I’m sure that in many places, there’s no question that children will attend the local public school. But out here in Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley, it seems every parent – at least in our socio-economic class – has gone through or is going through the public versus private school debate. It’s a topic I regularly revisit with all of my friends who have kids the same age, and a regular topic at birthday parties and such.
When my oldest son was born, there was no doubt in our minds that he would be attending private school. But in gathering information over the last two years, I’ve discovered that the best private schools are so expensive, we’d really be stretching to send two children there for a combined 15 years. The school that was originally my top choice is charging just shy of $20,000 for the 2008-2009 school year for tuition alone. That’s just tuition for grades K through 6. Middle and high school tuition is even more expensive (at this rate, it will be $35,000 by the time Alex enters 7th grade). And that doesn’t include books, fees, and obligatory fund raising contributions (which one of my friends tells me is about $5,000). Even though we have a good income, it’s not that good, or at least I’m not confident that we could keep up with 6% annual increases.
Other schools in the same echelon are at least as expensive. So I’ve pretty much crossed the top schools off my list, and I’ve been searching for middle-tier private schools with correspondingly “middle-tier” tuition. I’ve also been looking harder at our local public elementary school. So far, I’ve discovered that they are almost on par, at least academically. But academics aren’t everything, and I’m not sure how to figure out where we’ll find the best fit. We are also concerned about what comes after elementary school, since we don’t know much about the local public middle and high schools but have vague negative impressions about them.
My oldest will start kindergarten in a little less than two years, so I see this school year as my chance to do a lot of research, figure out our realistic options, and narrow our choices. (I haven’t mentioned homeschooling because it’s just not something we’re comfortable doing and not something that we’d consider.)
In the next few months, I plan to talk with other parents, research the different schools, and meet with school officials (especially at the public school). I’d love your advice here: What has been most important factor in ensuring your child has an overall positive experience at school? And what questions would you ask if you were me?
Image credit: Amazon.com.