As I mentioned in a previous post, our local public elementary school was one of two schools put on our state's "watch list" for underperforming schools. Because of this, we applied to and our son was accepted for kindergarten at the local private school. He is a very bright kid who was overwhelmingly recommended for admission by his current pre-school teachers. The school offers small class sizes, a very supportive staff and inquisitive curriculum. It seems like a great place to send a kid.
There is one hitch. Tuition for kindergarten is $9600 /year.
This amount concerned us, but we figured that since we pay about $7200 year ($5000 after the childcare tax credit) for daycare, that if we could get a little help, we might be able to find a few hundred dollars extra each month and swing an obscene kindergarten tuition bill.
We applied for financial aid and filled out a very detailed summary of our family financial situation. Today we received notice that we are completely and totally inelligible for any aid whatsoever.
This is truly puzzling. The school is full of children of the wealthy and well-off who, I am sure, pay full tuition. There are a handful of kids, no more than 2 or 3 per grade, that come from families that I suspect qualify for the vast majority of their tuition to be covered by grants. (Small towns make this kind of conjecture possible.)
What I now realize, is that on our visits to the school, there were almost no kids from working middle class families. This only makes sense now that I realize that the cut-off for financial aid is just above poverty level.
This is not sour grapes. Our family is comfortable. We pay our bills, live in a very nice but modest house ($200k), drive decent cars (1999 Pontiac Sunfire, 2002 Minivan), and still have enough left over to go out for Chinese food every two weeks.
But we don't have enough to pay $1200 month for kindergarten, $200 month for after-school care, and $3000 for full time summer daycare. That works out to $14.2K /year. (8 months of tuition, 4 months daycare)
That is just under 1/3rd of our after tax income.
If you figure that our mortgage eats another 1/3rd of our earnings, that leaves 1/3rd to pay everything else, like the $40k in student loans that my wife and I still owe from our own schooling, utilities, car payments, groceries, etc... Needless to say, the numbers don't add up.
I guess what bothers me the most is that the financial aid structure makes it very clear that middle class families are not welcome at this school. Only those with 6 figure or poverty level incomes should bother apply.
I mistakenly assumed that we could sacrifice here and there and squeeze out the needed money to combine with a little financial aid. But their formula doesn't demand a sacrifice like a second job or canceling cable and the internet. Their numbers tell us we need to sell the house *and* a car just be able to afford monthly installments on the tuition.
And keep in mind that there are 12 more years of schooling to go before college.
So, I guess we can hope for the best in the public schools. There is still a chance that we will get a "school choice" slot in the neighboring town's district. (There are reportedly only 4 slots and several applicants)
But today, I'm feeling a little pissed on. I'd go to bar and buy a couple beers, however it's not in the budget.