Is the Cost of Public Education an Investment or Expense?


There are moments when it is beneficial for me to step outside of the public education realm to carefully consider the idea that public education is an investment rather than an expense.  This perspective may be a direct result of what has been a lengthy but successful budget season for Danville Public Schools.

As you are aware, Danville School Board and Danville City Council, as well as school system and city staffs have worked very closely and successfully this year resulting in an increased contribution to the school division of $1.6 million for next year.  Additionally, many citizens spoke in favor of additional funding for schools at Council’s public hearing on May 2, 2017 and the recent regular meeting on May 16, 2017.

As the designated leader of learning for DPS, I am especially appreciative of the actions of the Board and Council with regard to additional funding.  I am especially grateful to Mr. Ken Larking and his staff as we worked through what seems to be yet another difficult budget year.  The Councils’ goals of reducing crime, improving schools, and growing Danville are targets that will require even greater cooperation with regard to sustainability.

For the sake of comparison, an investment in public education is the equivalent to an investment in a home.  The type of home in which you intend to raise your family and live in through retirement.  Investing in a home certainly requires significant financial planning beyond purchasing the home.  In addition to your mortgage, expenses for the home include: real estate taxes, homeowners insurance, utilities, and maintenance or possible periodic remodeling (depending on the length of time you have been in the home and your desire for your home to gain value in the marketplace.)  Ideally, as a homeowner you desire to ensure that your home is well-maintained, safe, and attractive operationally and aesthetically.  Just paying the mortgage may eventually lead to your success in paying off your home and owning it.  However, just paying the mortgage will eventually result in your home falling into disrepair.

Investing in a home such that it maintains its value will require that you not only pay the mortgage but that you maintain the property, monitor the homes infrastructure, and ensure that you are maintaining and sustaining your property’s value so that it is marketable.  Ideally, the goal, of course, is to make your home and its condition competitive in the marketplace not only as the place where you reside and raise your family, but also from the perspective of good fiscal stewardship.  The return on your investment in your home, ideally, is not only financially beneficial but also, socially and emotionally enriching as it one of the most expensive investments of a lifetime and the place you call home.

It is my belief that schooling, and the place called school has many similarities to home ownership.  First, schools are comprised mostly of children.  Homes and schools are places where children should learn in a safe, caring, and nurturing environment.  Homes and schools are both investments that when procured, maintained, and sustained appropriately add value to the community where they are located.

Perhaps it is time that we invest in our schools like we invest in our best homes as a place where productive, responsible, and caring families invest in productive, responsible, and caring children.  In conclusion, perhaps the appropriate investment in schools will result in a huge return for the community.