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Student Loans on Rise -- for Kindergarten
April 7, 2012 10:11 AM   Subscribe

Student loan debt is now extending to K-12 private educations, fueled by parents who believe getting their children into the "right" primary school is essential to future success.
posted by reenum (113 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'd say going to a good primary school and high school is more important than going to a good college.
posted by ryanrs at 10:14 AM on April 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


DEBT SLAVERY IS FREEDOM! KNOWLEDGE IS MONEY!
posted by The Whelk at 10:15 AM on April 7, 2012 [22 favorites]


I'd say not going into lifelong crushing debt is more important than almost any level of education considering the current lack of available jobs in almost every field.
posted by elizardbits at 10:21 AM on April 7, 2012 [38 favorites]


What took them so long to come up with this?
posted by R. Mutt at 10:25 AM on April 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Public schools (primary or secondary) aren't plague-infested warzones, parents. Geez.
posted by kmz at 10:29 AM on April 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


"But if we don't go $40,000 into debt to pay for her high school, she won't have a chance to go $200,000 into debt for her B.A."
posted by looli at 10:30 AM on April 7, 2012 [17 favorites]


Desperation meet exploitation.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 10:43 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I send my children to private schools and will probably do so through 8th grade. If there was Montesorri high school I'd probably send them all the way through graduation.

It has nothing to do with thinking public schools are war zones (I live in Boulder) nor thinking that private school in a sure-fire route to college and success (I'm a college dropout). For me, it's all about not liking the public school education strategy.

I look at how first graders in the local public school learn (one-hour blocks at desks where they sit and listen for an hour, an hour or more of homework each night, tests, grades, etc) and it's not what I want for my kids. I was bored all the way through school and I'm lucky enough that I can pay for my children to be really engaged for the seven hours they go to school each day.

Last year a public Montessori school opened up and there was a sudden drop in enrollment in the various private private Boulder Montessori schools (saving ~$10k/yr is hard to pass up). It's interesting that a year later many of those parents are switching back, because the public school aspects completely dominate the private school aspects.
posted by bpm140 at 10:48 AM on April 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


More than 2,400 children are on wait lists to get into kindergarten classes at their local, zoned New York City public schools, as applications continued to climb, the Department of Education revealed Friday.

For the second consecutive year, 125 city schools have waiting lists for zoned students, mostly in neighborhoods of Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan that have attracted more families.


Damned if you do ...damned if you don't.
posted by The Whelk at 10:49 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know if this "students as product" is something new in the last 20 years or so or if it just used to be more disguised, but it's filthy that an education is sold as a product.
posted by a debt owed at 10:53 AM on April 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


How long before some enterprising 1%-er opens up a gradeschool work-study program where you can send your kids overseas to oversee (lol) a factory full of child laborers and browbeat them into making their quotas?
posted by elizardbits at 10:53 AM on April 7, 2012


[Please do not start a vitriolic anti-Boomer derail here. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 10:53 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


A generation of liberals spent their time and money and effort on private schools so their kids could "get ahead" instead of fixing the public education system.

Do you mean "liberal" by the typical US definition or market liberalism? It's not like families that send their kids to private schools or private schools themselves are a monolith, but in the US they tend to be more conservative than public school counterparts. Conservative policies also tend to be less supportive of the public school system through voucher programs and the like that encourage enrollment in private schools.
posted by Winnemac at 11:00 AM on April 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


It might be cheaper to take out a loan than move to a neighborhood with a good public school.

I don't want to judge, and I'd assume that people are doing this for reasons like bpm140's.
posted by k8t at 11:03 AM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's not like families that send their kids to private schools or private schools themselves are a monolith, but in the US they tend to be more conservative than public school counterparts.

I would actually doubt this, given that the secular private school phenomenon is most prominent in larger cities, among wealthy families. I'm sure few parents are flag-burning hippies, but I'd bet most are Democrats

The willingness of Americans to look at public education or other parts of our shared society as some fact of nature, like a hurricane that one needs to get out of the way of, allows people to make individual, selfish decisions which ultimately harm the collective good (taking money and the kids and parents who care most out of the public school system and putting them into a private system which will only ever be available for a select few)
posted by crayz at 11:27 AM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that it's parents, not the children themselves who are liable for this debt. The sad thing is, it may very well be true that if you're a parent where there are no good public schools your child may get a huge boost by going to a better school. But, It seems really unlikely to me that loans you take on to pay for someone else's education can't be discharged under bankruptcy.

So you could send your kids to school, k-12 and then declare bankruptcy I don't think there is anything they could do, it wouldn't impact the kids at all (so no 'debt slavery' -- at least not until college)
It has nothing to do with thinking public schools are war zones (I live in Boulder) nor thinking that private school in a sure-fire route to college and success (I'm a college dropout). For me, it's all about not liking the public school education strategy.
Yeah that's another major issue: I don't think you're going to see nearly as much bullying at a private school (Unless you have sadistic parents). Ultimately, the kids are customers. If they're deeply unhappy, their parents will probably take them out. That isn't to say all public schools are terrible, but certain some are.
posted by delmoi at 11:31 AM on April 7, 2012


If my kid hadn't won the lottery* for full-day kindergarten at our local public school, and if we had the money, we might well have sent her to private kindergarten. I'm as big a supporter of public schools as they come, but when they literally cannot meet your needs, what do you do?

*Literally. There is one full-day kindergarten class of 24 students at her elementary school, and depending on the year and the demographics, anywhere from 35 to 50 students applying to it. They charge tuition for the full-day kindergarten, too.
posted by KathrynT at 11:31 AM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are whole conservative states trying to destroy public schools wholesale. Texas is one of the biggest examples.
posted by narcoleptic at 11:32 AM on April 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Fine with me, as long as they still pay the taxes that fund public schools, and don't get any damn vouchers.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 11:35 AM on April 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would actually doubt this, given that the secular private school phenomenon is most prominent in larger cities, among wealthy families.

When I wrote "counterparts" I was actually trying to say compared to the local counterparts. That they tend to be used by wealthy families is a big factor since wealthy people tend to be more conservative on the whole (although there are some philosophically liberal schools out there) . Most private schools are religiously affiliated too. The Council for American Private Education says that nonsectarian schools are only 13.6% of the total. I would take their stats in other areas with a grain of salt, but I don't think they'd have much reason to make up that particular number.
posted by Winnemac at 11:43 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


For me, it's all about not liking the public school education strategy.

That public school strategy is determined by a citizen-elected school board, isn't it? I respect that we all lead busy lives, but wouldn't these types of problems be solved if more parents were actively engaged in how a public education gets delivered?

Also, something else doesn't quite compute for me, here. My parents sent me to private (Catholic) schools in the '60s and early '70s (yeah, get off of my lawn). My college prep high school tuition was somewhere around $600 per year. If you apply a CPI calculator, that would only be a little less than $3,300 in today's dollars. How do they justify charging $10k for high school and $5k per year for a primary school education?

The skeptic in me thinks that prices for a private education are driven by more than just supply and demand. Donning my Easter hat of tinfoil, I have to wonder if the for-profit educators' hope is that rising prices puts more pressure on the campaign for school vouchers.
posted by SteveInMaine at 11:45 AM on April 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Isn't this parental loan debt - not student loan debt ?
I mean, how could the student be expected to pay back the loans, when the loan papers were signed before the student hit the age of consent.

University student loan debt, that belongs to the young student.
High school loan debt belongs to the parents.
posted by Flood at 11:51 AM on April 7, 2012


Here's hoping that Khan Academy will provide quality "open-source" primary education for all.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:03 PM on April 7, 2012


I respect that we all lead busy lives, but wouldn't these types of problems be solved if more parents were actively engaged in how a public education gets delivered?

1) Most public school strategy seems to be driven by national and state requirement like No Child Left behind. Getting involved in the school board will not make any dent in that.

Private schools enable me to route around mandates I do not believe are in my boys' best interests.

2) Many, if not most, of the parents in my neighborhood are shocked that don't think kids in grade school should have homework / tests / grades. "How else will the children learn?" and "That stuff may work for your kids, but mine need the structure" are common responses. If I join the school board, I will be actively fighting against the majority of the parents.

Private schools enable me to elect a style of education that is considered outside the norm.

3) Educational shifts are achieved over generations. How long has the fight for charter schools and school vouchers been going on (not endorsing these, just using them as examples). There is very little chance that if I were to successfully run for the school board that I would see notable changes in the next 12 years while my children are in school. I'm not arguing about recess, or music in schools -- I have fundamental issues with the factory style of education that came about during the industrial revolution.

