We’re in the same boat with our dependent care FSA

What I do is consider the expense as a monthly bill (since our daycare costs are more than we allowed by law to put into an FSA anyway), then I have the reimbursement as a line of income. My husband gets paid biweekly, so we have to budget based on when checks come in anyway (rather than just monthly), so that’s just considered another line that we have to budget based on timing. I’ll often try to have the daycare check writing co-incide with that reimbursement, but it doesn’t always happen that way. We usually get our “invoice” from the previous month the first week of the following month (but must be paid current at all times, so it’s not just like a bill to pay) and I receive my FSA reimbursement pretty quickly, so it’s put into the spreadsheet to be anticipated around mid-month. I know many people that don’t request reimbursement monthly, but we don’t really have room in our budget to upfront the money for months (or a year) at a time.
It’s a pain because it’s a reimbursement, so you basically always have to budget it a month ahead — but it works for us!

I always put one of our two OOP maximum amounts in our FSA

This way, I know that at least 50% of our potential total hospital/doctor visit expenditures are covered for the year and we save a little on the taxes. The rest, we just cash flow.
Between prescriptions and co-payments, I know it will all get used by the end of the year with no problem. This year and last, we blew through it in the first two weeks of January (darn dialysis!)
Now that by the grace of God, I have received a kidney transplant, I think it will take us a lot longer to go through the FSA money during the course of the next year, especially since I will be covered by Medicare primary starting in October until April of 2016.
To answer your specific question, I do not treat FSA reimbursements as part of the debt snowball. If I have extra cash and pay the medical bill without needing to replace that money in another budget category, then I might put it in the snowball as an extra payment.

What I is do is

A. not pay any real attention to the flex contribution when it comes out (well, it does show in Quicken for me)
B. when I pay a bill, I take it out of medical sinking funds
C. when I get reimbursed, it goes back into medical sinking funds.

I like having a bit of a buffer in my medical sinking funds (but we’re on Baby Step 7 so I’m not trying to pay off bills).

It’s totally worth while and anyone with predictable expenses should do it

you save the taxes AND it may lower your tax bracket! Suppose I have $2000 in medical bills. Most of my income is taxed at 25%, so it takes $2.666 of income to pay that $2000 in bills. If I put the $2000 in the FSA, it’s tax-free, so I pay $2000 of bills with $2000 in income, and I get to keep $648, minus taxes, or $499. So putting $2000 in the FSA gets me best online payday loans almost $500 more cash in my pocket. PLUS, my income is lowered by $2000, which helps keep the next tax bracket farther away. (although personally since I file Head of Household, that’s too big a range to move out of either way)

I have a child who will be entering 2nd grade this year

and I agree, this is definitely raising the bar rather high. With that being said, my children (who will be entering first and second grades this Fall) were both sent home the last day of school with daily homework assignments they are expected to do over the summer. They are to turn these in the first day of class when they return in September. They are also expected to continue to work on their Math studies with the online IXL Math tests this summer as well. Lastly, my second grader should have read 600 minutes of reading this fall, and my first grader, 300 minutes. We’re doing a lot of school work over the summer.

I also come from low income and poorly educated in both sets of grandparents

My dad broke the cycle and ended up with a ph.d, but that was without any support. He was punished at home if he was caught doing homework because his father believed that school was a waste of time. My dad stayed after school, thanks to a great teacher that believed in him, and would quickly do his homework before he got home. This teacher helped him get a scholarship – a full ride – but his father made him turn it down. He was forced to work and give his money to his dad. Finally, he left home and worked until he joined the air force. The air force saved him. They noticed how smart he was and encouraged him to take classes. Unfortunately, he missed the time period for them to pay for his school. He worked his way through by taking 21 hard (electronics engineer major) credits every semester. He finally finished his doctorate after he was married with 2 kids.

Once he graduated, he paid for his youngest sister to attend college. Many of his siblings dropped out, but they regret it. His sister finished because she ran away as a teenager and my dad agreed to pay one of his brothers some money so that he could afford to let her stay with them. Their condition was that she had to finish high school. She did and then finished college as pre-med. she started medical school, but dropped out to get married.

But priorities are different. Instead of helping with college, my uncles paid for brand new cars for their kids at age 16. My dad had planned on helping with college for us, but he was laid off for several years. They had a large emergency fund as well as investments that carried them for a while, but my sibs and I decided that it was better for us to figure it out ourselves.

Looking back, I wish that I had taken out less in loans. I hope to make sure that my kids do not make that mistake. They have a college fund each that was set up by their other grandfather. They are still young so I hope that there is time.

There is some research that shows that

preschoolers from low income families have been exposed to a lot less language than their middle class peers, but i am guessing that it is more the education level of the parents than anything. Or, also that such families tend to see parenting and child enrichment as more of a luxury – either because they are so tired after working two jobs or because they are so dysfunctional that they cannot consider their children’s language development because they are barely surviving themselves.

But, as your case points out, that is only on average. That is why we have kids that are gifted from these same communities. Biology does also have an impact on language development, etc. that is also why some wealthy families have children with language and other disabilities.

