As parents finish a school year and vaguely think about the Fall we thought it might be helpful to pull some information together about cost of public vs private schools. What follows is the most current data varying from 2021 up through 2023.
For the 2023 school year, there are 39 private schools serving 5,466 students in Clark County, WA (there are 145 public schools, serving 75,243 public students). 7% of all K-12 students in Clark County, WA are educated in private schools (compared to the WA state average of 9%).
As we closed out the 2022/23 school year the private school tuition costs were about $9,585.
Public school cost numbers may vary depending on the source. The State of Washington Superintendent of Schools office uses state money + federal money + local levies to come up with a number. Averaging that across the state you will see numbers ranging from $15,000 to over $18,000. However, there is one component of public education cost that doesn’t get used in Washington State and that’s “capital budget”.
What’s capital budget you ask? That’s bond money approved by voters in a school district that is used to build and renovate school buildings and properties. Approval requires a 60% yes vote.
When we add the state + federal + levy + capital bonds we come up with a higher number than normally published. The best source we’ve been able to find in Washington State can be found at: Total Expenditures Per Pupil Vs Enrollments | The School Data Project The author of that website is without a doubt the best informed source in the state.
When we look as that data we can parse it by county. Since this blog is focused on Clark County Washington we’ll zoom in to see the numbers:
When we take the numbers for each of the 9 districts in Clark County we come out with an average of $19,401 with a range of $15,169 to $22,182. (The $15,169 is a district finishing out their capital bond so the cost is minimal. They are expected to ask for a new bond which would raise that number)
Let’s compare Clark County public schools average of $19,410 to private schools cost of $9,585. That means that public schools in Clark County WA are 102.5% higher. That appears to mean that public schools, in Clark County WA, are slightly more than double private schools in Clark County.
Question: Is public school student performance double that of private? Here’s a link to the State Superintendent’s data. You can look up any school district: Report Card – Washington State Report Card (ospi.k12.wa.us) Please note that for the data on testing it shows the percentage that are PASSING. So take 100 and subtract the PASSING score and you get the FAILING score percent.
There are a LOT of factors other than cost that must be considered before coming to conclusions. Many families can’t afford to pay property taxes for public schools (which comprise 52-54% of total property taxes) AND pay tuition at private schools. Single parent and two working parent households likely can’t afford private without some sort of a program from the State that would offset some of the costs and allow parental choice.
According to the Columbian the annualized median wage in Clark County, in 2022, was $67,329. Depending on the source the median teachers income, in Clark County WA, is around $73,000. However, the benefits and retirement package add another (est.) 40% to that number meaning a total package value of slightly over $102,000/year. Again, new teachers earn less and tenured earn more. In the following link (from the State of WA) you can look up data and people: K-12 Public Schools Reports (wa.gov)
You may find the information on “ratings” of private schools in the following link to be of use: https://www.privateschoolreview.com/washington/clark-county
The value of dedicated teachers in almost impossible to calculate. A teacher can influence a student for the rest of their life. We want the best we can get and we need to make sure we are paying them well. We also need to be able to weed out those who have lost their zeal and dedication.
In the end, if there was a way to get some of the $19,000 per student per year in Clark County WA, to use to pay for private schooling would you do it?