Since the private/independent school admissions letters have gone out, I am wondering if we can determine how well the preschools matriculated into the privates and independents. I know the private schools all say that they do not have feeder schools, but it would be interesting to know how well the various preschools did in getting their kids into kindergarten to see whether what the private schools are saying about no feeders is really accurate.
Monday, March 30, 2009
After the Immersion night with Dr. Met and the original posting about the Multilingual Master Plan, it seems that the input phase for the new Master Plan is winding down. Does anyone have any information about what will change or be added?
- Will the district combine or change the immersion and bilingual threads? Will the goal still be 1/3, 1/2, 1/3? Or 1/2 and 1/2?
- Will the FLES (enrichment) programs become more academic and a viable language acquisition pathway?
- Will extracurricular programs get a defined curriculum?
- Italian and Russian seem to have started. What languages are next? Arabic? French? Something else?
- When will the changes be made public? When will they be implemented?
This was supposed to be the last year of the lottery system as we know it (thankfully!!!). However, the same week that this year's Round One letters went out, the following note appeared on SFUSD's assignment redesign website:
“SFUSD hoped to have a new policy in place in time to prepare for the 2010-2011 enrollment process but, given the complex nature of this policy decision, it is unlikely that it will be possible to meet the necessary deadlines for a new district wide system in time for next fall’s enrollment cycle. The Board is eager to make this decision and is moving ahead as quickly as possible.”
Here are some interesting facts, for those who haven't been following this. San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) currently uses a Diversity Index/Choice assignment system. Under this system:
-almost half of all families receive none of their 7 choices in Round One and are therefore assigned to a school they didn't choose.
-the school district spends $5.3 million/year on busing (excluding special education)
-the school district's current assignment process costs over $2 million per year to implement
-this situation is getting worse - this year there were 400 additional K applications.
Consider the quote in the Civil Grand Jury report on elementary school assignment in San Francisco: “ The SFUSD's school choice process and its Diversity Index are unnecessarily complex and confusing, time consuming, alienating to the families the District purports to serve and, most damning, fail to deliver a diversified school population.”
Before you decide to flee the city or start saving for private school, also consider that SFUSD is one of the best large urban school districts in California and one of the best school districts in the Bay Area (considering scores and access to special programs).
Many parents want to stay in San Francisco and support the public school system but are fearful of the enrollment process (and if you’re not fearful, you should be!) and want some predictability. The good news is that families might not have to go through the agony of the Diversity Index/Choice system! SFUSD is in the process of redesigning the enrollment process (good news) but they are dragging their feet (bad news). If families speak up we can we can push the school district to move forward.
Here's what families can do:
The most important thing families can do is come to a public meeting this Thursday with the school district and SF Board of Supervisors. Here are the details: Thursday, April 2 at 3:30pm, City Hall Board Room
This is the best way for us to tell SFUSD that the current system is unacceptable and we want it changed! While this may be inconvenient, it's a lot less of a hassle than driving 25 minutes to/from school every day. This may be our only opportunity so it is crucial that families of SF get out and let SFUSD know that it's time to change the system.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
I've been looking through past posts, and I don't see a homeschooling hot topic. That seems like a good one, as I have questions such as:
- Who is thinking about homeschooling, and why?
- What resources are out there for homeschooling, esp. here in San Francisco?
- Are there any folks out there who are "homeschooling," but in reality making their own small school with a small number of students?
- What if you go 0/7, homeschool for Kindergarten only, and then re-tried for first grade?
Where are people wait pooling? What schools did you list? Did you lower your standards?
My name is Lauren Smith and I am a vice president on the PTA of John Muir School and also a parent of a student there. In light of the comments that I've seen recently, here and on "Turn Around John Muir," I would like to say a few things.
First, I think it's unproductive and entitled to sit around on the internet and snipe about a school real children go to-- a school my child goes to, and a school that real parents are working at-- parents whose children actually go to the school. It's offensive and publicly devalues the work people are actually doing, and gives a false sense of superiority in what the internet complainers are doing to help. (Nothing.) Storming a school and attending a meeting in a place where you are unfamiliar is really the epitome of white (middle class) privilege. In fact, so is creating a blog to "turn around" a school you haven't spent any time at. Neither anonymously commenting nor storming the meeting were or will be productive or helpful for anyone at John Muir.
