With most public schools in the U.S. recently starting a new school year I have been hearing parents grumble about “free education”. Referring to the fact that they are tax paying citizens and yet they are required to pay sometimes hundreds of dollars to register their children in public school. In the United States, like many other countries, primary education is funded through taxation or charitable organizations versus tuition fees. A public school education is still considered free in America. However, with the growing number of children in public school and the growing cost of providing these children the schools, teachers, books, supplies, etc…is putting stress upon the schools budgets. Schools given a certain annual budget, based on a number of factors, and it is their responsibility to prioritize their funding to ensure they are providing their students with the best educational experience within that budget.
There was a time, many years ago, when parents were not responsible to pay any additional costs for their child to go to public school. The schools supplied everything including notebooks, pencils, supplies for specialty classes etc…To this day many public schools, at least through primary school, still provide students with everything they need to get a well rounded education. Some have come up with a system where they ask parents to supply a specific list of inexpensive items (crayons, pencils, glue, tissues, etc…) to help cover some of their costs. In most cases, if the students are not in a financial position to purchase these items the school, other parents, or charitable organizations will donate these items.
As children get into upper level grades their education becomes more expensive as their classes start requiring more expensive supplies. Take for instance mandatory physical education class that requires a special uniform, or a wood working or sewing class that requires special equipment and supplies. Naturally this would be a huge expense for the school to absorb. However, many of the classes that require the students to purchase books, supplies, or pay a fee are usually elective classes. All of the required core classes typically include everything the student will need to complete the course.
When I asked specifically what additional costs some of these parents were expected to come up with it was typically fees for elective classes, optional yearbook, or fees associated with specialty groups (cheer-leading, sports, drill team etc…). It appeared at first glance that only students from a privileged background would be able to participate in such activities, which I felt is unfair. However, after going to some of our local schools I learned that only about half of the students participating in these particular programs are from wealthier families. Many of the students have either found people within the community to help sponsor them in their endeavor, or have taken on employment themselves and are paying for the opportunity themselves.
In doing some research, I have found there are other free education options including online education and homeschool to name a couple. And there may be ways for parents to use either of these methods free. However, I found even if you are getting a free homeschool curriculum you would still have a number of other expenses in teaching your child from home. In order to get a free online education you will need access to the Internet which you can get from places like the public library. But, I don’t think they would take too kindly to someone bringing their children every day all day for class. Therefore, you will have a monthly service fee for Internet service to your home, not to mention computer expenses and such.
In a nutshell, “Free Education” is relative to your perspective. However, the United States is one of few countries that provide their citizens with many many educational opportunities for nearly nothing. And from my research, even when there are fees involved with free education there are ways to get assistance if you are willing to work for it.