Historically, education over the summer has been the responsibility of the parents. Today, we know that this very expectation will deprive many of our most deserving children from a critical learning opportunity. Given the relative newness of this large-scale need, we often get asked the question, what is the right cost of a summer learning experience for my children? How much money should I be budgeting to support my city with a high-quality program?
The easiest way to determine a range is to look at your current per pupil spend for your city. Take that number and divide it by 10 months (the number of months in the school year) to determine the top bound of the amount you should pay and then take that same number again and divide it by 11 months (the additional month of school you’re adding with a summer learning provider) to determine the lower bound of the amount you should be spending on summer. Anything below that range should be suspicious. Be prepared to ask them about labor costs, the support ratio for your children, and how much support they are going to provide to operate school.
Let’s use NYC as an example: the average per pupil spend is roughly $20,000. If we take that number and we divide it by 11 months, then we have a lower bound of $1,800. If we take that number and divide it by 10 months, then we have an upper bound of $2,000. Your all-in cost for a program of decent quality should be between $1,800 – $2,000. This range should only change if the days are shorter or longer than your traditional school year or if things like rent or food costs are not factored into the program cost. Therefore, it is important to remember that the range is the all-in cost, including insurance, facility space, transportation, food, etc. This also assumes that you will maintain a consistent level of instructional quality during the summer as you do during the year (i.e. same # of hours, same # of days, similar labor costs, etc.)
Depending on the caliber of the experience your city and schools are looking to provide, you can anticipate some fluctuations in that range. For example, you have unstructured programs run by the NYC parks department that could cost you as little as $500 for an additional month to up to $5,000 for a sleep-away program. Too often, we hear that cities and schools have historically not done anything during the summer or have done it on budgets that are significantly smaller. However, when we ask them about satisfaction, the consensus is usually low satisfaction. The money that is “saved” because a program appears to be cheaper is worse if it yielded little to no results. In our opinion, the money might as well have been wasted.
Once you’re committed to investing in and making academic summer learning a part of your educational strategy, the next question becomes, how fast should you scale opportunities? Stay tuned for our next piece on how fast to grow your summer learning opportunities.