Private school enable me to have an impact on MY children.

And this last one is, at the end of the day, the only thing that matters to a parent. I would take a bullet for my kids (just as any parent would). Given that I have the means, I'm going to get the best education I can for them.
posted by bpm140 at 12:04 PM on April 7, 2012 [12 favorites]


$5k per year for a primary school education?

Again, my daughter's public full day kindergarten is going to cost me $3100 next year. The private kindergarten would be just over $10K per year. Private primary school can cost up to $15,000 per year around here.
posted by KathrynT at 12:08 PM on April 7, 2012


KathrynT -- I have friends in SF who pay $30k for EACH of their two middle school kids and $20k for their elementary school kid. Madness!
posted by bpm140 at 12:14 PM on April 7, 2012


Also, something else doesn't quite compute for me, here. My parents sent me to private (Catholic) schools in the '60s and early '70s (yeah, get off of my lawn). My college prep high school tuition was somewhere around $600 per year. If you apply a CPI calculator, that would only be a little less than $3,300 in today's dollars. How do they justify charging $10k for high school and $5k per year for a primary school education?

Nuns worked cheap. Do NOT get me started on the mentality that has people willing to pay 10K-20K a year in my area for private school but completely unwilling to pay public school teachers a wage equivalent to the value they bring.

My 16 yr old math quiz has said for years she wants to teach 5th grade math-after last summer's tirade against in teachers in Wisconsin of all places, I'm begging her to become an acct instead.
posted by beaning at 12:15 PM on April 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


The really sad thing is that as rich and then middle-class parents flee public education, the political pressure to keep the quality up reduces and the school system gets worse. It's a death spiral.

The only way to get a quality public school system is to make everyone use it.
posted by DU at 12:16 PM on April 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


My 16 yr old math quiz should be My 16 yr old math whiz obviously . See what I mean about don't get me started?
posted by beaning at 12:21 PM on April 7, 2012


1) Most public school strategy seems to be driven by national and state requirement like No Child Left behind. Getting involved in the school board will not make any dent in that.

Amen to that. It's like how do you really change the way school lunches are done when the USDA requirements are the ultimately monolith. I don't have children yet, but I think about the way local schools are run sometimes and they are so far off from what most educated people in my millennial genration want for our children.

I was homeschooled when I was in elementary and middle school because the local schools did such a poor job with children who had minor learning disabilities like mine. However, I recognize the limitations of homeschooling (severely interrupting both or one parent's career for one) and I'm not a zealot. I lived in Sweden for a year and I'd definitely send my kids to a school there in a heartbeat. But when I see local schools here in Chicago, I see that they are making kids sit inside for hours and hours, feeding them garbage, and frankly it doesn't seem like they have much to show for it in terms of actual writing skills, culture, etc.

I'd love to get involved and change public schools, but I don't see any evidence that it's possible to turn the local schools into Swedish-style schools because of powerful vested interests, tyranny of the majority, bureaucracy, and federal control. I believe public education can be great, but do I really want my children on that sinking ship? Particularly if it looks like there is nothing I can do to fix it?

I feel like the ideal solution for my family would be cooperative private schools run partially by parents that allow parents to barter for tuition or something. Anyone know of anything like that?
posted by melissam at 12:25 PM on April 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


My wife and I just had an almost hallucinatorally fantasy filled conversation this morning about how we might swing 18 grand a year for kindergarten at the school here in Seattle that is teaching 5 year olds (and I am not lying about this) to make their own iPad apps. Because how the fuck do you get your kid to compete with that?
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:33 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


The enourmous amounts of money my parents spent on my pre-k through 12th grade education gave me the academic credentials to go to college at the taxpayer's expense. It enabled my sister to get into a good school with a large scholarship.

Spending the money sooner rather than later can be a good investment, but these outcomes were definitely not guaranteed.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:37 PM on April 7, 2012


melissam: "I feel like the ideal solution for my family would be cooperative private schools run partially by parents that allow parents to barter for tuition or something. Anyone know of anything like that?"

A lot of homeschoolers have arrangements similar to this.

If you want your children learning that the Earth is flat, it's is a fantastic educational model. Otherwise, education is best left to professional educators.
posted by schmod at 12:38 PM on April 7, 2012


It might be cheaper to take out a loan than move to a neighborhood with a good public school.

With few exceptions, the schools in my state are uniformly mediocre.
In my town, it's one monolithic school district.
Options other than private are pretty slim without moving completely out of the area.
posted by madajb at 12:44 PM on April 7, 2012


If you want your children learning that the Earth is flat, it's is a fantastic educational model. Otherwise, education is best left to professional educators.

Well, hypothetically it would involve parents who are teachers too.

I hate to tell you this, but there are real legal schools run by "professional" educators where they teach kids creationism. Church-run schools, for example. A lot of my friends in Georgia went to such schools.

And if you think kids at public schools are getting a fantastic scientific education, consider how few Americans (4/10) actually believe in evolution. Public education as a way of trying to control people who have ideas that you think are stupid doesn't work that well.
posted by melissam at 12:44 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Isn't this parental loan debt - not student loan debt ?

Sort of. But if your parents have 50k of debt for your primary and secondary school, that's 50k less that they'll be able to use to help you out with your university tuition.
posted by jeather at 12:45 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


That public school strategy is determined by a citizen-elected school board, isn't it? I respect that we all lead busy lives, but wouldn't these types of problems be solved if more parents were actively engaged in how a public education gets delivered?

Sort of, yes.
But more importantly, in my state at least, the funding comes entirely from the state budget.
Local districts are prohibited by law and regulations from raising more revenue except under strict restriction.

So, yeah, being on the school board would help, but if the money isn't there...
posted by madajb at 12:49 PM on April 7, 2012


They charge tuition for the full-day kindergarten, too.

Wait, I thought full-day kindergarten was standard and free at all public schools? I thought it was only pre-K that was half-day and had potential costs/prohibitions tied to it.
posted by kmz at 12:54 PM on April 7, 2012


The student loan debt crisis is going to make the housing debt crisis look like a cake walk.

At least when you default on a home loan the bank can take your house.
posted by empath at 12:57 PM on April 7, 2012


The only way to get a quality public school system is to make everyone use it.

That and set up checkpoints to prevent moving between neighborhoods and cities. You're not going to make people who care about their kids send them to bad schools.
posted by michaelh at 12:57 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


The enourmous amounts of money my parents spent on my pre-k through 12th grade education gave me the academic credentials to go to college at the taxpayer's expense. It enabled my sister to get into a good school with a large scholarship.

Are you talking about National Merit Scholarships? That basically just involves being good at standardized tests (namely the PSAT). Otherwise I'm not aware of a lot of academically based scholarships that are going to be taxpayer funded.
posted by kmz at 1:00 PM on April 7, 2012


Because how the fuck do you get your kid to compete with that?

You teach them a love for learning, knowledge, and experimentation, and let them live life at their own pace. Life isn't a race.
posted by empath at 1:01 PM on April 7, 2012 [12 favorites]


1) Most public school strategy seems to be driven by national and state requirement like No Child Left behind. Getting involved in the school board will not make any dent in that.

The answer is similar though, isn't it? Wouldn't it be in the parents' interest, hell, in everybody's interest to foster change in public education at whatever political level is necessary?

Private school enable me to have an impact on MY children.

I understand that parents would do practically anything for their kids to get ahead, but aren't we just widening the gap between the haves and have-nots by not making the effort to see that all kids get a quality education?

I apologize if my questions sound naive. I don't have kids, and my peers' kids are well out of school. That said, when election time comes around I like to think that I make decisions to support public education.
posted by SteveInMaine at 1:03 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wait, I thought full-day kindergarten was standard and free at all public schools? I thought it was only pre-K that was half-day and had potential costs/prohibitions tied to it.

In my state, schools were required to provide half-day for free.
Full day was not required, and if it was offered, the schools could charge tuition, have fund-raisers, etc. The state did not pay for it.

This recently changed with a law passed last year. However, the full-day requirement won't kick in until 2015.
posted by madajb at 1:04 PM on April 7, 2012


I guess to elaborate on this-- by the time they're able to do anything with programming, iPads won't even exist. You could do just as well for them by teaching them how to build a half-adder with dominoes, or explaining how redstone works in minecraft.

