I have one child. While I do happen to be a single mother, I have an ex who lives two miles away and splits custody. We live in Loudoun County, which due to the confluence of data centers and government contractors, is now the richest county in the country. However, contrary to popular belief, there are still cats, and the streets are in fact, not paved with cheese. High incomes breed high costs of living. The influx of hideous McMansions over the past decade or so only serves to solidify Loudoun’s Bougie reputation. As annoying as some of those qualities are though, Loudoun is a fantastic place to live and raise your family. This is where I chose for Cooper to grow up, and while I don’t regret that decision for a minute, my wallet certainly does.
Loudoun is great for families; it is great for single people. It is terrible for single parents. My ex works in the IT field and makes a good amount of money. I work for the local government, and make… less. However, if we were together, with one child, we would be living comfortably right now. Our combined income could get us a nice little house, pay for Cooper’s daycare/preschool, with money left over to put away into savings. Instead, we pay two rents, two sets of utility bills, etc. etc. All of this is typical single parent nonsense, but here’s the kicker: while I’m still paying off student loans ten years after graduation with no end in site, we (or more accurately, my ex), are paying more per month for our son to go to preschool and daycare than I paid to get my bachelor’s degree.
Since we both work full time, Cooper needs a full-day program. His is open until 6:30, and he goes five days a week. The cost? Around $1,200/month. To put that in perspective, that’s about $100/month more than my ex was paying for a two bedroom apartment when we first split. So we had his rent, my rent, and basically a third rent, in the form of childcare. And while we do send Cooper to a somewhat “fancy” preschool, it doesn’t actually matter. I did the research and toured multiple places. The prices are all close, give or take a hundred bucks here or there. Luckily, I only have one kid too. If I had more, we would receive a sibling discount, but the standard discount is only about 10%, so we’re not talking life-changing numbers here.
Cooper started attending daycare when he was around 18 months old. At first, I thought he’d only have to go until Pre-K, after which we would happily shuttle him off to one of Loudoun’s fantastic public schools, at which point we would only have to pay a relatively small amount for aftercare. The day Cooper started kindergarten would be a blissful day– or so I thought. Turns out, Loudoun is the ONLY county in the state of Virginia that either doesn’t currently offer full-day kindergarten, or at least have it in the works. The richest county in the country apparently can’t afford to send kids to kindergarten for a full day.
So while a portion of my state taxes are going toward full-day kindergarten for everyone in Virginia, my child does not have that opportunity. Instead, he can go for three hours a day, either in the morning, forcing us to figure out what to do with him from 10:30 a.m. on, or in the afternoon, which would require us to secure before and aftercare. Either way, it’s a disruption in his day, and three hours of school would put him at a disadvantage when compared to other children receiving twice the instructional time.
This system means that we’re keeping Cooper in private school when it’s time for him to start kindergarten next year. As a huge proponent of public education, this saddens me greatly. However, as a parent who is invested in her child’s education, I feel as though it is my only option. Luckily, we can afford it, albeit barely. When the richest county in the country is punishing children who come from homes who can’t afford private kindergarten by denying them equal access to education, something is broken, and it needs to be fixed.
For more information on this issue, including links to studies that show why full-day kindergarten is so important, visit Loudoun For Full-Day Kindergarten’s Facebook page.