October 23, 2009

Moving to a Good Public School District Instead of Paying for Private School

Last week I wrote about the high cost of private school tuition. If you live in an area with poor public schools then you might consider sending your kids to private school to get them a better education. Where I grew up as a child our public schools were quite good and I got a pretty good education. However the city that my wife and I live in right now doesn't seem to have an especially good public school system. The test scores for our city's schools are a little below the state average. Thats not horrible but its not really good, its well just average. If we want them to have a great education then we might want to look elsewhere and private schools are an obvious alternative.

In a comment to my last article Financial Samurai mentioned another to get a better education for your kids. One way to get your kids a better education is to simply move to a better public school district. This is how it would work: Say you're currently in a bad school district. Your local schools have all sorts of problems, its underfunded, theres little opportunity for academic growth and they consistently have poor test scores. In the next city they have good schools, its an affluent area and the schools are well funded with good academics. You simply move to the better school district and now your kids are in a better school. Simple as that. Of course moving does come with some costs.

I figure in my case the 3 options would look something like this:

Option 1: Do nothing and stay where you are. Cost : $0. School quality : average
Option 2: Move to better public schools. Cost : $20,000 School quality : good to very good
Option 3: Pay for private school. Cost : 4 years tuition = $40,000 School quality : very good

Which is the best option? It depends on the exact costs.

The exact cost of moving to a different school district will vary widely depending on your exact situation. If you rent then the cost may be additional rent. Say you pay $800 rent now but the better school area is $1000 a month. Thats an extra $200 a month for 4 years or $9,600 total. On the other hand if you own a house worth around $300,000 and move to a similar house you might have to pay $100,000 more for the same size house in the better district. The cost of selling your home and buying the other home will cost you $20,000 to $30,000 in sales fees and loan costs. You might have higher property tax as well to help pay for that better school. Such a move could cost you upwards of $40,000 or more.

Does it make sense? Maybe. It really depends on the situation and what the costs are. If you're merely moving from an OK public to a slightly better public school then that is not really worth spending a ton of money on. But if the public schools are significantly better in one area compared to another and you can afford to move but can't afford private school then moving might be a very good option.

Its probably best to think in advance and buy your home in a good school district ahead of time. That way you won't be facing the costs of moving later just to get into that better schools.

Does spending more make sense for you? It depends on the situation. Of course you have to ensure your family financially before you spend extra money on education. You need to put food on the table, get health insurance, save your your retirement and make sure you have an emergency fund. Then if you still have money to spend you might look at spending more on education. But its not always necessary. Maybe you're already in a good school district. I am not against public school in general. I went to public schools and I think there are many fine public schools. But the quality of public schools can vary greatly. It makes sense for a parent to want the best education for their child so considering the options available is natural.

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