Private School Tuition Is My Albatross

09.29.09


My kids are in a private school.

My kids aren’t in private school because I believe so deeply in a tiered education system, or because I think they’re too gifted/talented/smart/special to be in school with the general population. We actually bought our home in part for the local school. My children are in private school because The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is a colossal failure. We didn’t opt for private school when we found out that there was no art education or PE, we knew there would be none of that, but we also knew that we’d be able to afford to supplement those activities.

We put our son in private school when his kindergarten teacher refused to help him clean his glasses after lunch without an IEP. An IEP is an Individual Education Plan, and it’s available to children with special needs. I understand that technically wearing glasses is a special need. I simply could not start my son’s academic career with with a teacher who didn’t feel like she was on his team.

After moving both kids to private school I realized that they really do deserve it. The classrooms are spectacular, and it’s nice that they have brand new computers and smart boards, but they have something even richer. My kids have amazing teachers who love learning, teaching and who revere and respect childhood. My kids also have a peer group that will elevate them. Everything else is truly a bonus.

I try to keep this in mind when as my husband travels the world, and asks why we don’t take European vacations with the kids. “They go to private school.” I reply. He doesn’t seem to understand it, as his trips are planned by his assistant at work or by me at home. We don’t have $15,000 for a family of four to have a nice time in Milan or in London. I guess we would if we lived more modestly in other ways, but the big expense is school.

I try to not resent it, and for the most part I’m grateful that my children were accepted there. Sometimes I look at the quality of their work and just pinch myself. I went to Chadwick, my husband went to a school of the same caliber, we both understand the import of rigor, and that a good education is the one and only gift we can give our children that no one can take away. Ever.

Still, I feel a little overwhelmed when I see other families who don’t pay for school, and seem to have a lot more expendable income. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being jealous, but I know this is the right thing for our kids.

This post was inspired in part by this expose by the LA Weekly.

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18 responses to “Private School Tuition Is My Albatross”

  1. April says:

    These days, I’m resentful of colleagues that don’t have to wake up kids in the morning before work!
    It will all pay off when your kids rule the world and pay for your European vacations :)

  2. Lolita says:

    We moved into a neighborhood because the public school is revered as one of the best in LA. I moved my boys to private school — which is a struggle to afford — because the public school failed to meet even my basic expectations. That, and because my 2nd grader was being severely bullied…and his teacher had no idea. And it was happening in her classroom — not off on the playground where it might be overlooked.

    I love our new school, I love the education and care they’re getting at their new school. I hate that our public school can’t provide the same though.

  3. My second grader goes to a public school in West Virginia — you know the reputation — and I have been thrilled with his education. His vocabulary words are too hard in my opinion (versatile, prevail, persnickety), and he is reading almost three grades ahead, in large part because of the individual attention given in his small classroom. We’re lucky that the school partners with the local university and has extra student teachers in all of the rooms. I think each parent has to make a choice about what’s best for the particular child. This works for us!

  4. igster101 says:

    If I could find a decent private school, and afford it, my kids would go in a heartbeat. The public schools here are abysmal.

  5. HaB says:

    My husband and I chose where we live because of the school district. It’s the same school district that I went thru, my sister went thru, our mom went thru. People spend years trying to buy property where we are just for our school. I feel blessed and thankful that I have such a place to send my daughter when the time comes.

    But, on the other side of this – I can’t help but be a bit jealous of your ability to afford private school – albeit that its still a sacrifice for your family. And, from this stems a question – perhaps IF private school was NOT an option – bottom line you just could NOT afford it – wouldn’t you have shifted your energy and your focus into making your public school options better? And, maybe if you stop and think about it, for just a minute, that, perhaps if more people took their time and energies and focused on making their public schools better, there would be no need for private schools and elitist social standards that often times come with them? Maybe it’s time to hold our public schools to a higher standards instead of just taking the easy way out, pushing family budgets to the max and sending kids to private school.

    Just a thought…

    • Those are fair questions, and certainly ones I’ve thought through.

      My answer to you is that I would work the graveyard shift flipping burgers if it meant that my kids could get the best possible education. I would love our schools to be better, most selfishly because my home would be worth more.

      I was unwilling to start my children’s academic careers with a battle. I promise you, this was not the easy way out, this was what is/was best for my children.

  6. melissa says:

    i WISH i could afford to send my children to private school.
    michigan school districts, across the board, just cut the budget 218 bucks per child for this year. it’s supposed to be cut even more next year.
    i feel like my children are getting a piss poor education in the district we moved to under the misguided impression that it was a pretty good education here.
    i could go on and on.
    i kind of have to agree with HaB though.
    darn you, i’m going to have to post about this tomorrow.

  7. Jack says:

    We send our kids to private school and it is the dumbest/smartest thing we have done for them.

    It is an incredible financial burden that never leaves my mind. Many of their friends come from families who could hang out with the Trumps and Gates and never notice.

    That is not us. At times it has been irritating and it is the reason why I won’t be retiring for decades.