As a parent of a student at John Muir, I have concerns and critiques of the school and constructive criticism to offer the staff and administration. I actually spend time at this school, know teachers, students, fellow parents, administrators, and involved community members. My critiques are real. The critiques of those who drive by the playground, look at statistics on a website and judge the demographics and neighborhood of the school are not based in reality, they're based on reactionary attitudes and for some, in prejudice. I will continue to work to better John Muir from the inside, in what I truly hope is a non-patronizing, positive way. And if anyone else is interested in working to make John Muir better, they are more than welcome to register with SF School Volunteers and come to school and get to work.
I value the space that "the SF K Files" gives to parents and community members for discussion about schools and really appreciate the way that Kate has chosen to give space for discussion about John Muir without participating in the snark.
Folks who complain about things on the internet lose sight of the impact of their words. They're shielded by their homes and computer screens from the consequences those words inflict on others. Some staff and parents at John Muir feel like the school is under siege. The things that people have said on the internet have created an incredible amount of stress for many of the people who are working at John Muir. Some of the criticism directed at the school might actually be valid, but it is lost in the mire of disgusting classist comments and race baiting.
On "Turn Around John Muir" I see a lot of comments about the imbalance of ethnic groups at John Muir. First of all, The entire San Francisco Unified School District has a huge problem with racially segregated schools. This almost ALWAYS happens at the disadvantage of students of color. God forbid somebody's white kid should be the one who has to be different; God forbid your child should have to experience something that children of color have been experiencing in predominantly white schools for oh, well- ever. It smacks of white entitlement that people are actually demanding the SFUSD to increase the number of white students coming into John Muir next year. I'm sure if you make a bunch of demands on your blog, other people's blogs, and in emails to the school district that there will be BIG CHANGE following. It seems that whenever white people get all up in a tizzy about "demographics" the people that suffer well, they aren't white. So this line of "action" deeply concerns me.
I feel slightly ill about the fact that that I am afraid to write the above without adding that I am a white, working class parent, because I know that doing so will calm fears of "reverse racism" because of my white privilege and working class status.
I sincerely hope that the parents of incoming kindergarten students at John Muir this fall will be more respectful and humble than what I have seen on "the SF K Files" and "Turn Around John Muir." Otherwise we will end up with a lot of unproductive conflict in the coming school years.
Can you ask the question on your blog is anyone has heard of a school adding an additional class. It looks like Clarendon JPPB added one last year and that would make a big difference in the waitpool!
As you know the kindergarten process wrapped up this week for private schools. My wife and I spent quite a bit of time discussing our options before selecting the best fit for our daughter. I was surprised by how much the admissions director / process at the schools influenced our view of the school (and our desire to attend). Some of the admissions directors were respectful and responsive while others were absent and/or incompitent.As we polled our friends we noticed a fairly consistent view of the best and worst processes (independent of where particular families were admitted). I'd love to see you post and invite parents to share their thoughts on the best and worst admissions programs in San Francisco.For what it's worth the process as a whole treated us quite well and we're very happy with where we ended up. But I do feel that your blog could hold the admissions departments accountable by inviting parents to post their views on the best and worst. The independent schools in the city have to be held to a high standard given the amount of effort parents put into the process.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
We are out 0/7 in Round I for kindergarten and are expanding our horizons for Round II. We found a lot of high performing schools in the NE corner of the city- Spring Valley, Jean Parker, Garfield, Gordon Lau, etc but little online about them from parent reviews or information about PTA etc. When we drove by there, yes its filled with tourists but maybe something worth knowing more about since the schools are good. Main concern is how family friendly these areas are? Can this be a hot topic? I would like to know more about these schools, who goes there, where do those families live in and if anyone is thinking of these schools? Luckily we rent now and can move to be closer to a school.
Sunday, March 22
2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Presidio Middle School
A 52-piece orchestra of S.F. public school students joins forces with Morgan Taylor, the creator of the well-loved animated sun drop Gustafer Yellowgold. Together the students and Taylor bring the adorable character to life through catchy story songs.
Proceeds from the concerts benefit the Summer Music Workshop, a free summer music enrichment program for fourth through 11th grade band, orchestra, and chorus students enrolled in SFUSD public schools.
