Thursday, February 7, 2008

The waiting game

Is anyone tired of waiting for a school assignment? I know that it has only been a few weeks since we turned in our applications, but I'm ready.

I was talking to a girlfriend tonight about her summer plans. She hopes to move to her Mom's house with her kids so her husband can do some work on the house, "But I feel like we can't make any decisions until we know where we're going to school," she said.

Another friend of mine is renting a house and wants to move to a new rental, "But I want to wait to see where we get into school," she said. "So we can move close to it."

And then there's the money issue. I met a woman at the park who desperately needs a new car, "But we'll never be able to afford one if we go to private school, but who knows if we'll actually go to private school."

Any tips on how to deal with the waiting? I have nights when I can't sleep and I wish I could say that I sip herbal tea and relax myself with a few yoga poses but actually I end up cruising the Internet or watching The Wire until 2 a.m. Or I stuff junk food into my mouth. Or I waste water and take long hot showers. The waiting. It's a game that I don't play well.


  1. Heh, we are watching 'The Wire' as well to pass those long nights when we used to discuss the latest school visits, parse the comments on the sf k files, and try to decide between the pros and cons of public vs. private. The election coverage has also been a good time waster...

    One thing we are doing is timing our TV watching so we do not get to Season 4 of the Wire until AFTER we decide on a school. Worry that it may be too prejudicial toward public schools and color our decision.

  2. Agree it's been tough. There are too many "if x, then y, but if y, then z" scenarios running around my head. And the possibility of having to pay for private school adds to the stress and uncertainty. Will I feel rich or poor next year?

    One question my husband and I are interested in understanding from other parents is this:

    What percent of your annual household income are you willing to allocate to your child's education?

    What percent makes sense to allocate, assuming money were no object? It's an ideological question really - what is education worth to you?

    I don't think we have any answer yet - it's a little abstract - but I'll talk to him about it later and share our thoughts.

  3. The Wire rocks! Season 4 is the best, but it may not be a terrible idea to wait to watch it, not because the school it depicts bears much resemblance to our district's middle schools (really, it doesn't: I just spent the better part of Oct-Nov-Dec checking out eight of them), but because the free-floating anxiety about schools that Kate mentions might latch onto The Wire anyway. Good call, poster #1.

    Regarding percentages to allocate and all that, isn't the question more complex? X% of my single mom, 60K salary (I should probbably mention the ex-H who has no interest in paying for private as he has new little 'uns to think about, so there would be no contribution there even if I wanted it) might be different for double-income couple that makes $150K, or another single mom who makes 25K in a good year. Given costs just to live in SF at a basic level, are we talking about allocating the % of what is left over? Many of us don't have much of that, if any. I'm putting mine into retirement and college funds.

    Education is worth A LOT to me. I volunteer my time, donate to every school project and fund drive, write grants, and lately have been lobbying like crazy for Rainy Day money from the city, parcel taxes for teachers, and return to sanity in Sacramento.

    Ideologically (or pragmatically, or patriotically--or all of these and more!) I also believe that education for my neighbors' children is also very important for my future, my kids' future, my nation's future: So I choose to make my investment in public education for my kids and many others. The "We're In This Together" WITT mode versus "You're On You're Own" YOYO thing that has been mentioned before.

    Not sure how to frame any of this as a percentage of my budget either. I would be willing to pay more in taxes as well as support a reduction in the war budget to help pay for more money for schools (K-16) nationally. And so I voted, and will vote again in June and November.

  4. The waiting sucks, but it's part of all major life changes: getting a job, buying a house (at least unless the process has changed greatly since I did it), applying to college (coming soon for us), applying to private school, getting medical tests...

    Regarding the financial decision: I have an 11th-grader with college looming on the radar, and an 8th-grader; my husband is 56 and I'm 53. Oh, and my husband is employed in a rapidly dying business (newspapers -- and when our kids were little we couldn't possibly envision that the mighty San Francisco Chronicle would be in near-total collapse just a few years later). College, retirement and possible job instability loom. I cannot overstate how just plain financially ****ed we'd be now, or would be shortly, if we'd gone into debt for private school, and how quickly it would have come back to bite us!

    Maybe that's not true for everyone, but that's my view in hindsight.

  5. Education is worth a lot to me too - but the "percentage of income" question is not an idealogical one it's a red herring - Firstly it assumes you can buy it (ie the more you pay, the better it is - which is just not true), also, what if you have one kid, two kids, four kids? Do you have two incomes? Does one parent stay home, and would they return to work in order to pay for private school? Do you pay for after school care on top of school? Surely you either think it's okay to go private or you don't and if you do and you prefer it for your kids and you can afford it you go for it... Working backwards, we can afford it, do not prefer it for our kids and do not think it is a sound social choice for anyone. We will be rich next year in more ways than money, and for the 5, 10 and 15 years that follow.

