A New Model: Teacher-Led Mini-Schools?

Homeschooling seems to be a growing trend.  According to a report from Education News in May 2012, homeschooling has continued to grow due to the dissatisfaction with the public school system (Source: http://www.educationnews.org/parenting/number-of-homeschoolers-growing-nationwide/. Accessed 4.13.2019).

The average cost of homeschooling ranges from $700 to $1,800 per child per school year, according to Time4Learning.com, an online resource for homeschool families. This includes the cost of the curriculum, school supplies, field trips and extracurricular activities.  As a comparison, the cost per student in public schools in Pennsylvania is more than $18,000 per student. Pa.’s spending is significantly higher than the national average. The last available national data is from 2016-17, when Pennsylvania was spending $17,800 per student compared to the national average of $14,000.

Let’s shift gears a bit, and share a little bit about Millennials.  They’re the parents of children in elementary school today.  Depending which resources you access, a generation lasts about 20 years, and some studies place the start of the Millennials around 1980, since the next group would start around the year 2000, but some would also place the start of the Millennials around 1985, since that’s the year that computers became viable household items, and not simply limited to the workplace or the classroom.  It’s also close to the year 1984, where Orwellian reality was supposed to take effect.  Interestingly, Big Brother isn’t necessarily watching you on a video camera, but you’re being tracked while you’re on the Internet.  Society, however, is watching you on their cell phone videos and posting their recordings and photographs online.

If we take the start of the generation around 1985 and extend it to 2004, that would mean in 2022, the Millennial is between 18 and 37 years of age.  The upper end of that scale include parents of young children who are enrolled in the PK-8 school today.

One of the characteristics of these folks is that they don’t waste time with the middleman.  In sales, they go to the Internet to get the best price, then go shopping to see if they can get a better price, virtually eliminating the salesperson who has been trained to shepherd them through the sales process.  However, by the time a consumer talks to someone about a product or service, they’re 70% of the way through the typical process sales professionals have come to know and love, and consumers have come to tolerate and hate.

The same goes for parents of school-age children.  If they have a concern with a behavior or situation in the classroom, they won’t contact the teacher.  They’ll contact the principal, or, perhaps the superintendent.  Maybe they’ll initially go even further and post a comment on the school’s Facebook page.  That will certainly get noticed, right?  Of course.

But what if the teacher rationally explained the situation occurred because there were several other children in the class that required individualized attention at the same time.  Would the parent understand?  Probably not.  Would the parent care?  No.

So, what if the teacher said, “How about this, Mrs. Parent.  For just one week, let me drop 30 children off at your house so you can be with them for six hours.  During this time, you won’t be able to take a snack break or a bathroom break, and, you can have a half hour for lunch while the kids run around outside.  Then when they’re done, they’ll come back in and expect to be attentive to learn what’s next on the agenda.  At the end of the week, they’ll be tested on what they’ve learned, and while they’re taking the test, you can’t help clarify the questions.”

You probably wouldn’t even get past “Let me drop 30 children off at your house” before the parent said, “Um, no way,” before you said, “Wait…let me finish.”

So what if we combined the two scenarios…but the person in charge where the children were being dropped off was a state-certified teacher?

Let’s take that a little further.  What is the average cost of child care today?  According to Care.com, the cost of child care for 1 child was $211 per week (Source: https://www.care.com/a/how-much-does-child-care-cost-1406091737.  Accessed 4.13.2019), and has now risen, in Pennsylvania again, to about $290 per week.  Across providers, the weekly cost is currently from $147 to $627 per child.   Multiplying that average by 4 weeks results in $1.160 per month.   By the way, when Catholic schools lament the fact that parents can’t afford elementary school tuitions that range from $3,000 to $7,500 per year, they usually don’t stop to think that $1,160 per month is almost $12,000!

So how can homeschooling be so much less than child care?  If, over 10 months, child care amounts to about $11.600 per year, and public school averages is over $18,000 a year, then what if the teacher played the role of the homeschooler, and taught 20 children per year for only $2,500 a year, or $250 per month?  That would generate $50,000 for the teacher.  Economies of scale could be created, and well-trained and energetic teachers could get together and offer multiple-child incentives.  Perhaps these teachers could find each other at a reunion of sorts, and get together and decide, as Bill Gates and his friends did not so long ago with computing, to change the world of education, offering a “homeschooling” experience away from home, utilizing the power of technology, with funding from benefactors to cover the necessary infrastructure, allowing the price charged to the parent to over the operational cost of education.

The idea sounds great, doesn’t it?  But then reality sets in.  What provisions are made for liability?  While Millennials want personalized attention, they also want safety.  Because institutional educational environments have, sadly, become targets for violence, teachers now have to be trained in emergency lockdown procedures so that all precautions are taken to ensure the reasonable protection and maintenance of a safe environment.  Millennials will be the first ones to sue if the unthinkable happens, even if protection plans are carried out, procedures are followed, equipment is utilized, and all training relative to safety is up to date.

So let’s go back to that cost that’s less than the public school, and even less than childcare.  What would you rather hear…that a service cost $290 per week, or that it costs $11.600 per year?  What if the educational service cost $150/week?  That’s still a savings.  Since children are in school about 30 hours per week (5 days a week, 6 hours a day), that’s about $5 an hour.

Interestingly, that’s what many faith-based elementary schools charge for tuition.  Unfortunately, benefactors don’t pay for the infrastructure and schools receive push-back when the use of technology is required.  While Generation X was considered to be the “Me” generation, and schools were dealing with “My kid,” the prevailing thought was that every student was unique, and what might be applicable to one might not be appropriate for another.  Millennials, however, expect immediate resolution to situations, and if it’s not resolved to their satisfaction, they’ll share their dissatisfaction with the world.