public vs. private schools

There is a MOST EXCELLENT REPORTED ESSAY in this issue of Brain,Child on the dilemma parents face in decising whether to shell out the bucks for private school for their kids.

My kids all go to private schools (Yes. I know I am way lucky and don't take it for granted) and the primary thing I like about this is that I feel like I actually have a say in how things go on a day to day basis. Parents of kids in private schools are paying customers and generally, are treated as such. My impression is that, at public schools, the administration is so bureaucratic and monolithic that parents with concerns are merely gnats to be swatted away.

I know there are many excellent public schools and amazing teachers in public schools. In fact, if we had meaningful public school choice in my district (good magnet schools that offer substantially different programs than the other public schools, or specialized academies or charter schools or a voucher system), my children might have ended up in public schools. Unfortunately, the public schools in Knoxville, TN do not offer these choices. If you want choice, you have to pay for it (And drive for it. Because I don't live in the wealthy area of town, I drive 22 miles each way to take my kids to school because 99% of the private schools are on that side of town).

Anyway, read the essay I linked to above. It's excellent.

(And here is an essay I wrote for Brain,Child on why I'm a liberal who supports SCHOOL VOUCHERS)


Anonymous said...

Things must be very different up here in the northeast.The parochial school teachers are known to make the lowest of the low salaries and sometimes aren't even qualified to be teaching the course they are hired to teach.On the other hand,the public schools attract the majority of the most highly qualified educators and competition is fierce.The superintendant in my district listens very attentively to the parents because we are the ones that pay his salary and he wants his contract renewe!My experience with parochial school was far inferior to public school when it came to voicing a concern-much too inflexible and the parents had no real power.

Dr. Neighbor said...

There are lots of problems with public schools. The one that I most frequently point to is that those most likely to become teachers are those who think that our crappy public schools are great because they, in fact, are for some students. They suck for lots more, however, but those people end up with crappy jobs like doctors, lawyers, plumbers or letter carriers that make more than public school teachers (here in the south, at least). Voucher programs help to pull out those best able to afford to pay for private schools away from public schools, making them less desirable to teach in and removing good students (who serve as role models for the less well prepared ones) and the parents best able to fight to make public schools worth attending.

The good news is that we do have vouchers for college. Poor kids still can't afford to go to school, but it helps out the rich kids. The median income of this year's college freshman is nearly twice what this 4th year professor makes. And since UT loses money on each student, the additional students bleed money out of the university. Each year I have been at UT the faculty's raise has been less than the cost of living increase. Adjusted for inflation I now make 2% less than I did when I started.

So, yeah, let's do all we can to get the most talented kids out of public school and also remove the parents who have the ways and means to fight to make public schools worth attending from having any compelling reason to make public schools any good. In another 20 years we'll be the ones wishing that our country had educated kids well enough to answer phones for people in India and China.

Suzette said...

I have some insight into this situation because I am a Public School Teacher in Katie's county. There are problems, yes, but there are also wonderful things. What frustrates me is that I am required to educate, and be held responsible, for every child who darkens my doorway. Even if they are on drugs, tired from being up all night with a psycho parent, or can't read in high school! I teach at a upper-middle high school but people would be amazed at the types of kids we have in class. Or the things for which I am held responsible! It really gripes my butt when people compare us to other countries and point out how inferior our teachers are. First of all many countries don't educate every child, just the smart ones! (Dr. Neighbor I wasn't referring to your comment just a general observation). Second of all many of those same countries actually pay teachers a fair amount of around here. But as I said there are many wonderful things about teaching, tehy are called kids. Kids who see you in the ball park and are excited to tell you they hit a home run; kids who send you a letter from college when you encouraged them to go; kids who need someone to kick them in the pants if they fall asleep in class...I'll get off my soap box now! sorry

Anonymous said...

My son graduated from a westside Knox public school and did great. He, and most of his friends, went on to good colleges and top graduate schools. Can't comment on the public vs. private quality thing, since Knox County public schools were just fine for my son.

Anonymous said...

Please don't assume that you are getting your money's worth when paying for your children's educations! I unfortunately paid for 5 years of elementary education for my child. That ended when in her class of twelve children she was bullied by both classmates and teacher. My concerns were expressed to the authorities at the school, but nothing effective was done. As I homeschooled my child the next year I discoved, to my chagrin, that her 4th grade year was entirely wasted, developmentally and academically. I had to send the poor kid to a psychologist for almost a year to banish an anxiety disorder developed the last year of school. I also found that since the kids never had tests or were not otherwise responsible for the material, the work pretty much didn't get done. Took me a year to address those academic deficiencies, too. It paid off, though. When my kid's TCAP scores from her homeschool year with a decent liberal arts curriculum came back, scores were greatly improved-especially in math, where the score jumped from barely proficient to middle advanced. I feel great about that success, but I would love to have the money that we spent back with interest. I would love to have a child unscarred by being treated cruelly at such a young age.

katie allison granju said...

I am a huge supporter of homeschooling. I thyink it's an excellent choice for lots of families.

Anonymous said...

I would never have bought into the private school thing (and wasted thousands of dollars)if I had known what I know today.I was sold on the small class size and the protective little bubble.I feared that my child would get caught up with the wrong group of kids at the local highschool.What a huge mistake.I think that a majority of parents that sent their kids to this particular school were impressed with the "title" and some of them with the bragging rights of having a child enrolled there.Unfortunately,most of the parents were too busy trying to make the money for the ever increasing tuition and not paying enough attention to what their kids were up to.I thought I was making a good choice and I was just wrong.