if it is worth it.  My view is that living your life in a bubble of Exeter, Princeton, and Harvard Business School can make you a little boring and out of touch with humanity, but to each his own.  Certainly Wall Street is filled with these types, so that's the path to go down if you want to end up on Wall Street it seems.

                            Comment


                            • #15




                              This is a personal question, obviously.  For me and my family, I wouldn’t even consider a private school unless it was a religious school.  I feel that is a major component of becoming a well-rounded individual that is left out of the public education system, and while we instill those values at home, there is something said to becoming more deeply imbued in that life outside of the home, as well, and that might be something to consider paying for.

                              There is also the fact that particularly in adolescence that kids tend to do what their peers doing.  If they are part of a culture that pushes them to strive academically, to compete, and to look towards the future and this is what their peers are doing, this is what they will tend to do.  I think you probably have more kids moving in that same direction in a private school, though in a good public system, this might not really be the case.
                              Click to expand...


                              Totally agree with this.  I went to a private high school and this is the main advantage I saw in it, it put me in the best environment to succeed academically and as an individual, the extra-curriculars and nicer buildings were a nice touch as well.  The public schools in my home State ranked in the bottom quartile nationally, I wouldn't say that the actual teaching I received was dramatically better, as I had some bad private school teachers, but the public high schools just had a significantly lower percentage of academic achievers, good-natured kids, or parents who cared.  I went to a public elementary and wouldn't hesitate to send my kids to a public elementary school, but would certainly consider a private middle/high school if no quality public school was around.

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