The math on Chuck Muth's school choice ideal just doesn't add up

I am thinking of opening a private school based on Chuck Muth's concept of real choice. I envision 250 children the first year. Each of those children will come with their $5,000 voucher.

Wow, I'll be rolling in money " $1.25 million " and that's just for one year! I can provide a world-class education for those 250 students in grades K-5. Something those Nevada public schools have never been able to do with $5000 per student.

I'll add grades 7-12 in a couple years when I've banked all the profits. Piece of cake! I have a Master's Degree in Business Management and an extensive public education background so I can do this, no sweat!

I'll need two kindergarten teachers (25 in each class because there isn't a real Class Size requirement in Nevada for kinder). I'll need two first, two second, and two third grade teachers, 16 in each class as the law in Nevada required 16:1 in those grades. I'll have to really load up those 5th and 6th grade classrooms to make up for the smaller class size in the lower grades, so only one 5th grade and one 6th grade teacher with 32 students each. That comes to 210 students. That's good, just in case I don't get 250 the first year. I'll still make over $1 million and every child will maximize their educational opportunities with my world-class curriculum and teachers.

So, let's do the math: I'll pay each teacher $30,000, don't want them to be overpaid. I'll need to provide health insurance and worker's compensation insurance, and pay Social Security. I'm not going with that PERS system that just gives public school teachers way too much retirement money. So, I'll figure $40,000 per teacher, times 10 teachers, that's only $400,000 so I have $600,000 as profit. Oh wait, I probably want to pay myself something to be the custodian/principal/ librarian/ secretary/nurse/maintenance person. I don't want to appear greedy so I'll pay myself only $60,000 the first year. At least I don't have to run buses since I'm a "choice" school so that's a relief.

Now I still have $550,000 or so.

Oh, darn, I have to buy books. I'll save money if I don't buy consumable books so if each of the 210 students only need 3 textbooks and they run about $40 each, that's only $8,400 and they'll last at least 5 years assuming the students treat them nicely and I'm sure they will, and the Nevada Standards don't change in those years. I'll probably need at least one computer for every 20 students and one for me so I can keep up with my bookkeeping duties. So I'll allow for 13 computers at $3,000 each so that $39,000 and those will last at least 5 years, I'm sure.

I'm still rolling in the dough! A little over a half million. That's good.

Oh, I have a phone call:

I just talked to Mr. and Mrs. Citizen on the phone. They heard about my new school and they are really excited to enroll their children because they live right here in the neighborhood. Neat! She and her husband have 10 special-needs children and they are thrilled that they will be able to leave the public school system and bring their voucher to me. I'm up for the challenge!

I did mention to them that we just give a "little" entry exam to make sure their children will benefit from our program. Mrs. Citizen then said that one of their children, Joe, is blind. I told her that wasn't a problem I'd just be sure to get the test written in Braille for her child. Mrs. Citizen asked about the textbooks. I told her, not a problem we'll just order a set in Braille.

She then mentioned that one child, Sara, is deaf. Well that won't be a problem, I told her, as the test is written out and requires pencil and paper only. She then indicated that her child only signs ASL. Again, I assured her that isn't a problem. Once she passes the test we will hire a competent signer for her child for all day. (Hmmm, that can't cost more than a teacher so I'll allow $30,000).

Mr. Citizen then spoke up and mentioned that one child, Bobby, is a hemophiliac and will require a full-time nurse to be at school at all times and this child may need a assistant all day so that no other children bump him or so he doesn't get hurt on the playground equipment. (OK, a nurse, another $40,000 and an assistant. I'm sure I can find someone for minimum wage for that so I'll only allow $20,000).

The other eight children just have "some syndromes" and only 3 need suctioning (yikes, another trained nurse, maybe I can train someone myself to save money), one is in a wheel chair so I'll need to modify the entrances and exits (that could get expensive, I don't know how much to allow). Of those eight only 2 need a speech therapist so I'll just pay an hourly person maybe $40 an hour or so. I'm sure there are all kinds of speech pathologists out there who will jump at the chance to teach 4 hours a week at my world-class choice school). Oh, I forgot, they also mentioned three kids need Occupational Therapy and one needs Physical Therapy. I'll call one of the local therapy offices, I'm sure they can send a couple specialists over a couple times a week. Wrong, they actually said that I'd have to transport the kids to their facility! Are they for real???? Now I need a bus, no, just a van would be good. I called, and I can get a used van for $30,000 but I have to add a wheel chair lift since it's the kid in the wheel chair that needs the physical I just a quote for that! You won't believe this, $15,000 to modify the van! I'll see if I can get my next-door neighbor, who is a body man, to fix me up. I'll allow $70,000 for all of these "frills"!

OK, calm down, I still have about a half million left. (Big Sigh!). I'll need a playground and some playground equipment. That should run about $100,000 including concrete sidewalks, ramps, etc.

OHHHHH, I forgot I have to get a facility. I figure I can get one of the empty box stores here in Carson for about 75 cents a square foot and I'm not sure how much space each classroom needs but I'm thinking that about 6,000 sq. feet should do it. That about $5,000 a month in lease payments or $60,000 a year. I drove around and none of them have playground areas, just a lot of asphalt so I'll have to do some work outside the building, another $100,000. Then my husband piped up and said, "You'll need a fence!" Just great, another $40,000. He also said I'll probably have to do some remodeling inside the building. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

OK, I've thought of all the big-ticket items. Wait, I'll need desks and chairs--$20,000 tops and they'll last forever. I'll get the teachers one copier because we all know they copy everything. A lease on that with maintenance is $1,200 a month! Maybe I'll just get one of those "copy cats" like the office store commercial shows for the first 2 years. Just kidding! Then there are those ongoing expenses like water, gas, electric, and phone service"maybe $30 grand a year, Here's some good news, I'm thinking I don't need to advertise because people will be beating down my door to put their children in my world-class school that takes "all youngsters" no matter what their needs, just like those terrible public schools do!

I think that leaves me about $200,000 for anything I missed. Surely there won't be any other children with special needs like the Citizen family. Oh my, I'll probably need to have some insurance just in case I get a parent who is litigious and doesn't think I'm providing the Cadillac-education I promised. I'll just give my insurance guy a call. You will not believe what he said I need to carry in liability insurance.

Furthermore, he says that I'll need special coverage for the van. He's going to get back to me with a quote"that's never good.

Oh, I have another call. What is up with these parents? This one wanted to know if I'll be serving breakfast and lunch or only lunch because her children qualify for free lunch! I told her I'm not opening a restaurant, I'm opening a school. Her kids will need to pack a lunch. She had the nerve to tell me that I MUST comply with all Federal regulations if I think I want to be a choice school that gets taxpayer money!


Well my insurance agent called back; let's just say I'm now on my way to my bank to see if they'll give me a sizable loan to get this school off the ground. I'm sure I'll only need assistance for a couple years and then, because my school will have made AYP and my reputation for running a world-class choice school will be known across Nevada, I'll be able to open franchises in every county in Nevada.

The banker just informed me that they don't loan money to public schools because they are taxpayer-funded so they should be self-sufficient. He said that I can just dig into my own pocket for those extra costs like special education. After all, he said, public schools have to dip into the General Fund when the per-pupil allotment isn't enough to educate every child they are required to enroll. He also told me that public schools can't even give an entry exam!

OK, Chuck, I think I'll wait until you decide to open your first world-class, real choice school and then I can open mine across the street from your school. Real competition, as you call it! I'm sure you'll do us all proud and I know that you will not fear my school as you are not afraid of real competition. I'm right behind you!


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