Private schools in Missouri face what could be a perfect storm of financial issues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Not only must they worry about maintaining enrollment, but they also will see decreased income from endowments, tithing, scholarship organization, and foundations at the same time that they deal with increased costs from expansion to e-learning.
Private schools should receive a small percentage of Title-I “equitable services” from the school districts, but the bulk of federal relief specifically designed to help schools deal with the new costs of distance education and ensure continued learning during this crisis will go solely to public schools, leaving behind close to 10 percent of Missouri school-aged children.
The result is that many private schools could be forced to close, which would be a catastrophic loss for participating lower- and middle-income families and could have long-lasting negative impacts on the public school system as well.
At a time of such economic uncertainty, it’s important to understand the effect of private schools on state budgets: According to the National Council for Education Statistics, during the 2016–17 school year, Missouri spent just over $11,527 per year per student in K-12 public schools.
With nearly 90,000 students enrolled in private schools in Missouri, the savings to taxpayers comes to over $1 billion annually.
Unlike public schools, private schools lack the guaranteed security to remain open. That’s not only a concern for the students and families who rely on and purposely chose
those schools, but the short- and long-term financial wellbeing of the state, including the per-pupil funding currently allocated to each child in public school.
All parents, whether they send their children to public or private school, have been forced to adjust to a life where children remain home during what used to be the school day. The one thing public-school parents do not need to worry about is whether their child’s school will survive this pandemic. Every child in Missouri deserves that same reassurance.
Unlike public policy, the crisis does not discriminate between public or private school students and families. Missouri’s reaction to the crisis should not either.
Any new federal funding as a result of the COVOID 19 crisis should not discriminate against the children enrolled in private schools.
This is a moral imperative, as well as a fiscal one. Future federal relief, and action by the governor and state leaders, should protect every family to ensure all children can access a quality education.
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