Is Private School Worth It?

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Is private school worth it?

Time really flies when you have a kid. It seems like yesterday that RB40jr was born and I was still working at Intel. Now he is almost 12 and just a few inches shorter than me. I wrote this post in 2015 and this is an update. Our son was in preschool back then and we were figuring out our options for elementary school. This year, he just started at a new middle school. We’ll look back and see if our decision was the right one and see what’s next for RB40Jr.

Joe’s schooling

Personally, I like the public school system. Mrs. RB40 and I attended public schools and met at a state college – the University of California, Santa Barbara. We were pretty smart kids and our public schools prepared us somewhat adequately for college. While Mrs. RB40 did well in her public high school, she struggled a bit in college. She also worked as much as she could while taking a full course load in order to lessen the financial impact on her parents. My transition from high school to college was a bit smoother. Like most freshmen, I struggled at first. But I adjusted quickly and figured out how to study in college.

Actually, let’s rewind a bit. I grew up in Chiang Mai, Thailand and went to school there until I finished 7th grade. I attended Montfort elementary, one of the few private primary schools in Chiang Mai. Back then, the private schools were much better than the local public schools. My parents weren’t rich, but they valued education highly and were college educated. They made some sacrifices to send me and my brothers to a private school.

When we moved to the US, my parents had to start over from scratch. Obviously, they couldn’t afford private schools at that point. I attended public school and it was fine. My schools were in middle-class neighborhoods. I got enough from them to be successful in college.

These days, we live in a pretty nice area in Portland. Our local schools are better most public schools in Portland. RB40Jr is doing well so far.

School Choices

Ok, these were our options when RB40Jr started kindergarten.

In 2015, we lived in downtown Portland. Our public school, Chapman elementary, had an okay rating. This district is kind of unusual because it encompasses downtown and a wide swath of NW Portland. The NW Portland area is pretty well-to-do and the school had great test scores for many years. In recent years, Portland has grown and this resulted in a more crowded school along with more diversity. More diversity means a bit worse test scores, usually. This is okay with me because I want RB40jr to meet people from different backgrounds and make friends with a wide variety of kids.

Our other options.

  • Another public school – There was a better-rated public school in SW Portland, Ainsworth elementary. It was actually closer to our home than Chapman. This school is located in one of the wealthiest areas in Portland and the kids’ test scores reflect that. We can send an application here and should have a moderate chance of getting in.
  • Bilingual programs – Portland had several bilingual programs in their public schools – Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, Russian, and Vietnamese. A spot in these programs was highly coveted and the space was limited. The chance of getting in is very low. There were just 60 spots in the Chinese bilingual program for the whole city of Portland.
  • Charter school – Emerson elementary is a small charter school nearby that has excellent ratings. Again, the space is extremely limited. In the 2015 school year, there were 14 openings and 10 were filled by incoming siblings of current students. There were just 4 openings for over 200 applicants.
  • Private school – There were quite a few private schools in our area. The International School was just a few blocks away, but it was pretty darn expensive at around $16,000 per year. This would be our last option. The price was absurd to me because we had good public schools in our area. (In 2022, the tuition increased to $21,000. That’s expensive.)

RB40Jr ended up attending Ainsworth elementary. PPS redistricted just before he started school and we were very lucky. Our primary school changed from Chapman to Ainsworth. The school is located in a wealthier neighborhood. They had an awesome fundraising system. Whenever the school needed money, they could raise it from the parents. They were able to hire extra aids and teachers.

Our son loved the school and we did too. His classes were a little crowded, but I don’t think it was too bad. Each class had about 30 kids. They also had a great support system for kids with disability and/or emotional problems. RB40Jr got to know all the staff in the office very well because he went (or got sent) there almost every week. He was very sad to leave this school.

*Note – We didn’t apply for the bilingual program because RB40Jr had a hard time with school when he was young. He has a hearing disability so we decided to focus on English. Although, his issue was mostly behavioral. He is much better now.

Middle school

We had a great experience with our public elementary school so we continued on to the public middle school. RB40Jr is doing pretty well and he hasn’t gotten into any trouble yet. What a great improvement! The school and teachers seem all right, but the students are very rowdy. There seems to be a fight every few days. They even had to call the cops to escort an unruly parent off campus last week. The kids on Junior’s bus are very unruly as well. They caused a lot of problems for the bus drivers.

Our son seems to be adjusting okay. We’ll give them a chance. Middle school is only 3 years anyway. It’ll fly by. This middle school has good test scores.

High school

After middle school, we plan to attend the local public high school. It’s less than a mile away from our house. This public high school has a very good reputation. They have an International Baccalaureate program and many language programs. They are also doing a massive renovation along with new construction. The work should be done by the time our son starts there. Nice!

No to private school

I don’t really like private school because the cost is just too high. We live in a wealthier area and our public schools are very good. I would consider private schools more if the public schools are worse.

Anyway, I’d rather save the money for college. We also use the money to expose our son to wider experiences like international travel, music lessons, and kung fu classes. We plan to stay involved with his education so I don’t think he’ll have much trouble with formal education. RB40jr is a really bright kid. He learns new things very quickly, but he has no grit. He gives up too quickly if he doesn’t succeed right away. He’s only 11 so we’ll keep working on it.

What do you think about private school? Do you think it’s worth the money at the primary or secondary level?

*See my guide – How to Start a Blog and Why You Should. Starting a blog changed my life. It provides some income after retirement and it’s a great way to build a community. Those are the two biggest problems after retirement. It’s a great way to use some of your free time.

Image Credit: by W.D. Vanlue

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. They have many useful tools that will help you reach financial independence.

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