Michael Carnuccio | August 21, 2015

Free Market Friday: Doing more with less

Michael Carnuccio

While education funding in Oklahoma amounts to roughly $156,000 per classroom, taxpayers are told of underfunded schools and impoverished students who are difficult to educate.

Well, earlier this month the prestigious magazine The Economist had a fascinating cover story, “The $1-a-week school,” on the rapid emergence of low-budget private schools in a number of nations, most of which can be safely classified as Third World.

In Lagos, Nigeria, for example, it’s estimated that there are as many as 18,000 small private schools, often housed in ramshackle buildings, charging minimal fees. The city’s 1,600 government-run public schools try to educate a much smaller share of the population, but children there all too often sit twiddling their thumbs because of high teacher absenteeism.

Can a child in a tin-roofed shack really get a better education than one in a modern school building? In Lagos, yes. Parents opt for small private academies because they know learning is the primary focus there.

“Private schools enroll a much bigger share of primary school pupils in poor countries than in rich ones,” The Economist wrote. “One reason for the developing world’s boom in private education is that aspirational parents are increasingly seeking alternatives to dismal state schools.”

In an Indian slum, students pay as little as $1 per week to attend private schools in old warehouses, then move to the local government school for a free lunch. Not much learning goes on there; one study found a fourth of the teachers were absent on any given day.

You can only extrapolate so far. Most American public schools are better than those in emerging nations, but one has to wonder how efficient they are when only half of every school dollar actually gets to the classroom.

In those 18,000 private schools in Lagos, the dollars may be scanty, but they are all focused on helping children learn. If they weren’t, those families would go somewhere else.

Though private schools in Oklahoma charge more than $1 per week, they are more affordable than you might think.

According to Private School Review, the average private school tuition in Oklahoma is $4,467 for elementary schools and $7,121 for high schools.

Oklahoma currently spends $8,687 per pupil, per year, for public education.

Michael Carnuccio

Former OCPA President

Loading Next