    But I love what they are getting out of it. I love the smartboards.I love the personal attention and the access to things that LAUSD doesn’t offer.

    We’ll keep this up for as long as we can. One day they may go to public school, but the sacrifice has been worth it.

  8. Beth says:

    We’ve decided to homeschool. I went through the school system in the county we live; my husband went through the private school system in this same county. We’ve come to realize that we can’t, in good conscience, put our children in either one. We just can’t do it.

    We’ll focus our energies on educating them in the ways that make the most sense to us. I completely understand your decision and am glad you were able to make it and that your private schools are, um, better than ours :).

    • sam says:

      Interesting story. My kid’s mother attended public schools while my schooling was private, christian school. Our experiences also led us to decide to homeschool.

  9. Ashley says:

    I could have written this post. We gave our public school a chance for one year, and it was really a disaster for our child. The other kids were fine; she cried every single day. We absolutely love the school we’re in now, and it meshes perfectly with my pedagogical beliefs. But still, the money. I keep telling myself that it will be worth it… it IS worth it. Your words will be my new mantra — no one will ever be able to take their education away from them. No one — not ever.

  10. Allyson/ @HBMomof2 says:

    I feel your pain. My daughter is in private school and every fall my husband and I have the discussion: Can we continue to afford to do this? We end up saying yes, only to be stressed with the financial aspect monthly, but we always find the money to pay for it. It is that important to us, but Europe sounds good too. I have great envy for my friends who have kids in public school who just got new vehicles or back from their 5th vacation of the year, but I know that the pay off for me will come later. I have kind, great kids who deserve this.

  11. Preston says:

    I understand it is a struggle to send your kids to a private school but there are so many of us who struggle just with the daily bills so private school is no option at all. Where I live, the public school systems are pretty darn good so private schooling never seemed like an urgent option. I’m sure my daughter would have gotten a better education at a private school, but she got a pretty good one from our local school. But go two towns over and the school system there is a disaster. I think our country has a history of ignoring the public schools. No one seems concerned about them unless they have children in them. And it’s not just the poorer communities that are suffering. When it comes to paying for things for schools, it means higher taxes and voters often vote that down. I’ve often heard things like, “Why should I pay for that? I don’t have any children in school?” The whole national mindset about education has to be changed and, unfortunately, I believe it all comes down to the mighty dollar. It’s very sad.

    In your case, your children should be the most important things to you and you are doing the right thing for them. So what if you don’t make it to Milan for a family vacation? You’ll get much more satisfaction from knowing that you gave your children the best start in life possible, which is so much better then fading memories of a distant vacation.

  12. Zoey says:

    I went to public school in Australia – I’m not sure how the two countries compare. And yes, sometimes that led to less than ideal circumstances – such as a history teacher attempting to teach us physics (very ill advised). But even that has its advantages – I learnt that yes I could teach myself physics from the text book. It taught me to be self-driven. That being said many of my teachers were inspiring and passionate about what they did. And I can honestly say that my English teacher enriched my life and altered my life path along the way.

    I did come across some private school educated people when I was at University who really struggled. Not because they weren’t smart but because they had always been given the benefit of so many resources, attentive teachers, and even in some cases had been really pushed by teachers on an ongoing basis. So when they arrived at University and all of a sudden it was just them, they lacked the self-drive and motivation to do well. Although to be fair that may be more a matter of personality than private education.

    But I guess my point is that adversity can be a gift as well.

  13. Miss Grace says:

    Jessica I don’t want you to take this as a Judgy McJudgerson comment, because that’s not my intent (indeed, I went to private school grades 10-12 cuz my mom felt public school was failing me (and she was right)), but all the same it’s hard for me be sympathetic with your plight when I’m still trapped in this headache-filled paycheck-to-paycheck single motherhood world.
    Your children are getting a wonderful education, and it sounds like you’ve evaluated your priorities and chosen that over the European vacation.

  14. Carley says:

    I know what it’s like to move to a LA neighborhood with a “good” public school, only to tour it for Kindergarten and be saddened by the lack of resources and enthusiasm within. As much as we wanted to support the public school system and attend, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to compromise our kid’s education. I think “colossal failure” is an understatement. These are tough choices we have to make, and it’s sad that we’re put in this position by the LAUSD that can’t provide the simplest and most basic tenets of a solid education to our kids. The lack of creative arts… the labelling and boxing and testing and medicating… don’t get me started! (I guess I started.)

  15. mrspop says:

    Sorry. Everytime I hear about “Chadwick,” I cannot help but think of the scenes from Mommie Dearest and start quoting them in my mind…

    Yes, I’m extremely immature.

    But seriously, you did the responsible thing regarding taking control of your children’s education. Some public schools are great (I adore my son’s school, staff, teachers, other parents, etc.) and some are crap.

    • we used to go down into the basement where the yearbook room was to look at pictures of Christina Crawford. Little did we know, we were dripping with infinitely more famous children than she’d ever been.

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