I am curious what preschools people got into. We got rejected by MCH, Peter's Place, 150 Parker. No response from Calvary, Little Gators.
Friday, March 20, 2009
I've been reading all the sturm und drang on the blog and people are making some very good points about the need for more data points to improve the transparency of our system. I wonder - could you start a thread asking people to post questions they would MOST like EPC to answer? Here are mine: What was the % of FIRST TIME (non-sibling) applicants who got one of their choices? What is the number of Cantonese-speakers applying for K vs. number of seats available (excluding new DeAvila program)? My intent is to develop a "top ten" questions list and try to advocate within the district for that data to be released.
Would you start a topic on the counseling session that happen last night? I couldnt make it since it's pretty late in the night (my bambino get tucks in at 7) I am 0/7 round 1. It would be nice if someone who when last night could share some info.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
I'd like to suggest a topic for the blog that is really time-sensitive since school budgets are being proposed next week and, I believe, submitted to the district on April 2nd.
While budgets are always in flux to some extent (money for XYZ is gone today, back tomorrow), I'm mostly interested in understanding the role of the SSC, the Principal and parents in the process of evaluating the appropriate allocation of resources for a school. As a parent of a school whose demographic is shifting dramatically due to the introduction of an immersion program, the forces of "old" and the forces of "new" are not entirely in-sync. What is the right approach for parents to make sure their voices are heard? How does the SSC operate in other schools around budget issues?
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
My husband and I are renters because we can't afford the home prices
in S.F. We're OK with that, and one advantage is that we aren't tied
to any particular neighborhood. We were lucky enough to get Grattan in
our first round (still stunned) and plan to move to Cole Valley next
year to be close to the school. Are there any other S.F. families who
plan to move once they know where their children's school will be?
How about a topic where people can list the upcoming events for their school... could be a boon to incoming and prospective parents. I know McKinley has Dogfest coming up, Paul Revere is having a greening event and other things to welcome new families. If they were all listed under one topic, they might be easier to find. Any thoughts?
Did you apply to a Mandarin Immersion school in Round I and not get in? Try again in Round II- here's why.
(If your child is Mandarin-speaking and didn't get it, it's a glitch that can be fixed and you should get a slot. Neither school filled its Mandarin Kindergarten seats, so any Mandarin-speaking child *should* have gotten in. If your child didn't, contact the school, the district or the Mandarin Immersion Parents Council and we'll get it dealt with. We've already seen two children for whom this was the case and they've been able to quickly clear it up with the placement office.)
In Round 2 the computer checks for Mandarin speaking students that have applied to Starr King or Jose Ortega first and those students get in.
Any available slots left then go to children who speak English or other languages.
So there are in excess of 20 seats still open at both schools.
Because waitlist schools are run before the Round Two lists, families who really want Starr King or Jose Ortega should make it their waitlist school, not just put it on their Round Two list.
If you have more questions, call the school or contact the Mandarin Immersion Parents Council.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I am interested in learning how the private school admission process in the Bay Area went this year and whether it was a better year for admits due to the economy. Any tips for getting off the waiting lists? Do you mind not using my name or email if you choose to post the question?
Received 0 for 7, assigned to John Muir; can see Alvarado from my house (grrrr!). So I am reading with interest the posts about improving schools and affecting a turn-around, and I see a common thread -- good principal. I would love to hear specifics about what makes a good principal. What metrics do parents use to judge the effectiveness of a school principal? How do I find stats on things like teacher tenure?
Any chance you could start a new thread on how to approach round 2 to increase our chances of actually getting a school plus explain the whole "go down to the office and get a couselor"? There were several helpful comments under the "Round I Letters," (back when there were only 400 comments!) Now there are over 1000 comments, so it's hard to pull out the comments that pertain to how to tackle Round 2 to increase our chances of actually getting a school.
Monday, March 16, 2009
This is Jeremy Anderson. I have been on your site very actively for the last few weeks and recently found out that I was one of the parents who was given John Muir. I created a separate blog site since there a lot of discussion going on about those of us that felt like we were given a bad deal. I felt that there was enough goodwill expressed by all the bloggers to suggest that we could get a group of committed people together a turn this school around.
I have had a fair amount of traffic, but was wondering if you could start a new thread directing the John Muir folks to this site? There were over 900 posts on the Round One letters string and it was really difficult to search for the John Muir people. The site is http://changejohnmuir.
