Public Schools on Steroids: What happens when those setting the prices don’t have to pay.

Here’s a SMALL SAMPLING of Overseas American Schools 2009-2010 tuition rates, according to the State Department’s Office of Overseas Schools:

American School – Nairobi, Kenya
PK: $5,600
K-5: $14,000
6-8: $16,800
9-10: $17,000
11-12: $17,500
Capital levy fee for all new students: $5,000
Application fee $100

American School – Johannesburg, South Africa
PK: $12,382
K-5: $16,482
6-8: $19,321
9-12: $21,432
Capital fee: RAND 35,000 (about $4,700)

American Embassy School – New Delhi, India
PK: $6,790
K-5: $16,420
6-8: $17,600
9-12: $18,500
Registration fee: $5,750 per student

American International School – Jakarta, Indonesia
Early childhood 1: $6,700
Early childhood 2: $12,600
K-5: $17,930
6-12: $19,930
Annual capital fee for early childhood: $1,000
Annual capital fee for 2-12: $3,500

American International School – Lagos, Nigeria
PK: $8,980
K-5: $13,379
9-11: $20,220
Application fee of $400
Registration fee: $7,000
Annual capital levy fee: $1,600

These are officially independent, but operate under State Department auspices. They are the schools that the US Embassies, US Agency for International Development (USAID), US Information Service (USIS), US Peace Corps (Staff – not the volunteers), US Military associated with the Embassy (Marine Guard), other US Government Agencies and US Consulting companies under contract with the US Embassy or USAID, would send their dependent children to. Private US multinational corporation employees would also normally send their children to such schools at their overseas posts. United Nations staff also enrolls their children at these schools, as do other Embassies and Multinational corporations, space permitting, according to a set priority protocol.

Consider the fees and then consider the USG pay scales for State Department staff. US State Department employees have their base salaries off the USG pay scale, PLUS free housing, free security, free utilities, free medical, R&R and Home Leave travel. They ALSO get 100% of EACH of their children’s tuition paid by the US taxpayer.

Parents with enrolled children are eligible to run for school board positions. The school board develops the budgets and sets tuition rates. And DO they, ever. With their dear children forced to live overseas in strange lands, many parents have a sense of guilt that perhaps their child is missing out on normal American life. But, that parent can make it up to their child by being a part of the school board to make sure that school is top notch. Swimming pools, computer labs, sports fields, bakeries, cafeterias, state of the art libraries, and… well the state of the art library could really use a new entrance that conveyed excellence – a sculpted  forest tree entry. The grounds would look nicer with locally commissioned statues and art … new books and curriculum fill closets and storage to overflow. While it’s true that there are unavoidable additional costs associated with running a school in another country, like travel and lodging for teachers, many of these schools have on-campus apartments so teachers live and work on site. Most of the staff however, are local hires, at local salary rates, supervised by American staff, quite a few are Americans living in that country, married to local nationals, so some costs are offset by savings elsewhere. One would expect these schools to be somewhat more expensive, but not to such a magnitude.

The American schools bill the State Department. Companies like EXXON/MOBIL or CHEVRON pay their employees’ kids tuition bills as part of the compensation package, so the next time people grumble about the price of oil going up, remember, the oil companies pass increases on to the customer, and part of those increases include paying for sky-high tuition, rising faster than the annual inflation rates, at American Schools for their employees’ dependents while posted overseas. This represents thousands and thousands of American dependents being schooled overseas, not even counting the military’s Department of Defense Schools. When the United Nations submits its budget requests, remember that thousands of UN staff worldwide are eligible for a subsidy of 70% of tuition for their children, up to a fixed ceiling, a budget line item that runs into the millions, payment which is paid by donor nations … like the US, and thus the US taxpayer again. Many non-profit organizations also build into their employee compensation packages tuition assistance for their children, based on the price of the American School at the posting, adding a huge additional cost to expatriate contracts.

Many of these schools are in fact affiliated with teacher exchange programs at stateside public schools. For example, the American School in Lagos, Nigeria had been for years linked with Tacoma Washington Public Schools – using Tacoma, Washington Public School curriculum and teachers. A Tacoma, Washington native, when hearing this exclaimed, “Are you kidding? Everyone’s fleeing that school district!”

