Taxes and Tuition: Funding a Private School
For you homeowners in Lane County, very soon you'll be receiving your annual property tax statement in the mail. It's likely the only time of the year when you sit down and consider where your (property) tax dollars are going. Furthermore, if you're an ECS parent, you're paying property and income taxes to help fund public schools, and out-of-pocket tuition payments to send your child(ren) to private school. Of course other taxes may also apply.
I've had many conversations with people in the Eugene-Springfield area with regards to funding or affording private school.
"I would send my children to ECS if it was more affordable."
"I can't wait until school vouchers become available -- then private school enrollment will take off."
"I wish there was a tax benefit for paying thousands of dollars per year towards tuition."
Funding private school is both a philosophical and practical issue.
Philosophically, parents are drawn to Eugene Christian School for the mission and service it provides to students. Namely, a school community committed to developing Kingdom leaders -- students learning to put on the character and knowledge of Jesus Christ and becoming excellent in academics and service to others.
Practically, Eugene Christian School is funded primarily through tuition dollars.
Our 2019-20 tuition (and enrollment fee) is currently $7,800 - $8,250 for a full-time student.
Adjusted for staff discounts, financial aid, pastoral and NCU incentives, our true revenue tuition average is $6,700 per full-time student. This is the tuition number we use as a multiplier for budgeting purposes.
Total revenue: 80% from tuition, 12% from donations/grants, and 8% from lease income/other.
Total expenses: 67% on staffing, 13% on facility/maintenance, 11% on debt service, and 9% on academic/office/supplies/other.
By comparison to Oregon public schools, each district receives approximately $14,000 per student when accounting for operational and capital revenue from local, state and federal funding streams. This number can vary based upon local bonds and dollars received from the State School Fund. Public charter schools also receive public funding but typically at a reduced rate of 5-15% from traditional school districts.
Private school and public school revenue and expenditures are not true 'apples to apples' comparisons. For example, public schools are responsible for a number of expenditures (e.g., transportation and special education) that private schools may not have to account for. However, when considering healthcare and retirement packages, many public school districts spend 85-90% of their operating revenue on teachers, administrators and support staff. Currently, ECS spends 67% of its revenue on staff salaries and benefits.
I've often said that one of my favorite elements of the ECS community is its income diversity. To one family, the cost of ECS is very reasonable and to another, it is truly a make-or-break situation with affording monthly tuition. Our approach is to try the best we can to meet the needs of those needing financial assistance, including pastoral families.
We all must consider the cost-benefit and value of paying for a service. One ECS student will cost a household approximately $87,000 over the next 9 year window (assuming student is at ECS from kindergarten to 8th grade). Alternatively, the public school servicing that student over the same timeframe would likely receive an average of $150,000 - $165,000 in revenue.
At the end of the day, ECS must continue to be good stewards of the resources it receives and operate as efficiently as possible. This includes building the best staff we can, taking care of our campus, and always looking to improve our programs. There also needs to be prayer for our business community to continue creating family wage jobs and opportunities for parents. We are a school operating by God's grace and so thankful for all the parents, donors, dedicated staff members, and community supporters that have made ECS a reality for thousands of students over the past 65 years.