There are lots of ways to get into programming, and hacking together a simple app on an iPad might be flashy, but it's not always a solid foundation. Just basic math, logic, etc, that can be taught with pencil and paper would be just as useful -- or just letting them dig into logo.
posted by empath at 1:05 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, if you want to teach your kids 'computers', you can't go wrong with this program, which uses no computers at all to teach the foundations of computer science.
posted by empath at 1:07 PM on April 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


I understand that parents would do practically anything for their kids to get ahead, but aren't we just widening the gap between the haves and have-nots by not making the effort to see that all kids get a quality education?

Personally, I'd be happy to pay the money I'm saving for private school in increased taxes for the school district.

But the apparent majority of people in my state either can't or won't do the same.

Until this changes, I'm not willing to sacrifice my child's education to make a point about the importance of public schools.
posted by madajb at 1:07 PM on April 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


SteveInMaine - no need to apologize; if you don't have kids, it's hard to get the motivation. We're talking reptile hindbrain here. There is nothing a parent won't do if they think it will help them.

And regardless of appearances, it's not about getting ahead of the next guy (thinking of empath's comment). It's about wanting your child to have every opportunity to have a happy life that you can give them. No amount of logic or negotiation will break through that wall.
posted by bpm140 at 1:09 PM on April 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


But more importantly, in my state at least, the funding comes entirely from the state budget.
Local districts are prohibited by law and regulations from raising more revenue except under strict restriction.


Weird. I had thought that schools everywhere in the US were funded by local property taxes (with, in some cases, some form of leveling between richer and poorer districts. Evidently there is more variation than I had thought.

I'd say not going into lifelong crushing debt is more important than almost any level of education considering the current lack of available jobs in almost every field.

I'd say it's just as important when there are jobs -- with huge loans, you can't do things like take a low-paid (or even volunteer) position that is a mandatory gateway to a career, for example. The loans can lock you into a lower-paid, lower-opportunity position, sadly.
posted by Forktine at 1:10 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Weird. I had thought that schools everywhere in the US were funded by local property taxes (with, in some cases, some form of leveling between richer and poorer districts. Evidently there is more variation than I had thought.

There are complexities, but basically, the property taxes are collected by the county, sent to the state, equalized, and distributed on a per student basis to the districts.
There are district specific taxes, but they are limited by law, and don't make up a large portion of the funding model.

At the end of the day, in my fairly tax and education friendly area are at the mercy of the rest of the state.
posted by madajb at 1:21 PM on April 7, 2012


This is nuts. I'm currently getting my Master's degree, and I'm moving at a snail's pace, taking one class at a time so that I don't have to take out a loan. It'll take me twice as long to graduate, but I should have zero debt at the end.
This is nuts.
posted by zardoz at 1:23 PM on April 7, 2012


Wait, I thought full-day kindergarten was standard and free at all public schools? I thought it was only pre-K that was half-day and had potential costs/prohibitions tied to it.

Nope. Not here anyway. In my school district, they offer either half or full day kindergarten; half day is free, full day is $310 a month. There are more students than spots for full day kindergarten, so they do a lottery.

In the Seattle Public School district, they still charge tuition for full-day kindergarten, but they don't offer half-day. If you don't come up with the $310 a month, they just pull your kid out halfway through the school day, and they miss whatever is being taught in the rest of the day. It's ludicrous. Jay Inslee is running for Governor on a platform that includes fully funding full-day kindergarten, but he's trailing the horrifyingly Walker-esque Rob McKenna.
posted by KathrynT at 1:35 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


You teach them a love for learning, knowledge, and experimentation, and let them live life at their own pace. Life isn't a race.

You're totally right of course. And I support public education for all the same reasons I support single payer healthcare. There's something super primal that kicks in when your kids are involved though and that's obviously what drives the educational arms race. It's a ludicrous thing to be focusing so much on (ludicrous like spending 18k so your kindergartner can develop iPad apps) and ultimately, I would much prefer to not sweat making a lot of money to pay tuition and come home from work earlier to spend more time with my kids. Oh yeah, and I would like the kids of the alcoholic drug addicts down te street to get a quality education and a healthy meal so they're less likely to steal my car when they're teenagers. But when it comes down to it, it's terrifying to think your kid will be competing for university admissions, jobs, spouses with other kids whose parents poured so much investment into their education. I suspect we'll start out with public school and see how he does, but it's definitely anxiety provoking.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:39 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


In my school district, they offer either half or full day kindergarten; half day is free, full day is $310 a month.

As I understand it, the federal government (?) subsidizes half-day kindergarten for all.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:41 PM on April 7, 2012


kmz, it was a 100% Federally-funded school for me, my sister got a private partial scholarship to a private school.

Our experiences are probably not generalizable.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:48 PM on April 7, 2012


crayz: "I would actually doubt this, given that the secular private school phenomenon is most prominent in larger cities, among wealthy families. I'm sure few parents are flag-burning hippies, but I'd bet most are Democrats"

Not where I live. The wealthy "liberals" send their kids to public school here. It's mainly the new money and the jackasses who don't want their kids exposed to liberal ideas like evolution who send their kids to the big (religiously-affiliated) private schools here or move to one of the almost completely white suburban districts. I grant that it is unlikely that right-winger parents are sending kids en masse to the private Montessori school, though, but that may have something to do with basically everyone involved with said Montessori school being a flaming liberal by flaming liberal standards, not just Oklahoma standards.
posted by wierdo at 1:52 PM on April 7, 2012


This is like a science fiction story.

I never, ever thought I would consider homeschooling my kid, and I am theoretically in favor of public school, but that was before I started exploring preschools in our large coastal city. Yes, preschools. College-tuition level costs, an application process that looks like you're trying to get into Yale. It is insanity. But, like Slarty Bartfast, even though I sit here and think "This is bullshit!" I also find it hard to shut down the part of my brain that sees that my kid's future is going to consist of increasingly tough competition for fewer and fewer decent jobs.

I am not even that far down the rabbithole with this. I meet women who are treating preschool admissions like its their job. And then I go home and make fun of them to my husband. And then we sit around and wonder if we're the dumb ones, and our kid is going to end up living in a storage unit because we're making the wrong choices for him by being "relaxed" and then he's going to compete for the last okay job in America with the kids who went to the school where they learn Russian and krav maga and he's going to be totally outclassed.

It is horrifying to me. And I don't think, if I still lived in the socialist-Euro country of my childhood where everybody just goes to the village school, I would have this particular type of anxiety. American families feel like they have been abandoned (because they have been abandoned) and it's a brutal Darwinian race to the bottom.

/Werner Herzog voice
posted by thehmsbeagle at 1:53 PM on April 7, 2012 [30 favorites]


Are you talking about National Merit Scholarships? That basically just involves being good at standardized tests (namely the PSAT).

Nah, that just gets you semifinalist status. I got a perfect score on the PSAT verbal and something respectable in math, but my grades killed any hope of a national merit scholarship.
posted by toodleydoodley at 1:55 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


thehmsbeagle, thankfully, you can rest easily knowing that your child, by virtue of having an involved parent, will thrive no matter what school he or she attends. The game is just that, a game. It really doesn't matter much in the end unless your kid decides he/she wants to be a lawyer at a white shoe firm or something else that absolutely requires an Ivy League education. Even then, if your kid is smart, your kid will get in regardless of not having been to some $20,000 a year preschool.
posted by wierdo at 1:58 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I live in a town where the schools are very, very good. Clean, lots of facilities, classrooms aren't -too- overcrowded. When I have children, if I live here still, they'll be going to public school.

If I lived even a town over, I most likely wouldn't let them go to those schools. Gang violence is rampant (I went to schools here and there), so I would seriously be considering home schooling.

But 40k in debt to go to a private school? No thank you.
posted by Malice at 2:18 PM on April 7, 2012


If your kid really is a math whiz, absolutely do not encourage her to become an accountant.

Accountancy has very little to do with math - about as much as driving a taxi has to do with physics - and there are tons of good jobs for anyone who can really do math, much more challenging and interesting jobs.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:03 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


thehmsbeagle, thankfully, you can rest easily knowing that your child, by virtue of having an involved parent, will thrive no matter what school he or she attends. The game is just that, a game.

Qft
As a k-12 teacher, I can tell you that the two kids in each of my six English classes who *just start doing the work as soon a I assign it*, every day, are going to get into magnet high schools, are going to get decent facts, are going to get bright futures scholarships, are going to get to college, are going to get professors to believe in them, are going to graduate and get jobs. Whether they will fulfill their dreams is a whole nother question. But going to college and getting a job is about sitting still and handing stuff in timely.
posted by toodleydoodley at 3:14 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I feel like the ideal solution for my family would be cooperative private schools run partially by parents that allow parents to barter for tuition or something. Anyone know of anything like that?

