About 25 years ago, I decided it was time to purchase life insurance. Because my favorite uncle was an agent for a national insurance company, I called and asked his advice. Taking into consideration a wife, a baby, twins on the way, and a private school teacher’s income, Uncle Joe suggested I purchase a 20-year-term insurance plan at 20 times my annual income.

It sounded like a good idea … until he told me how much it would cost each month. I reminded Uncle Joe that I was a private school teacher. He reminded me that quality life insurance was very important.

I couldn’t afford Uncle Joe’s plan, so I inquired with a parent of one of my students who also sold insurance. Jill was a mother of three children at my school. She was a very nice person and her insurance was almost the same that Uncle Joe offered (without the same level of service), some options to add value in later years, and the ability to transition the insurance to long-term disability. Yet, Jill’s monthly premium was about 40% less than Uncle Joe’s. It was simple. I wanted high-quality life insurance but I had a low quality budget.

I went with Jill.

If I had the money, I would have purchased life insurance from Uncle Joe. He was my favorite uncle. I’d known him my whole life, grew up with his children, and was confident that I could count on him. As you might guess, telling Uncle Joe that I was going to do business with Jill was really awkward. Thankfully, he understood my decision was a financial one. Not surprisingly, once Jill closed the sale, I never heard from her again. Five years later, when I was making a little more money, I switched my life insurance plan to Uncle Joe.

I don’t think much has changed in 25 years. Making ends meet on an educator’s salary is challenging. Teachers make enough to get by, but aren’t paid enough to build large savings accounts. The same applies to their private schools.

Typically, private schools have a few extra pennies in the bank and are almost always forced to look for the less expensive option. In fact, the only time I can recall making a school expense and not worrying about the price I was going to pay, was when I was a private school principal and we were awarded a grant to build a new science lab.

The grant required certain expenditures for student safety and a state-of-the-art learning environment. It was a blast. I called the best contractor in town and told him that he was going to build a world-class high school chemistry lab. We didn’t waste a penny, but we also didn’t cut corners or reduce the quality of the educational experience.

So what do life insurance and chem labs have to do with Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) funds?

I see it this way:

ESSA funds are basically grant dollars that provide supplementary education and professional development for students and teachers in schools – including private schools.

This winter, when private school principals enter into consultation with their local education agency (LEA), they should let the LEA know that they expect to work with a person or company who will provide their students and teachers with excellent quality and outstanding service. In essence, private schools deserve to work someone they know, respect, and trust. They need not settle for the least expensive option.

With their ESSA allocations, private schools may request to work with a person they trust, i.e., Uncle Joe. And because these funds are not part of the school’s operating budget, principals have the option to hire a company that won’t cut corners or reduce the quality of educational experience for students or teachers.