Yep, but it is usually not the teaching

It is usually the exposure to the neighborhood violence and family dysfunction. I have worked in low income schools for 16 years and also in some higher income ones. The teachers in the low income schools do tend to be less experienced, but they also have access to twice as many resources. Plus, their whole attitude is that they are willing to go the extra mile. Because kids come with so many obstacles, it tends to be the teachers that want to break the poverty cycle that stay at these schools. Still, we know that there is an IQ prediction based upon income, but on average, lower income parents have lower school smarts because they tend to have less education. On average, more parents have been in jail or on drugs, but that does not mean that these kids cannot get out of the cycle. There are gifted and talented programs everywhere. What they need to overcome are the social pressures from their neighborhoods. In some communities, kids that do well in school are considered to be rejecting their communities.

I do see kids make it, but the families in this case are very different. The parents are typically working lower paying jobs, but they make time to meet with the school and they make sure that homework is done. The children from these families that are able to resist neighborhood pressures can meet high expectations and graduate.

Generational poverty is such a huge issue, but it is primarily a social issue. To research poverty, it is nearly impossible to tease out the other social and family and biological aspects of it. When I started grad school, this was what I wanted to study, but it was too difficult to pull together a research project that a grad student could fund and get approved.

I think it is relateively new

Our kids here don’t even have to leave their school to take college level classes. I know my son didn’t as a Junior when he took Accounting 101. Pretty sure he did this year as a Senior though when he took a business class. There is no required guidance here. We did meet with the guidance office last year when he was considering applying to the Naval Academy.

Never tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon

Georgia isn’t even saying that

They have systematically removed Vo-tech schools from the board of regents. They are on a quest to make all 2 year schools 4 year, full degree schools. Therefore we have masses of schools that just pop up like trick driving schools, cosmetology schools, auto mechanic schools etc which cost way more than attending college and only specialize in one thing. The certifications are fly-by-night and often aren’t recognized in neighboring states where the requirements are much more stringent. Lets talk about master stylists/barbers. You have to pass a state board exam, with requires a certain number of classroom hours, certain number of apprentice hours and pass a standardized written, oral and practical exam. Some of the cosmetology schools just do the hands on portion, forgoing completely the other requirements and therefore their students will never be able to pass state boards. Yet they are charging them semester hours whose price is more than a 4 year college fee per semester hour. They can’t take any of their “class work’ anywhere else to transfer. In my opinion, there should be regulation of this, but the state doesn’t see the necessity in it, just the fee for the state board certification.

I think that poverty is a factor in schools

As a former educator, in the classroom with Kindergarteners, through 5th graders, in the Atlanta Public School system there is a clear difference in the have and the have nots. The APS system is diverse as segregation in the community is still prevalent. There are neighborhoods where persistent poverty is all around, and if you go 30 miles north, in the same district, affluence abounds. I can say with no angst, books were handed down from affluence to pp schools. Even within the same district. Parent Teacher associations were active, supportive, they had library boosters, hosts of parent volunteers, great tutoring programs and the level of pupil to teacher engagement was quite high in the affluent schools. The attitude quite different in the lower socio-economic schools. In my 6 years in the classroom, I can count how many times I had actively engaged parents and never a well organized or run Parent-teacher association. The ratio of single parent homes was greater in my school than in any other school in the district. Often these little children were left to fend for themselves….came to school many days in a row with the same clothes on, no baths, the only food they had was lunch and breakfast provided by the school, sleepy as many we’re up roaming the streets with their mom until the wee hours of the morning…these children too little to have an choice, had to do what their guardian dragged them around to do. I had Kindergarteners in pull-ups, nobody bothered to toilet train them. Didn’t know their legal name, didn’t know their address, phone number etc. didn’t know even the alphabet song – that was my job reasoned several parents, that is why they send the children to school. Others told me it was free babysitting, didn’t care about their children learning or their behavioral problems. I might have one student out of 30 who could actually read simple words and to stifle that child for the other 29 wasn’t exactly fair either.

I say all of this and more to say that starting at a deficit, and with no support whatsoever from home or interested grown ups actively investing TIME into their child’s educational growth they are behind before they even get started.

Atlanta public schools was decimated by a horrible cheating scandal, where teachers helped students to pass standardized tests. (Made national news) I can see why that happened on two fronts. One, pay for performance was stressed, and I should say the cheating scandal only affected the schools in predominantly poverty stricken neighborhoods. The teachers saw that the affluent school teachers were attaining raises every year, they were being disciplined and fired because of their students poor performance. True they shouldn’t have cheated, it helped no one, most especially students, but they too wanted raises. Plus their students were horribly behind. Many still couldn’t read, much less comprehend a standardized test by the third or fifth grade. Promoting students to the next grade was also an issue. After a certain age, a child is move on regardless. You will never see a nine year old 1st grader, although if that is where the student needs to be, something needs to be done. There is zero support at home or in the community for this child…now what.

Many children graduate from the Atlanta Public School system still not able to read, write, comprehend, no language skills, no arithmetic skills, can’t tell time, etc. and sadly it’s most noticeable by race.