I suspect that you're going to see more of this kind of thing as the number of families that homeschool for non-religious reasons increases. There are people on this forum who are into similar things: Secular Homeschool.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 3:15 PM on April 7, 2012


Get gooD grades, obv; not "get good facts"
posted by toodleydoodley at 3:15 PM on April 7, 2012


Wait, I thought full-day kindergarten was standard and free at all public schools?

Most states make it mandatory that kindergarten is offered at public schools, but they are not necessarily full-day. States that do not require any kindergartens: Alaska, Idaho, New Jersey, New York, N. Dakota, Pennsylvania.

Nine states require school districts to offer full-day kindergarten: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, N. and S. Carolina, W. Virginia.

The ways the different states define "full-day" varies, as there is no national standard. The minimum required hours/days for kindergarten can be anywhere from 2 hours/day (Nevada) to the same length of day as the other elementary school grades (Mississippi).

Even when offered, it is not mandatory for a student to attend, again depending on the state. Compulsory school age can vary from 5 (Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, N. Mexico, S. Carolina, Virginia) to 8 (Pennsylvania and Washington).

The southern states do a pretty good job of placing importance on public preschool education.
posted by Houstonian at 3:26 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Public schools in the U.S. are SO BAD! They have SO MANY PROBLEMS!! It's TERRIBLE to send your kids there!!! Let's all just keep blindly keep believing that. After all, if Republicans, union-haters, and '80s "tough principal" movies say it, it must be 100% true.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:29 PM on April 7, 2012


The enormous amounts of money my parents spent on my pre-k through 12th grade education gave me the academic credentials to go to college at the taxpayer's expense. It enabled my sister to get into a good school with a large scholarship.

Spending the money sooner rather than later can be a good investment, but these outcomes were definitely not guaranteed.


Yeah, it's weird to me that the article didn't emphasize that this is the calculus these parents are probably doing. It's not so much, "I'm afraid of public school" as it is, "If we make him attractive enough to a college, they'll pay for him to go there."

It's not just the quality of classroom education that parents are taking into account- it's stuff like access to partially-subsidized school trips to exotic locations to do service projects that make lovely college application essays, free and high quality SAT prep classes or SAT prep integrated into math and English classes that boasts your score high enough to qualify you for a merit scholarship at a place that wants to improve its standing in the US News & World Report rankings, the school orchestra that keeps your kid interested in bassoon long enough to get sweet, sweet music money from a college that needs a good bassoonist, and the high-octane college admissions counseling that has a strategy to get your child into a top-notch college or university for a bargain-basement price.

I chatted with a gentleman at an event for a fancy private school once. He admitted that he had scraped to pay his daughter's tuition. She had particularly excelled in science, and he grinned when he told me she became a chemist. "Once she graduated from high school here," he said, "we didn't pay a dime for her education."

Nice work if you can get it.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 3:54 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


bmp140, I think child-free adults can have well-informed opinions, and as voters and taxpayers and people who must live in our society with the outputs of our school systems, their opinions are equally important.

drjimmy11 brings up a good point. Schools are funded by taxes. Taxes are paid by all citizens. If we believe that the school systems do not excel in anything these days, and the wealthier (and more likely to vote) people have safely secured their children in private ventures, then that may lead to a day when we no longer have public schools. Free public education available to all is a very new development.

It is fashionable for the media to report on what's going wrong in the US, and we love to agree with them. My opinion is that not every damn thing in the States is broken. We actually do amazing things, things to be really proud of. A lot of it was accomplished by people who had public education, to the extent that it was provided for their generation. Pretty much all of their parents believed their child had loads of potential, as that is generally the way it goes.

It doesn't progress the dialog by trolling through profiles to ascertain whether or not you feel a person's opinion is valid based on whether or not they chose to have children.
posted by Houstonian at 4:00 PM on April 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't think that many people are doing the math that private school now = free college later.

I think that most people want the best possible education for their kids to have the best possible day-to-day existence in childhood and set the stage for the most options for kid to have a happy adulthood.

And in some public schools (and maybe some private schools too?), the best day-to-day existence for your child isn't possible. So you make a financial sacrifice so that child has a better day-to-day existence.
posted by k8t at 4:51 PM on April 7, 2012


@drjimmy11 have you been in a public school lately?

I live in a gentrifying neighborhood in a city that has a ton of problems (DC). I take my kid to a preschool program inside of an elementary school that isn't THAT BAD. (No one I know is trying to get their kids into it, but it isn't the WORST school in our neighborhood.) And yet when I am there (3 days a week for drop offs and pick ups and 2 full days a month for co-oping), the disciplinary issues that the teachers have to deal with - even in this not-awful school... well, I don't know if there would be time in the day for those working-their-asses-off-already teachers to provide my kid (special snowflake that he is) with the time and attention that I think that he needs.

And yes, I want ALL the kids to get this time and attention, but I know that this isn't something that is going to happen immediately. So in the meantime, I do what is best for my kid. If I was still going to be living in this neighborhood next year and I didn't win the lottery (our schools are done in a lottery), I would for damn sure be sending him to a charter or a private school.

What else can I do? What else would you do?
posted by k8t at 4:56 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


oh good grief.

There are a lot of bad public schools and a lot of good ones and it's npot exactly hard to tell them apart for the most part.

This bullshit about your 'reptile hindbrain' kicking in when it comes to your kids is insulting and frankly a stupid mask for bad decision making.

Yes there is an arms race on with student achievement but you're stuck with the kids you've got. They need a solid education but not an expensive one. Save your money for university where there's actually an impact on what the kid's job prospects are going to be. Spending money on preschool is a complete waste unless you're doing it because all the parents are working and you need childcare anyway.

I don't think that many people are doing the math that private school now = free college later.

I would love to see this math. Hit me.

if everyone thinks the system is so bad then don't buy into it.
posted by GuyZero at 5:04 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


If your kid really is a math whiz, absolutely do not encourage her to become an accountant.

I know a number of accountants and it's a fine job, but yeah. Accounting doesn't have anything to do with math.
posted by GuyZero at 5:05 PM on April 7, 2012


Houstonian -- I pay taxes too, and while it certainly gives me the right to have my voice heard, it doesn't mean that when I say "ZOMG, you loozers can't find the HiggsBoson!" it's going to be taken with the same with the same credibility as DeGrassi.

I'll ask the same thing to you that I asked drjimmy11: can you make a case why a high-potential child should *choose* to send their children to a public school?

"Because plenty have people have done just fine with a public education" is not a positive statement. And when you're talking about parents making choices for their children, it's all about maximizing future opportunities, not achieving good enough. This is pretty much a universal trait among parents.
posted by bpm140 at 5:19 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


So the otehr thing I forgot to mention is that these fees are not all about educational quality, although that's how they market it. many of these schools are actually about childcare.

My kids in regular public middle school get out every day about 2:30 PM. My wife doesn't work at a job outside the house, so this works for us. But if you were a household where both parents worked a 9-5 job this would be an issue. So you have to look for afterschool care.

Coordinating school with after-school care isn't trivial. And the cost of just the 2:30 to 5 PM afterschool care can be significant - maybe $10K a year. But this isn't just an expense - it's really an investment that allows both parents to be earning an income. So it's spending $10K to earn whatever - $50K to $150K. Just like buying a second car.

So if you're already going to spend (say) $10K and get a pretty mediocre afterschool experience, why not just send them to a private school with integrated afterschool care or that simply runs the same hours the parents work instead? It's not spending $25K, it's spending an incremental $15K (still less than the second parent earns in total) and getting a much nicer experience.