  6. We are not stressing it. In fact I can't believe that in a few short weeks the letter will be here (it seems to have come around quickly to me). Caroline told us that if we stick with the process we will get a school we are happy with (I think she promised) and that is good enough for me! I try not to worry about things I have no control over and for total peace of mind we have decided that our child will not go to a school we are not happy with end of story (we will hold him back a year or move if it comes to it).

  7. I feel like just as I relaxed about how the lottery will turn out, I started stressing about how the public school budget cuts might impact the schools. Will the State actually make such drastic cuts? If so, will the City step in to make up the difference (or part of it)? And if not, how will the schools look next year? What will the cuts actually impact? I have some schools on my list (Rooftop, Claire Lillienthal, Alvarado, West Portal) that have a strong history of active parent involvement and fundraising, but some others (Fairmount, Starr King) that I fear might be more significantly impacted by any cuts in funding. I wonder if I would have made different choices had I thought more about this possibility.

  8. Good news, relatively speaking, on the budget front:

    Newsom promises $30.6 million more for schools
    Jill Tucker, Chronicle Staff Writer

    Friday, February 8, 2008

    (02-08) 13:44 PST San Francisco - --

    Mayor Gavin Newsom said he is committed to giving the San Francisco schools $30.6 million from the city's rainy day fund to prevent massive layoffs and program cuts in what is expected to be the worst budget year in memory.

    Given the governor's January budget proposals, the district meets the criteria required to qualify for the money.

    Currently the city's reserve fund holds $122 million. Newsom's proposal must be approved by the Board of Supervisors - Supervisor Tom Ammiano said he is optimistic it will pass.

    District Superintendent Carlos Garcia said money would allow the district to avoid the massive layoffs it had been planning. "Isn't it great to be in a city that believes in its children," he said.

    The announcement at Mission High School was unexpected given the mayor's position Thursday evening that it was still too premature to consider allocating money to the schools from the city's reserve.

  9. We're willing and able (luckily) to spend 10-15 percent of our annual income on education. With one stay-at-home parent and one working parent, this means we can't quite afford full private school tuition, after care and all the extras. We hope to get some assistance and plan that the stay-at-home parent will return to work sometime in the next two years. Our hope is that this percentage will decrease as our income rises. Though as Caroline points out, you never know what the future holds. It's a risk we're willing to take, assuming our kid gets into a private school we want.

    Glad that the city is going to pony up rainy day funds. Classes with 60+ kids in them would not have been good for anyone. Will the money be enough, though? Does it cover the state cuts? What are your thoughts about the state budget situation and what it means next year and into the future? Is this going to roll back the progress public schools have been making in SF and elsewhere? Surely parents can't raise enough to make up for the cuts across the board, and even if they could, this situation would create a lot of inequity in the schools here.

  10. The waiting is tough, but knowing that worrying won't affect the outcome helps. When I start to get antsy, I try to find some other outlet for this energy or at least a distraction. Calling friends who don't have kids helps because they seem to be far less likely to ask about kindergarten. I also check this blog compulsively (which, I realize, completely contradicts what I just said). Maybe it's a misery loves company type of thing, but it helps me to remember that we're mostly all in the same boat. I actually got pissed a few weeks ago when I realized that 2008 is a leap year and that we'll have to wait a WHOLE EXTRA DAY before finding out about schools. Hello, out of control! I reminded myself that 2/29's existence was prolly figured into the number of days needed between apps and decisions and that, really, one day isn't that big a deal in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes I'm so good at not thinking about the school situation, and then I have pathetic leap year meltdown moments. Sigh.

    As for the % of income we would be willing to spend on private schools, we didn't get that technical. For us as we visited private and public schools, we realized that there were very few private schools we felt merited spending anything out of pocket above what we would spend for public schools (taxes, books?, not sure what else, but def less than $20k). Then there were the two or three that we adored. I don't want to debate the whole public vs. private thing here (again), but I was very pleased at the number of public schools we liked (I came into the process thinking there was no way I could send my child to public school -- many thanks to all on this blog who helped open my eyes to the reality of just how good many of these schools are). My lingering concerns about public schools mostly have to do with how quickly the funding situation can change. Thankfully, Newsom tapped into the rainy day fund, but what happens the next time? Stupid Prop 13. (and, yes, I'm a home owner)

  11. we ... do not think [private school] is a sound social choice for anyone.

    Wow... glad you won't be turning up at my family's school then! That was easy.

  12. The schools will be okay next year. My guess is the state will pony up a bit more--this is the start of negotiations, in an election year. They'll manage something. The issue is longer-term, with a structural deficit unless they are willing to look at the revenue side. Can't improve schools with less or even the same.

    Here is something we can all do. Tom Ammiano has done a lot for our schools on the local level. He was a teacher himself; his late partner was a principal at Cesar Chavez Elementary. He is the author of Prop H that has brought arts, music, libraries and science to all the schools (beyond PTA funding). Now he has moved the mayor on the rainy day money. He was also an architect of the SF health care plan.