When the school announced it was adding Klein School District out of Texas to its mix, a parent came back from summer break with a disbelieving, “I was house-hunting in Texas and found a really nice place, but the real estate agent told me, “Trust me, you don’t want that, it’s in Klein school district.”

Now consider that public school education to the tune of $13,379 for 4th grade plus a $7,000 registration fee and the always mysterious annual capital levy fee of $1,600. That makes it $21,979 for the first year for a new 4th grader. For a public school education that no one in the State of Washington wanted. This is for a day student, so don’t forget packing his lunch.

The environment at these schools is solidly Progressive Left, with occasional anomalies in places like Nigeria where corporations like EXXON or CHEVRON had large offices, which would throw in a sometimes entertaining Texas Oil versus East Coast Washington Beltway schism.

The American School in New Delhi built itself a “Hall of Peace” and has a coffeehouse where parents can socialize, sing a little and strum … not kidding, on guitars. The American School Advanced Placement History teacher in New Delhi forced the students to istudy the radical Leftist Howard Zinn’s uber political, “A History of the American People,” even though it wasn’t on the AP course requirements nor on the AP exam. Not actually noteworthy since this is common in American public schools, yet it’s telling to see so many of these schools want to be known as “International Schools” instead of the “American School,” and do not display American flags inside the classrooms, because they aren’t comfortable with “patriotic” expressions.

But what’s stunning is the ease with which these U.S. government employee parents approve gold-plated budgets and tuition levels that they could NEVER afford if they had to pay out of their own pockets. Another factor also forms these budgets – local parents who pay the full tuition, run for school board and then are instrumental in suggesting and approving construction projects to improve the schools … and they just happen to own construction companies. It’s not a coincidence then to discover these schools run to more than just slightly overbuilt edifices.

You and I, and our neighbors foot the bill for these luxury-priced schools through our Federal taxes. How many of our kids have Olympic-sized swimming pools, coffeehouses and enormous libraries with sculpted entrances? The public school systems that many of the overseas schools partner with for their curriculum and teaching staff wouldn’t dream of submitting budget requests to city school boards that tally up to New Delhi American Embassy School’s whopping $22,170 for a 4th grade education. At these prices even the 70% subsidized United Nations personnel balk; thirty percent for the staffer to pay out of pocket is still high and impossible on their UN salaries if they have two or three children. They quickly look elsewhere for education options.

Compare this pricing with the academically excellent Calvert School’s thriving home school division which will ship a year in a box anywhere in the world – textbooks, papers, pencils, glue for 4th grade at the price of $795 or about $1,200 if parents opt for Calvert teacher support and a Calvert-maintained transcript ( ). The traditionally-structured, rigorous Calvert School academically outperforms any of the American Schools, K-8 which charge $19,000 to $20,000 MORE than Calvert and deliver LESS in terms of academic achievement.

It’s routine overseas, people with Masters degrees, white collar government employees who like to be called diplomats, who in the overwhelming majority vote Democratic Party, who don’t even blink at the sight of an elementary school bill of $21,979 for ONE child, who make no effort to keep costs down for the sake of the taxpayers who pay for it, and constantly overspend, driving fees upwards – for them, it’s FREE, an entitlement for the “sacrifice” of living overseas in their chosen careers.

There is a very simple solution for at least SOME taxpayer relief. No more 100% free. If USG State Department employees, too habituated to a free ride, had to pay even 10% of the tuition, the downwards pressure on the fees would be HUGE and immediate. Expatriate school boards would suddenly be the epitome of tight wads, suspicious of any proposed increases and be Dr. No on any suggested improvements. The screams of outrage from the other side of the globe would be audible in downtown Show Low, but it’d work to insert a measure of fiscal reality into the hyper-inflated American schools overseas.


  1. Rosco P Coltrane says

    Them’s some mighty interesting stats ya got there. You may be 100% correct. Wouldn’t surprise me. Got any links/sources to back up your chatter?