But schools don't advertise this way.
posted by GuyZero at 5:22 PM on April 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yeah, parent of the math whiz here, I'm only semi-joking re acctg. I'm actually encouraging every math-apt person
I know to look at bioinformatics. She told me today she wants to be an acct for
something show-bizzy and I was ok with that compromise...Since she is only 16...
posted by beaning at 5:24 PM on April 7, 2012


Cuz I am a nerd:

Sociodemographic things that impact a family choosing religious private schools: religion, socio‐economic status, age, nativity, number of children and region (cite)

"Reasons" giving for choosing a religious private school: Shared Values and Beliefs (62%) and Strong Academic Reputation (44%), Teaching Style (26.3%), Smaller Class Sizes (25.6%), and Religious Content (22.6%). (cite)

Sociodemographic things that don't impact a family choosing religious private schools: race, gender, urban residence and family composition (cite)

Sociodemographic things that impact a family choosing a non-religious private school: parental socio‐economic status (cite)

And "reasons" for non-religious private school choice: Smaller Class Size (60%); Shared Values and Beliefs (50%); Teaching Style (47%); and Strong Academic Reputation (46%), followed by a distant fifth reason, Students Get more Individual Help (19%). (cite)

And reasons for choosing a public school:
50% Proximity to Their Home, Academic Reputation (28%), The Teachers (24%), The Principal (22%), and Teaching Style (21%). (cite)

And here's a quick summary of the literature:

"Parental choice is part of a social process influenced by salient properties of social class and networks of social relationships (Coleman, 1988; Bauch & Goldring, 1995; Reay & Ball, 1998; Bosetti, 2000, 2001; Reay & Lucey, 2000; Ball, 2003). Coleman (1988, p. 238) explains that when an individual is faced with important decisions, ‘a rationale actor will engage in a search for information before deciding’. However, parents appear to employ a ‘mixture of rationalities’ involving an element of ‘the fortuitous and haphazard’ (Ball, 2003, p. 23). To make decisions regarding their children’s education, parents will rely on their personal values and subjective desired goals of education, as well as others within their social and professional networks to collect information. Parents, whose network does not provide access to relevant and valuable information regarding options of school choice, are limited in their capacity to make informed choices (Smrekar & Goldring, 1999)." (cite)
posted by k8t at 5:27 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


And "reasons" for non-religious private school choice: Smaller Class Size (60%); Shared Values and Beliefs (50%); Teaching Style (47%); and Strong Academic Reputation (46%), followed by a distant fifth reason, Students Get more Individual Help (19%).

Okay, I was wrong!

I'm surprised by how important the smaller class sizes seem to be- probably a side-effect of my country-bumpkin upbringing, where we each had to do two state projects to cover the whole map.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 5:36 PM on April 7, 2012


My children will go to public school because I believe that public schools are among the most important institutions that exist, and the public schools need my children there. My wife and I will be committed, motivated parents, and the public schools need parents like that. If our children turn out like my wife and I, they'll be quiet and bookish and athletic and neurotic, and the public schools will need children like that. The public schools will need all sorts of children, but especially the sorts of children who have parents who have the means to pull them out of there-whatever sorts of children those are. By definition, the schools will be short on those types of children. We need to band together on our schools. The people who need to band together are the people who have school age children. If instead we have one band of people who have school aged children and another separate band of people who have school aged children and tens of thousands of dollars a year to spend on their school-aged child's education and a third band of people who have school aged children and the resources to educate their children at home, that will feed the furnace of inequality like nothing else. It simply won't do.

We'll see you out there.
posted by Kwine at 5:43 PM on April 7, 2012 [12 favorites]


@GuyZero "Spending money on preschool is a complete waste unless you're doing it because all the parents are working and you need childcare anyway."

Do you have some empirical evidence to back that claim up? Here are the results of a 10 minute literature review that refutes your claim:

For low-income kids and society more widely, there is a tremendous economic benefit (cite). But the following is for kids from all income levels: academic improvement (cite and cite), math specifically from the journal Science (cite), cognitive abilities (cite), and social skill improvement (cite and cite).

(All of these cited studies look at the 5-10-15-20-25 year effects of preschool education, BTW.)
posted by k8t at 5:47 PM on April 7, 2012


Why you shouldn't encourage your kid to go into accounting? Because a lot of that stuff is getting outsourced now.
posted by k8t at 5:51 PM on April 7, 2012


But 40k in debt to go to a private school? No thank you.
posted by Malice


Tuition at the school where I teach is just under 40K/year. It boggles my mind that people can afford to pay that for K-12.
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:09 PM on April 7, 2012


Like Kwine, we (upper-middle class professional parents with advanced degrees from "Ivy-equivalent" schools) have committed to sending our kids to a public, urban district. So much so that I'm on the school board there. Because we believe in a country that educated ALL of its children, and public schools need involved, passionate parents -- and if middle class families all abandon the public schools, they will fail. It's a rational choice both because it expresses our deepest beliefs in equality and democracy and civic engagement, and because I don't want my children to inherit a fucking Objectivist paradise.

Everyone acting in their own unenlightened self-interest and completely eviscerating public goods. It sucks.

BTW, the majority of parents aren't real happy with the factory model of education ... Nor are most educators I talk to. But corporations -- textbooks, technology, etc. -- and federal politics and social arrangements (like parental work schedules) make it hard to make big changes ... plus we need funding, so badly, and social service for our children, so badly. But you're in a silent majority. It'd help us all if you could be a noisier majority.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:27 PM on April 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


I went to public school, and was committed to send my kids to public school. Until I found that, due to funding cuts, the public school is now running at a 32-1 kids-to-teacher ratio, and my son will simply not thrive in that environment.

Don't get me wrong, the public school teachers I've met are as committed as it is possible to be. The school board is well-intentioned and qualified. But they are constrained by the funding. Half the classes in my district are taught in a trailer.

So my kids go to a private school, three teachers to 14 kids in my son's class. He's doing great, and we are fortunate enough to be able to afford it. It has nothing to do with college, and everything to do with basic education and attention.

Since this country gives so little priority to public education, among other things, we end up with the critical thinking skills that we deserve. As illiustrated, say, by a GOP primary debate. But that might be a thread derail, so let's just drop it.
posted by Ella Fynoe at 7:01 PM on April 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't like the idea of public school. I don't think the government is really competent to manage it well and frankly I am against forcing my kids to associate with people that they would rather avoid.

Private schools are a bit better, but I think co-op schools are the best.

Get a few like minded parents together and take turns teaching them, if you want, you can hire a teacher to help. But the most important part is to make sure the parent's are working together, communicating and participating.

It sounds radical, but having a kid is one of the biggest responsibilities in most peoples lives, why would they give off a significant portion of raising the child to a fairly unaccountable third party?

So far, so good.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 7:04 PM on April 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


bpm140 I'll ask the same thing to you that I asked drjimmy11: can you make a case why a high-potential child should *choose* to send their children to a public school?

I send my kid to a public school because I believe it is unethical to hoard resources solely for the benefit of my kid. I send my kid to public school because I believe diverting one's time and energy from a public education system that benefits all children is a social wrong.

If all the parents who are willing to throw cash at a private school were willing to have their taxes raised by that much, the school system would be better for all. Of course, the comparative advantage for their child would disappear. And since that comparative advantage is the point, there is really very little motivation to reforming the tax system and funding public schools.

Anyone who thinks they are protecting their children from the ill-effects of a bankrupt public school system by sending them to private school is deluding themselves. Who do you their peers are going to be? What kind of world are they going to inherit where an elite few is well-educated and the masses are illiterate?
posted by looli at 7:24 PM on April 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


My wife and I are secular homeschoolers. When we moved from East Baton Rouge Parish (LA) to Price George's County (MD) we left one poor school system for another. That was before we had children old enough to attend public school. As is the case in many large urban counties, education accounts for the largest part of the County budget. There are never enough resources to go around, it seems, but there never are. Once we were told that admission to the gifted program is by lottery we decided to homeschool.

I was educated completely by public schools for K-12, and then at Land Grant universities for my BS, MS, and PhD. The primary and secondary education I received in a poor state -- Louisiana -- was as good as most for the time (mid-seventies through late-eighties) as far as I can tell. Because it counts towards my EEO performance element, I often judge local science fairs. What I see there validates in my mind our decision to keep our children out of the public schools. It would be one thing if the projects were poorly executed, but the students could demonstrate some awareness of what they're doing and why when you talk to them. I rarely find that to be the case. Instead, about 90% of the students can't describe their own work without reading from the display board, and most of them simply don't understand what the projects are supposed to teach -- how science is done, and why it's done that way. The poor quality of the writing and verbal interaction suggests it's not a phenomenon limited only to the technical aspects of science classes. Am I over-reacting, particularly when most kids are forced to participate in the science fair? Perhaps.

I'm sure that our opting-out of the system perhaps weakens the system a little. We would likely be the kind of involved parents that all schools, public and private, desperately want to attract. I think that the teachers do as well as anyone could expect given the conditions under which they're forced to work, although I do think (as an outsider) that there are way too many managers in the school system who draw huge salaries and have no contact with students. It looks to an outsider that many parents expect the schools to raise their children, but object strenuously to an academically rigorous curriculum. I vote for increased school funding when there are bond issues and the like on the ballot, even though I have concerns that the system as a whole is not well-run.