    Most of you probably know he is running for Mark Leno's soon-to-vacated State Assembly seat on the east side of town. Please, vote for him if you want someone in Sacramento who has education in his heart and will do something about it.

    Similarly, if you live in Daly City or San Mateo, vote for Richard Holober in the June primary. He's another one who will fight for the schools, and the kids. He's got a strong schools and consumer background.

    These votes on the state level really make a difference. We need school ADVOCATES in state government, which is the source of most of our funding.

  13. Just a word of support for all of you who are waiting - yes, it's HARD, but it inevitably does end. I was right where all of you are last year. We didn't hear the news we had been hoping when the big day finally arrived but it all worked out in the end, and we are very happy with our school. So don't get too bogged down in all of it - enjoy the beuatiful weather and your wonderful kids, and March will be here before you know it.

  14. we ... do not think [private school] is a sound social choice for anyone.

    Wow... glad you won't be turning up at my family's school then! That was easy.

    ... Of course making YOU glad is also very high up in our considerations...

    To clarify, while I do accept that private school may sometimes be the best personal choice for some families, I strongly believe that it does not benefit society in general and is therefore a poor "social" choice. This is a personal belief, an opinion...last I checked it was still okay to voice those.

  15. Today I was pondering the fact that adults under 40 or so haven't lived in a time in the U.S. when the dominant philosophy didn't focus on "low taxes and less government" -- which means bare-bones services, a neglected infrastructure, an abandoned sense of community -- as a priority.

    Being over 50, I was a young adult when that notion began to take hold, so I did watch the transformation. I never was clear what kind of society the tax-cutters envisioned -- as we've discussed, this is the WITT vs. the YOYO dilemma. I think they were just in massive denial. I just heard an interview with some residents of Minneapolis after officials there determined which flaw made that bridge collapse last summer. Some of them said that NOW they believe in paying more taxes for a stronger infrastructure, having seen the results of the alternative. (Pause here for me to restrain urge to hurl profanity at such mind-blowing, shortsighted stupidity, even if they finally got a clue.)

    Anyway, I just keep wondering if it will take a new generation to change it back -- to rise up and declare that this isn't the kind of society we want to live in. Maybe the generation now under 30 or under 40 can change the culture.

  16. Back to the waiting topic:

    I understand that the District mails the letters on Friday, March 7. Does that mean that most people receive them on Saturday, March 8th?

    Another question: The site says that we need to register at public schools between March 10th and March 21st. Do we need to rush to the school and wait in line in order to make it on the list, for example, for after school programs?

    And, if that is the case, how early in the morning do the schools open? And do the afterschool program spots fill up the same day?

    (Sigh, how do people balance these things when they work, their spouses work and/or travel, and they have multiple children?)

    So I guess in a way I'm actually dreading March!

  17. District schools have different start times (7:50, 8:40 or 9:30); you can find your assigned school's start time from the sfusd web site. You can stop by the front desk to register during the school day, but I'd recommend avoiding the morning rush, lunchtime, and dismissal time, all of which tend to be fairly hectic. I'm not sure about the waiting lists for before/after-school programs as it likely depends on the particular school.

  18. Whether or not you show up on March 10th to register at a school, you should certainly contact the after care program right away to get on their list. Sometimes (often?) the after care program is run separately from the school, so make sure to contact the program directly to enroll or get on a waiting list.

  19. Many of the schools I toured had less than 100% availability for after or before school care. The recommendations were get in early, get in quick and remember that many after care (I assume before care also) do not begin the same day that school begins in September (at least that is what I was told on several tours). So one more thing to keep in mind when drawing up our every more complicated family plans for September!

  20. Saw report on news about school budget cuts. Mom in novato complaining that her kids classsize will go from 22 kids to 30.

    I recently looked at my 1970 kindergarden photo from San Diego public school. 30 kids in that class. Everyone talks like pre-prop 13 was the good old days. There's a data point showing that class sizes were worse back then.

    What's the difference now? Unruly kids? Bad teachers? Bad parents? Why are public schools worse now?

  21. Are the schools really worse now?

    My 70's pre-prop 13 education was certainly not "enriched" by any standard. We had no art, drama, PE (other than by the classroom teacher), dance, poetry, language instruction, or any of the things my kids get now. Nor did we have a school nurse or counselor. Our class size was 25 or 26 -- which I don't remember being a big problem.

    The curriculum then was much less rigorous than my kids' public school curriculum today. If you take a look at the state curriculum standards for each grade (and now aligned with SFUSD report cards) it's pretty clear that standards have risen. My fifth grader knows perimeter and the area like the back or her hand, and has for quite some time. I wasn't even introduced to the concept until 7th grade.

    And, I was in a high-performing district!

  22. I certainly wouldn't say they are worse given what they are required to do in the face of bigger challenges

    Check out this article "Who Says Californians Aren't Getting Their Moneys Worth" taking a look a the changes and challenges of CA public education over time. This details some of the great things that are happening in the face of tough demographic and economic odds.