An education for all

Bill Gates and Paul Allen attended Seattle’s Lakeside School. It is known for excellent teachers, curriculum, and academic standards. Here you can find more about the “Middle School,” which is home to about 270 fifth through 10th graders. Via the school’s webpage:

At Lakeside Middle School, one of our two primary goals is to provide an academic curriculum that is developmentally appropriate for intellectually capable young adolescents. To achieve this goal, we provide a curriculum that is relevant, challenging, interdisciplinary, and exploratory. We also know that students engage with an academic curriculum most successfully if it is delivered in a larger educational context that is respectful, supportive, inclusive, and safe. In other words, academic success in middle school depends on meeting students’ other developmental needs. Our second goal, then, is to meet the developmental needs of middle schoolers. To achieve either of these goals—academic success and healthy personal development—we must achieve them both.

If I had lived in Seattle a few decades ago and were also rich, I would have liked to have sent our children to Lakeside. Did I say rich? The school’s tuition is currently $30,850 per pupil per year. My wife and I sent both of our kids to the University of Washington for a fraction of that amount.

But let’s assume for a moment that properly educating one’s pre-college child does cost about $30K per year. Suppose that Washington state’s citizens decided that all children should have a Lakeside-equivalent education.

There are about one million students enrolled in Washington’s public schools. If we multiply that figure by the $30K tuition per child, we’d need about $31 billion a year.

According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), the state spent around $11 billion to educate those 1 million students, or about $10, 400 per pupil. In other words, to educate like Lakeside we’d need to nearly triple the amount currently spent on public education.

Why not? It’s only a matter of priorities.

According to this website, we citizens of the United States spend $8.4 million per hour to pay the costs of our wars since 2001. Still counting, that amounts to over $1.6 trillion.