Mrs. Wintermind and I do not have the resources to pay thousands of dollars more each year for private school tuition on top of the taxes we already pay to support the public school system. In that respect we're in the minority in our peer group, which is heavy on Catholic- and Montessori-schoolers. The real quandary, as has been noted throughout this thread, is that the current system does not serve the students or teachers well, but there doesn't seem to e any realistic way to change it. I guess I'm selfish, but I'm not willing to throw my kids into the post-NCLB grinder. I appreciate what looli and others are saying, and I guess I'm hoarding my time, spending it only on my kids, but I don't see anything but a high-risk, low-reward scenario in sending my boys to the local public schools. Apparently I'm part of the problem, but asking parents to sacrifice what they see as their kids' potential for some abstract ideal is going to be a hard sell.
posted by wintermind at 7:55 PM on April 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


Maybe this is better for MeTa, but if somehow Metafilter could start a co-op school, we'd enroll our special snowflake in a second.
posted by k8t at 8:16 PM on April 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


I went to public school and was always a big advocate of public schools until my little one started going to public kindergarten and I realized how much it has changed. I suspect a lot of people here will find themselves in the same situation when they have kids.
posted by H. Roark at 9:36 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder how much of the tuition increase is due to the last 10 years of the Catholic church shutting schools and pulling out of communities. Hold the nun jokes. Twenty years ago, Catholic school students represented over 50% of private school students in the US. (Cite:CAPE and NCEA) If Catholic school enrollment has declined 25% in the last 10 years, that's a huge chunk of private school students who would have been paying low tuition, subsidized by the church and their local parish.
posted by Gable Oak at 11:45 PM on April 7, 2012


Gable, parochial schools have seen declines in attendance and also declines in contributions to the supporting churches. Subsidies aren't what they used to be. We are seeing a good trend in the area toward eliminating the subsidies and lowering tuition across the board to compensate, opening up the prospect of enrollment to poorer families.
posted by michaelh at 2:22 AM on April 8, 2012


When I was in grad school taking stats classes, we often used big education datasets. I recall that Catholic schools had to be analyzed separately from other schools. There is something about them - my instructor described it as a sense of community - that puts them far ahead.

As he explained it - you could take a kid from a background that would make it likely for low achievement (low income, mother low education, bad neighborhood) and that the effect of the group at either a better public school or private school (with classmates from higher income, parents with higher income) and the effect of being different from his classmates will actually push his achievement down.
However, in a Catholic school, there is such an emphasis on group outcomes (in academic achievement, behavior, etc.), that kid from an unlikely background will rise to the challenge and be more likely to hit his new school's average achievement.

I haven't read this literature myself, but my instructor's speciality was socioeconomic determinants of dropping out, so I'll take his word for it.
posted by k8t at 6:12 AM on April 8, 2012


@GableOak, I wonder if the rise of charter and non-religious private schools actually took more of the lion's share of the total private school population?

Also, I imagine that people are less inclined to send kids to religious schools overall nowadays, versus 40 years ago.
posted by k8t at 6:15 AM on April 8, 2012


The "invest in uni" thing doesn't hold up - early childhood education is so incredibly critical that unless you're talking graft and corruption, shitty early childhood education will correlate and cause an inability to get to uni, regardless of how much money you want to spend on tuition.

If your kid has to spend years catching up thanks to outmoded teaching methods, they aren't going to get the grounding they need to really make it. Not without a shitload of tuition. I'm much pickier about the kindy and primary school toddler anachronism will attend, less fussed on high school. I've worked with enough schools and teachers to have a sense of how to judge a school based on something other than scores.
posted by geek anachronism at 6:42 AM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I went to pretty crappy public schools in a poor town in a poor, rural part of the country. When I got to my fancy-schmancy private college, I met a lot of private high school grads for the first time. Their classroom education was certainly better than mine, but they were the most sheltered, ignorant, pampered special snowflakes I'd ever met. I struggled with the academics for a year, but I figured it out and managed to resolve the deficiencies in my HS education. I seriously doubt most of them ever did the same. I don't have children or the reptile hindbrain that apparently goes with having them, so my opinion is meaningless, of course, to a certain subset of people. But if I could go back in time and attend a private elementary or high school I wouldn't, and I sure wouldn't if it meant debt for my parents. There's more to education than what you learn in class, and if your kid is smart and you're involved, I truly believe they'll be fine.
posted by Mavri at 6:51 AM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


can you make a case why a high-potential child should *choose* to send their children to a public school?

Gifted education.

I don't know that my parents gave serious consideration to the secular private school option, but I imagine they at least gave it passing consideration. My mother ultimately vetoed the Catholic school on the grounds that the science facilities were inadequate. (My dad went to Catholic schools because, well, he was a Catholic born in 1950.) Some parts of both my and my brother's school experience were fairly disastrous. In middle school, both of us did 'independent studies' which basically meant being sent to entertain ourselves in the library. They'd sometimes forget to send someone to fetch my brother back for the next subject and he'd only notice when he'd see kids walking through the library to get to the cafeteria. My parents contemplated sending both of us to specialist private schools at various points and didn't because the came to the conclusion that they wouldn't be any better than where we were.

On the other hand, I'm immensely grateful the Catholic school got vetoed. One of my friends in high school had gone to the Catholic school and sat in the back and taught herself with one other kid for most junior high. The school was too small to have the resources to deal with gifted kids. They didn't have enough students to have a gifted program. At the public school, we had gifted classes in language arts and math and those teachers were able to advocate for us to make science and social studies mostly tolerable.

Not surprisingly, high school pretty much sucked academically. There was no provision for gifted education on the grounds that surely AP classes were adequate.

Sure, my experience is dependent on built-in advantages--I grew up in a school district that was committed to gifted education for whatever reason, I happened to live in a state where the governor had a gifted child, my parents could have thrown money at the problem if the situation became untenable (private school, moving to a different district), but when we're talking about spending dizzying sums of money on private elementary schools, I think we're talking similar built-in advantages.
posted by hoyland at 7:31 AM on April 8, 2012


I'm a homeschooler, and I always think the same thing when these conversations come up.

1. No one criticized us (not to our faces, anyway) when we moved out of the local depressed & failing urban center into an affluent suburb with the "best" schools in the area. People did argue with us over our decision to homeschool. Apparently it's OK if we use our economic privilege to buy our way into academically excellent schools, as long as they're "public," but not if we use it to homeschool instead?

2. People really really want us (and other homeschoolers) to not use our resources for homeschooling. Someone up-thread called it "hoarding." But I have never, in my ciricle of friends and acquaintances, heard a family criticized for buying a larger house to accomodate their growing family, or for feeding their children a diet that exceeds that of the poorest children in the area, or for buying them bicycles, computers, or any toy that could be considered educational. Is that not "hoarding" our resources as well?

I have a friend who lives in a large urban area with failling schools. She is involved right now in the kindergarten application process--after her son had to go through an admissions process for preschool. It can seem crazy to folks like me, living in the midwest, where our only private school options are Montessori or religious schools, and admission is not competeitive, and where the schools in most suburbs and towns around here are basically fine. But it's not irrational to take that approach when you live in an urban center like my friend does (I also have a friend who lives in a similar place and homeschools by way of opting out of that dynamic).
posted by not that girl at 7:45 AM on April 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


We've got my son in public school now. We pay $5k a year in just school tax. Our property tax is half that. We pay the top rate in the state. My son's school has 30 year old books, and a "gifted program" that is a one hour pullout class once a week.

Bit the high school has an ESPN football stadium. And the football team has an air conditioned tour bus. The only private options w/in a Er minute drive are all fundamentalist anti science schools. The private options w/in a 45-60 hour drive start at 20k, and go as high as 50k per school year. That doesn't include uniforms, books, supplies, trips, or the mandatory fund raiser contribution.

Those types of schools have offered loan plans for decades. There are long established loan companies that only service precollegiate loans. All private school management software has hooks to deal with those lenders for tuition reimbursement.

We seriously considered driving 4 hours a day, and taking out a loan to put our very gifted kid in a better school, but we realized that it would destroy not only our finances, but our chance to spend time not on the road with each other, as well as interfere with his ability to have local friends and peers.

Instead, I've become a visible and vocal advocate for modifications to the budget that serve more than football interests. I joined the pta and became a room mom for a 3rd grade class. I take my son to libraries and museums and bought season tickets to the children's theatre and memberships to zoos.

