Parent vs. Parent: Why we chose public school

Filed under: Day Care & Education

This fall, Jared will enter kindergarten at a San Francisco public school. For us, there was never really any question of whether or not our kids would go to public school. It's one thing we both agree on wholeheartedly. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Rachel is a public school teacher, but that's not the whole reason, nor is it even a major reason.

The first reason for sending our kids to public school is the cost. I can't speak for the rest of the country, but around here decent private schools start around $10k per year and quickly go up from there. Because Jared is so far ahead, academically, Rachel recently told me she would consider one of the better local private schools, but at nearly $20k per year, it's unlikely we could afford it easily. Together, we don't earn enough to be able to pay for it even while we make too much to qualify for any kind of scholarship or other assistance. Even so, we would do it, if we thought it was worth it.

That's the next reason. We don't see private schools as being that much better than public -- and in some ways, they fall far short. Many of the better private schools are fairly picky about the kids they accept; its helps keep their test scores up. They are also fairly homogenous -- there's not a lot of diversity among the students. While certainly not all are rich, there definitely isn't the wide range of kids that one finds in a public school. While some might see that as a benefit, Rachel and I both see it as placing kids at a disadvantage -- that's not the way the world is outside of school.

When I was younger, I knew a lot of kids who went to a very prestigious private school here. While they weren't anything really wrong with them (and lord knows, I was envious of their families' financial situations!), they just weren't as interesting as the kids I knew from school. They certainly weren't the kind of kid I could raise Jared and Sara to be, even if I wanted to.

While some might say we are settling for second best, I would disagree. In California, public school teachers must, by law, have a teaching credential. (Many actually have advanced degrees.) It is not a requirement in the private schools. Certainly the better private schools' teachers all have a teaching credential, but they also have the higher tuition to go along with it. Test scores are, in any real sense, meaningless, so relative scores don't mean much to me; even so, with the ability to cherrypick their students (public schools have to take pretty much everyone), I would expect scores to be higher.

Some also might argue that the lack of disruptive, lower-performing students would allow the above-average kids to concentrate better and get more attention from the teacher. While that may be true, I think that in this case, growing up with kids from all backgrounds, of differing abilities, and, yes, whose presence creates a disturbance is an important life skill. If you knew all the people I've had to work with and around (and even, in some cases, in spite of), you might agree. None of these arguments make a convincing argument for shelling out a whole lot of money that could go to enriching their lives in other ways.

I have no problem with anyone who chooses to send their kids to a private school. For some, the arguments that don't cut it for us might seem more compelling. The public schools elsewhere might not be as good as our oft-maligned, but actually quite good schools here. A child might have special needs that would be better met at a private school set up to handle them. Of course, there's always the religious component. Parents who want their children taught their religion in school alongside other subjects have no other option but to choose a private school. For us, however, public school is the way to go.

ReaderComments (Page 1 of 1)


Flickr RSS



AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.