  2. Since you’re mighty interested pardner, ya’ll can mosey on back to the first line in the article and read the words:
    “according to the State Department’s Office of Overseas Schools:”
    So, type that into your search bar up yonder, and peruse at your leisure the descriptions and tuitions fees for every school in their list. Ya’ll might want a beer to go with it, it’ll take a piece.

    Just wish I’d used the European schools instead. The African and Asian Regions are cheap.
    A SAMPLE of tuition at European-based American Schools
    American International School – Vienna
    PK: $12,623
    K-5: $19,710
    6-8: $21,870
    9-11: $22,748
    12: $23,085
    Application fee: $223
    Enrollment fee: $446
    Capital assessment fee: $5,711 (entry)
    Annual capital assessment fee $999
    Lunch: $1,181-$1,290

    American International School – Frankfurt
    First steps: E 13,320
    Pre-Primary: E 15,120
    5: E 15,320
    6-8: E 17.030
    9-10: E 17,950
    11-12: E 17,950
    Registration fee: $500
    Capital assessment fee E 7,000

    American International School – Rome
    PK: $12,957
    K: $16,056
    1-3: $19,435
    4-5: $19,435
    6-8: $21,549
    9-10: $23,082
    11: $23,084
    12: $25,633
    Registration fee: $704
    Capital Assessment fee: $4,929

  3. Just want to add that NO ONE has ever adequately explained to us exactly what is meant by “Capital Assessment Fee.”

    Only that we had to pay it, tough patooties.

  4. Thanks wanumba. I think by looking at these numbers we can see what level of funding is actually thought necessary to provide the highest quality education.

  5. Which number is it, Todd?

    My 4th grader’s tuition is $3,000 this year. AIS Vienna is absolutely sure the same requires $26,090. AIS Rome can’t possibly do it for less than $25,068. AIS Lagos is squeeking by for only $22,379, poor things.
    Calvert School requires $795.

    $795 is essentially the cost of the actual curriculum and supplies need for one child – the textbooks, workbooks, paper, colored pencils, crayons for the entire YEAR.

    Everything else is overhead, labor, janitor, electricity, photocopying. I picked 4th grade on purpose. The elementary grades require practically nothing – one teacher does all, and it’s reading, writing and arithmetic, pencils, paper, they’re CHEAP. Don’t even have team sports yet. Homeschooling at that age and everything’s completed for the day in two hours. TWO HOURS. That’s IT.
    So that high tuition isn’t actually all going to the 4th graders is it? It’s going ELSEWHERE – subsidizing something else in the school, and Lord knows what since the upper grades fees surpass many university tuition/room and board, at those prices why do they need to be getting subsidies from the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th gradeers?

    Our son’s current school teacher/overhead charged to him is roughly $3000-$795 = $2,205.

    The Vienna’s school teacher/overhead is $26,090 – $795 = $25,295.

    So, we’re paying local and state taxes for our public school which is budgeted for about $6,000 per student, paying private school tuition for our son at $3,000 out of pocket, and paying Federal taxes so that USG salaried staff in Vienna can put their child into a swanky $26,090 4th grade, in Vienna, FREE, while blithely passing the bill to the American Taxpayer. Not their problem.

    Vienna, the European good life, doesn’t NEED an AMERICAN SCHOOL. It has dozens of Viennese public and private schools in the city and suburbs which routinely score far higher than any high-priced American International School for free or a fraction of the price.

    Lagos, Nigeria? Okay. There’s a good argument for providing a school for expats there. The local public schools are horrible, and are closed half the time, have no supplies and are filthy. The local private schools are dirty by USA standards, but stay open and do teach but are full with long waiting lists.
    What we would have given to have put our kids in a Vienna public school! In Lagos, the parents dropped their kids off at 7:45 am, drove out the gates and into the clutches of a waiting armed gang of robbers.

    But let’s look at this again:
    “I think by looking at these numbers we can see what level of funding is actually thought necessary to provide the highest quality education”

    What we see is that schools will charge and charge and charge people out the wazoo if they can get away with it. They aren’t polite about it, either. These schools demand these fees up front 100%.

    Just remember that when you look at your Federal Taxes and they’ve gone up, because some bunch of swanked-up schools “need” more of YOUR money to pamper State Department kids.

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