I can count on the school system to teach him how to pass standardized tests. Everything else is up to me.
posted by dejah420 at 9:55 AM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't have children or the reptile hindbrain that apparently goes with having them, so my opinion is meaningless, of course, to a certain subset of people.

Does this help? I don't think this helps.

But if I could go back in time and attend a private elementary or high school I wouldn't, and I sure wouldn't if it meant debt for my parents. There's more to education than what you learn in class, and if your kid is smart and you're involved, I truly believe they'll be fine.

Several people now have said this in here. That if your kid is smart and the parents are "involved" (I am not 100% sure what that means - aren't most parents involved? Not all kids do well in school.) your kid will succeed in the public school system.

Our public school system is enormous. It serves about 700k students a year. It is vast. The people who serve on this school board are professional politicians who have to raise money and run a campaign. In grades 9-12, it has a 24% dropout rate. Within this school system, there are individual schools that are good or okay, and there are individual teachers who are outstanding. But you can't control which teacher your kid gets. You can't control what other kids your kid is in class with. And you can only control for your home school by moving districts. Guess what? The good schools here are in districts where rich people live. My family is unlikely to live there. And many - many - of the other schools are failing their students by any metric you care to apply. This district is in such turmoil that it keeps hiring people to come in and fix it, and then that doesn't work, and then they hire a new person to come in and fix it... etc.

So when people make these statements, that everything will be fine, I don't wonder if they have kids of their own, but I do honestly kind of wonder about their home school system. Is it a DISASTER? Or is it just kinda messy? If it's a disaster, is their home school maybe more okay than the other schools? I can absolutely see muddling through a kinda messy school district that has a good gifted program, say. Or a district which is small enough that you getting involved in the district could actually change something, and before your kid is 30.

Overall I feel like there's an air of "these people are dumb, there's this obvious clear solution staring you right in the face!" to this kind of thinking. But I don't think most people are dumb. I think a lot of people would really like to sends their kids to public schools, but there are a lot of things about the district where we live that are super, super discouraging, and you know... people have to work to make money to live and stuff, so you get into this cycle of "Okay, maybe if we moved to the marginal school zone, which is still much more expensive than the zone we live in right now, and then one parent started working part-time so they could be super involved at the school...?" and a lot of people, after they participate in the magnet and charter lotteries and lose, instead scrape up the money to send the kids to some kind of private school.

I do totally understand the argument that when families pull out of the public system, it weakens it. I don't know what my family will end up doing. Other people we know move within the city in order to be zoned for a good school. That also feels (just for me) a little bit uncomfortable, because of course that's not something every family can do any more than every family can send their kid to private school. So that's just another way of shifting the burden.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:10 AM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


My kids were school aged when we lived in Pasadena, CA, home of Caltech and JPL. The head of Caltech approached the local district with the idea of starting a science/math magnet, because he thought it could be a good recruiting tool when he was looking to attract faculty (MIT and Cambridge are his chief rivals.) PUSD turned him down flat because it would be "elitist". Pasadena private schools are excellent. Hmm. Lesson there somewhere.
My kids went to both public and private and the private schools, while not without their problems, were academically superior to the public ones. Alas.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:47 AM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


In my experience, there is an enormous amount of whitewashing around why parents choose private schools. For example "smaller class sizes" is mostly a talking point for the parents I know (and since I'm in my 30s, the everyone is squeezing out kids).

The actual primary issue appears to be this: private schools throw out disruptive (violent or otherwise) students and the public schools don't (can't or wont).
posted by rr at 8:36 PM on April 8, 2012


"I am not 100% sure what that means - aren't most parents involved?"

In a word, no. In many words, hey kids, it's time for appalling parenting story hour!

I was at one of our larger elementaries, about 800 kids, for registration day last year, which for elementary kids is the day before or a couple days before school starts -- they come with their parents, see the classroom, meet the teacher, all that stuff, and bring all their required paperwork. (Local employers are generally accommodating.) That day, 8 families (accounting for about 10 kids) could not give their child's birthdate or birth year. In a couple cases it was a grandparent with custody of grandkids, but in several it was the parents who could not with any certainty tell us their child's AGE. Obviously vaccination records were completely out of the question. Every year we have a double-digit number of KINDERGARTENERS (district-wide) who are truant (like, officially "criminally" truant). The most common reason is that their parents keep them home to watch even younger children, most typically because the parents are using.

We have expulsion (and expulsion-type) hearings on about 14 students every two weeks -- I'd say that's a fair average for a two-week period, though it waxes and wanes. Generally for at least five of those fourteen hearings, NO ONE shows up for the student. The parents are served notice by the county sheriff, same as for court, and contacted in a variety of ways in addition to that. The family gets the option of when to set the hearing so it will work around their schedules. Frequently the parents (or guardians, grandparents, relatives, whatever) just don't bother to show up. The child is getting placed in a new school -- the "safe school" for kids with serious behavior issues, the "step down" program for kids who seem to have had a single problem, the alternative school (mostly kids with complicated home lives), the vocational program -- there are a lot of options. Nobody shows. If it's a drug or alcohol charge, the student has the option of a counseling program in lieu of expulsion, but parental permission is required. It's amazing, the parents just don't. show. up.

Our largest elementary school had no PTO until two years ago because they couldn't get six parents who were willing to form it.

I've talked about this many times before because it upsets me so much, but we have a certain number of students who only get 10 meals a week -- 5 federal breakfasts and 5 federal lunches. Nobody feeds them at night or on weekends. They fend for themselves and find what they can find. We have a whole community organization dedicated to sending granola bars home with these kids so they have something to eat over the weekend. If we close school for snow, they don't eat.

And yeah, those are from my store of "worst stories" so they're outlyingly crazy. But that's before we even get to plain abuse. And then we have parents who are involved, but involved inappropriately. (A pair of parents who were super-involved because they were attempting to use the kid's classroom as a proxy setting in their ugly divorce fight. A parent who wanted to sit behind her child in class every day and answer all the questions for her kid and have that count for points for the kid. Some parents who used facebook to goad 12-year-olds into fighting and then uploaded video of the result.) And we have parents (all over the economic spectrum) who think what happens at school is the school's problem, and they don't even want to hear about it, let alone deal with it. "Mrs. Jones, your son is failing all his classes because he hasn't turned in any work." "Aren't you supposed to deal with that? Why are you calling me? When he's at school, he's YOUR problem."

"Or a district which is small enough that you getting involved in the district could actually change something, and before your kid is 30. "

We had a cohort of parents who live in an "edge" neighborhood surrounded by some pretty not-great neighborhoods, who were talking about how the local school was so bad, and part of the reason it was so bad was that all the middle-class families in the edge neighborhood sent their kids to Catholic school, and nobody wanted to be the ONE middle-class family at this impoverished, failing school. And one of the parents literally said, "You know, if we ALL stayed in the public school ..." And the parents of about 30 K-1 students decided to do exactly that and the oldest parts of that cohort are just about to start high school, and the change in that school in 8 years has been HUGE. It's far and away the most active PTO in our district now, they've brought all kinds of changes to the school, that school now sends disproportionately large numbers of students into the gifted programs, and way disproportionately large numbers if impoverished students into the gifted programs. It draws committed, talented teachers; while staff turnover is a slower process, it's noticeable how many great teachers want to go there, and then stay there. The smallest problems don't go unaddressed -- partly because I (and every other board member) can be guaranteed 8 phone calls before dinner from the super-involved parents if something goes awry. Test scores are up across subgroups.

I don't know how replicable that is. I don't know how often you'd find a cadre of parents who would commit to sticking together like that, anyway. But it's really been remarkable, the change they were able to bring to that school.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:45 PM on April 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


"The actual primary issue appears to be this: private schools throw out disruptive (violent or otherwise) students and the public schools don't (can't or wont)."

Some of both. This varies by state some, but students are still entitled to an education *even after they've been expelled.* Generally when a private school expels them, they go back into the public district. When our public district expels them, they go to a special program for expelled students. They have to get expelled from being expelled to actually be removed completely from the public district, and then they can only be removed for a period of 2 calendar years (subject to a whole bunch of other issues). Students with IEPs (that is, special ed students) generally can't be expelled if their behavior is related to the disability listed in their IEP -- and the most violent kids with serious behavioral issues often have an IEP for that. (They can be put in a different placement, but there are rules about that too and we have to meet inclusion targets to get certain federal and state aid.) (Also! Parents can short-circuit the expulsion proceeding by getting an IEP evaluation within a certain period of time, and we've had some parents do that, essentially tying our hands about moving a kid who, say, is bullying another kid, until after the evaluation is complete.)

