Mar 22, 2009

Revisiting the school issue: We're still torn between public and private

Last fall, I wrote extensively about our dilemma of whether to send the boys to public or private school. After doing some research, I concluded that our local public school would be more than adequate. But then came California's budget crisis and uncertainty about what that means for our local school. (I feel much like this local mom.)

Marc and I had just decided that we'd apply to one of the private schools I visited a few months ago and if Alex got in, we'd send him there. But his pediatrician has encouraged to go with our public school because there would be more opportunities available to him through LAUSD's gifted program (which he thinks Alex would get into).

So now I'm torn again.

Fortunately, Alex won't start kindergarten until 2010, so we have a year to see what changes are made at the public school. Hopefully they'll be minimal!


Anonymous said...

Although it has been a while since I was in elementary school (as I'm in my mid-twenties), I thought I'd chime in as someone who is a public school graduate (kinder in LAUSD through grad school at UCLA). I think the biggest factor in the education a child receives is the work they put into school and their relationship with learning (especially reading). Not every child in the same classroom is going to walk away with the same experience and I think that the difference comes from the resources they had before entering that class/school as well as their overall attitude. If a child grows up in a family that does not value education and intellectual pursuits it will be even harder to the teacher to engage with that child than one whose family treats school as important. A child who is not motivated to learn or who comes from a family that does not support their education will probably not do well even in a private school. There are a lot more factors that go into a child's academic success than the classroom they are sitting in and how many other students are present. There are great experiences to be had within LAUSD, especially within the gifted program.

Good luck with your decision!

Anonymous said...

Only you can decide what's good for your family. But it helps to know you are not the only one through this pain. We are in the San Jose School district, and the outlook is about the same as your LAUSD. We met with several open and honest charter school principals, and they said point blank: "the class size will increase and the special programs will get cut". They do trust the parents will chip in. We can't really afford to pay for private school, but we'll be making sacrifices to make it happen. We are still applying for the public school to have the option later on.

Anonymous said...

I struggled for this for years, from the time my child was in public K through middle school. We're in a great school district in the U.S. But we made the decision to send our child to a private high school which turned out to be the best of all worlds. The sports, music and real world experience received at the public school has proven invaluable, and now we're all able to enjoy the streamlined approach to education which private school offers. There is a diff. Small privates beat large publics any day. You'll find that some peeps consider sending a child to a private school anti-democratic or some such, but as a lawyer you can cut through the sentiments and make the best decision for your child. Stick to your guns.

Chief Family Officer said...

@Chelsea - Thank you for your comment! I would love to learn more about your experiences. Would you mind sharing more of them via email? I am, as you might imagine, bursting with curiosity about the Gifted program at LAUSD since it looks like that's where we're headed. You can reach me at cfoblog [at] gmail [dot] com. Thank you so much!

@Rob - We are definitely not alone. I discuss this topic almost every day with other parents. I just heard that LAUSD class is going to increase to 24:1 in Kindergarten and 42:1 in high school. Yikes!!!

@Anon - Thank you for sharing your experience. I have a feeling we're going to do something very similar - public school for elementary, and then private school for middle and high school. If nothing else, those new teacher-student ratios in middle and high school are terrifying!

Anonymous said...

With my son starting kindergarten in the fall, we have been struggling with just this issue. I'm over on the other side of the continent (DC suburbs) in a county where the public schools are pretty good, but also very big. I grew up going to Parochial school, DH in public school. We decided on starting off at the parochial school. Partly because our community is at our parish, we know a lot of the parents and children already, and the principal is wonderful. But, I am always on the line about the decision. I think most important is the parental involvement - more so than public vs. private.

Chief Family Officer said...

@Carmen - I totally agree about parental involvement, and that's one thing our local public school seems to have going for it. But still, percentage-wise, I would guess that the involvement is much higher at a private school.

Anonymous said...

I'm on board with the Anonymous commenter. Although I feel that there can be a great advantage to the education gained in a private setting, I feel that the socialization skills gained slight differ. For some reason many of the children that I know who go to private schools from a young age tend to be less grounded than children who attend public schools. We will more than likely be sending our kids through public school (or first is due in a few months). If private school ever becomes a consideration it would only be for high school, since it might help in getting into a better college and career.

MetaMommy said...

I attended public school for all except one year (2nd grade). When I transitioned back to public from private, I became acutely aware of the difference in curriculum. In 2nd grade/private, we were working on multiplication, division and phonics (huge help in reading). In 3rd grade/public (good school district), we were working on...multiplication (division came in 4th grade). Phonics was never covered. I think that depending on the private school, you can greatly benefit because they're not bound to strict curriculums.

That said, there's a lot to be said about teacher turnover. As an employee, would you be more loyal to a school that has a hard time laying you off in bad times, or a school that is run like a business? The LAUSD is a Behemoth, but it has a lot to offer employees in terms of benefits. I'm not a teacher, so I'm not saying anything definitively, but I'd say the turnover at a school is worth considering. Also, of your tuition, how much of it goes to teachers salaries?

Found these two interesting links:
Charter Schools Weathering the Storm

Sandra Tsing Loh's Scandalously Informal Guide to Los Angeles Schools - Clever, funny, useful...I've bookmarked for future use.