I mean, literally, we expel a child from school and then he can be arrested for truancy for skipping school while he is expelled from school. Because he'll have a placement in a different program.

Generally the only way a child can be completely removed from the public school system in my state is if he goes to juvenile detention. And, of course, upon release, the child will be returned to the system. I can think of a couple occasions where a child had SUCH serious behavioral problems we knew we had no adequate placement for him and everyone was just kind-of waiting for him to inevitably get arrested for something serious enough that he'd go to juvie.

Our programs for kids who don't fit in a mainstream setting for whatever reason aren't nearly large enough and often fill up by December, leaving us in a terrible position for all the spring expulsions. I don't really think having the most disruptive students roaming the streets is a good solution either, however. Again I think it comes down to a much more comprehensive safety net outside of school, and more funding for necessary programs inside of schools.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:58 PM on April 8, 2012


Kwine: "We'll see you out there"

I just wanted to tell you both good luck. We're all counting on you.

Really: no hamburger!
posted by barnacles at 9:08 PM on April 8, 2012


This is an issue close to my heart because I went to an ultra-elite (and expensive!) secular private middle school, and a poor urban high school.

The middle school was modeled on a college. Each subject had its own (very small) building, set on perhaps 100 acres in the countryside. There was a pond with boats, a pasture with a couple of school-owned horses, a stand of trees for studying ecology. The cafeteria easily bested any college and most restaurants, and the library was completely ridiculous. Most students carried laptops (this was the mid-90s), and the most popular sport was lacrosse.

In its own way, the concept made sense: what better way to convince parents to depart with tens of thousands of dollars a year than to build a mini-college to remind them of their own college years. But the atmosphere ended up less collegiate and more summer camp. The teachers were young, enthusiastic, underqualified, and (I'm sure) vastly underpaid, and we ended up spending more time having fun outside than actually learning stuff. It seems clear now that the school existed for children of the wealthy to hobnob and learn to build relationships, not to actually prepare for high school or college.

The giant urban high school was a total shock by comparison. Housed in a 100-year-old building that occupied an entire city block, it had more than twice as many students as it was designed for. There was no cafeteria, the library was a handful of books in a classroom. There was no potable water (the pipes had lead), you could buy pot, meth, and crack within a 30-second walk of any entrance, and many classrooms didn't have enough chairs for the 40 or 50 students who were assigned to them.

Sadly, that's not where the problems ended. The principal was openly dating an 18-year-old senior, until he got fired by the district. Later it turned out he had embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars. Several teachers were accused of sleeping with students as well, with varying degrees of truth. One of these teachers killed himself, and then someone doused his classroom in gasoline and set fire to it. There were bomb threats, constant fights, about one shooting a year.

But amidst the chaos, there was a rock-solid core of extraordinary teachers who really made a difference in my life. 15 years later, I can still recite a few facts about every country in the world thanks to my history teacher, and one of my English teachers had us read one classic American novel each week for a year. Their dedication to the cause only went so far; I don't think I had a one-on-one conversation with a teacher in 4 years, and it was a minor miracle that I managed to get into college with no teacher recommendations. But I genuinely think I learned more in that environment than I would have at the easygoing private school.

Looking at my Facebook friends ten years after graduating, there wasn't a huge difference in outcomes between the two schools. Both schools churned out a smattering of engineers, scientists, programmers. A few became teachers or social service workers, there are a few struggling actors and musicians. No one I know became a succesful biglaw lawyer, or an investment banker, or a doctor, or any other highly coveted career. Most of my classmates are unemployed or underemployed. You can buy happiness for your kid while they're in school, but I'm not convinced private school will dramatically change your kid's life.
posted by miyabo at 9:40 PM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's the dirty secret about being a parent: kids are all different. And yeah, if you're smart and dedicated and all that, you'll be okay. You're fucked if you have a learning disorder, or just aren't smart, or struggle with anything. I'm not going to bet on my kid being big enough, smart enough and strong enough to get through what a shitty school does to you.

But I'm lucky enough to live in a ritzy area with a brilliant primary school. So I don't have to choose between moving or getting a loan to send my kid to a better school, or homeschooling, or getting as involved as possible*. And I'm not certain what my choice would be.

My mother stopped getting involved with our schools the year the PTA got taken over by wannabe private school jocks who decided the brand new school in an extremely low socioeconomic area needed to not only have ridiculously expensive branded uniforms, but three separate kids, with eifferent hats, that the kids had to change in and out of during the day. Even though most of the kids couldn't afford a full set of ONE uniform. The same PTA group ditched the school once they realised substance doesn't make up for anything, and no matter how dapper the boater they wore, the kids still struggled with abuse and alcoholism (their own and their parents'). It broke her heart, after years of campaigning, to have all the research, all the understanding, all the reasoning, pulled apart and ignored for the sake of an ex-private school alumni wanting the glitz without the cost.
posted by geek anachronism at 4:29 AM on April 9, 2012


While it's very sweet that everyone wants to get their kids the best education possible, I think it's a little delusional to give yourself a moral pass because of "reptile hindbrain" thought processes that make you do things that are harmful to the whole for the perceived advantage of your own children. This is the driving force behind a huge portion of what's wrong with our society.

I don't really have anything against private education, so I don't find it to apply too much in this case, but I think we should expect more from ourselves as human beings than to give in to base instincts, even when those base instincts are employed in the service of love and protection.
posted by mellow seas at 6:23 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


This bullshit about your 'reptile hindbrain' kicking in when it comes to your kids is insulting and frankly a stupid mask for bad decision making.

*shrug* Maybe you're special, but about everyone I know -- all over the country & the economic scale -- gets pretty irrational about their kids.

As for the slurs, I think I make pretty good decisions, but perhaps not as good as you. I don't want to derail this, but I have plenty of anecdata to share (about my on kids and those of others) if it's of interest.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:04 AM on April 9, 2012


"Gifted education"?? In public schools? Not in my state!

I actually switched from a private, parochial school (complete with cloistered nuns and lunch served on china plates!) to a public school so I could go to the city's big gifted & talented program for grades 4-6. Well, that was 30 years ago and another state. Now I live in Rhode Island, and my children's previous elementary principal [we moved across town a year ago] came right out and said that in Rhodey there's no interest in "high end learners." It broke my heart.

Oh, I could send them to private school, you say? But of course: a coworker lives two towns away, and she just checked out a well-regarded private school for her son who is headed to Kindergarten next year: $23,000/year. Hah!

(After public school, I returned to private school for the rest of my time. I did well -- National Merit Scholarship, &c. -- but those years in the G&T program haven't been matched....except possibly in the small, private Kindergarten program where we sent my kids. *sigh*)
posted by wenestvedt at 8:12 AM on April 9, 2012


All you folks looking for gifted programs could move to the Twin Cities. There is something of an arms race of districts creating self-contained classes for the "highly gifted"*. Since we have free statewide open enrollment, and there is no shortage of pushy parents of precocious children, they have been springing up all over for the last decade.

Alas, students are only "highly gifted" for some combination of grades 2-6. Then it's pretty much wasteland until they're old enough for AP or PSEO classes. Sorry, kid!

*Often meaning 98th percentile and up, which was the cutoff for just plain ol' gifted back in my day, but there has been grade inflation. The whole moderately/highly/profoundly gifted thing is another ball of wax.
posted by Flannery Culp at 2:26 PM on April 9, 2012


(There was a lot of HAMBURGER in that post. I've experienced these programs as both a student and a parent and think they're great. But I also think, in this NCLB world, attracting high test scores and state funding is at least as important as providing appropriate challenge to an underserved population.)
posted by Flannery Culp at 2:56 PM on April 9, 2012


Flannery, I'm very curious about this, do you have any links?

I live in the Twin Cities now and was under the impression that the urban public schools are kind of terrible, and only a few suburban districts accept a handful of open enrollment students.
posted by miyabo at 3:20 PM on April 9, 2012


Understanding Gifted Schools & Programs in Minnesota

Other than St. Paul's Capitol Hill, the self-contained programs are all in suburban districts. Open enrollment varies, but generally priority goes to in-district students and then depends on space available.
posted by Flannery Culp at 3:26 PM on April 9, 2012


As for the slurs, I think I make pretty good decisions, but perhaps not as good as you.

I'm not going to do anything as unsupportable as make statement about how good my decision making is, but you can't both make good decisions and irrational decisions. That just seems contradictory.
posted by GuyZero at 3:28 PM on April 9, 2012


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