Thanks for all the wonderful work you have done in regards to creating an outlet for concerned city parents. We are feeling the same emotional tough of war that you went through last year. I would love to see my neighborhood school turnaround and I am willing to invest my time right now to rallying support.
I have a favor to ask.here's the background: I am one of the de Avila parents (assigned after getting 0/7) and while excited about the possibilities, am anxious and stressed about the prospects and challenges of ramping up a new school.I started a google group on Saturday evening for de Avila prospective parents and posted it to your blog (under Round 1 letters). We have about 15 people actively engaging and sharing information, and have already surfaced & discussed some really important issues - it's been great. A few of us were able to grab some time to meet this Friday and are compiling a list of key questions we'd like SFUSD to address on march 23 (the day of the info session with all the parents). Someone from SFUSD and PPS-SF may even be there at this "pre-meeting."We are anxious to get as many people informed and aware of the group as possible so we have a broader base of discussion & folks are simply more aware of the issues.So here's the favor/request...could you post a new/separate post that lets people know this group exists? That way it'll be upfront and we'll hopefully be able to get a few more folks in the group/include their thoughts esp before the Monday meeting (where we will announce and hopefully get everyone who's interested to join). I fear that now the original posting I made (and someone posted a few subsequent ones) are now lost in the 950+ comments.I will also ask SFUSD to promote this, but am not sure how that will work out...the group URL is: http://groups.google.com/
group/de-avila-potential- parentsright now, anyone can join and participate (just need to have or create a google account).thanks so much - Nancy
Every once in a while, parents post about how they started at an unpopular school, and were able to turn it around into a popular school - Miraloma being the most cited example.
The reasons most often cited include: existing good/great principal and teachers, parent involvement, etc.
I feel this is good news, but it makes me wanting more—the complete picture.
* What are the ingredients of success for creating a "popular" school, out of an "unpopular" school? Is it a simple matter of parent involvement, or does it matter what kind of families (with different kinds of cultural or educational values) participate?
* How to achieve each necessary ingredient? In some cases, you have no control right? If the principal or teachers are not motivated, there's not much you can do, right? What are the necessary steps of the process and how long does it realistically take?
* Why does it work? My biggest question is, how does something as seemingly simple as parent involvement translate into a 600/700's school turning into an upper 800's school?
Perhaps, if we discuss this topic, this can provide valuable information for those contemplating their assignments at John Muir and DeAvila.
"I've been pouring over the "round I letters" post the past two days and wonder if you might make a separate post for people who entered the lottery for 1st -5th grade. My impression is no one got a 1st grade lottery pick this round, but I'd love to have a smaller forum (maybe really small, the past 1st grade forums have tended to get hijacked into other kindergarten matters) to check that out!"
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Friday, March 13, 2009
Due to the high demand for the Chinese immersion programs presently offered, SFUSD is opening a Cantonese dual language immersion program to be located at 1351 Haight Street, site of the former DeAvila Elementary School.
The school will open in August 2009 with three Kindergarten and two 1st grade classes and will increase by one grade each year until it has a full K-5 program.
The goal of this dual immersion program is to provide students the opportunity to become fully bilingual and biliterate in Cantonese and English. In upper grades, students will begin the
study of Mandarin. The program is designed for students who are English speakers, Cantonese speakers or bilingual.
Informational meeting about the new school: Monday, March 23, 6:30 p.m. at Grattan Elementary School, 165 Grattan Street. This meeting is open to all families who have been offered an assignment and to families who may be interested in more information. The meeting will include options for the post-Round 1 process, including wait pool information and appeals.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Which grade level class sizes will be expanded?
Due to the increase in kindergarten applications, and the limitations posed by the present budget situation, it will be necessary to expand class size in Kindergarten from 20 to 22 students. It may also be necessary to expand class size in grades 1-3. We will make that determination for Round 2 assignments, and during the summer, as new families may request spots in these grades. State funding for smaller English and Math classes in the 9th grade was cut leading to the possibility increasing these class sizes as well.
Which schools will see class sizes expanded?
Every elementary school will receive assignments of 22 students in Kindergarten, except for a small handful of schools that are required to keep their class sizes to 20 because of their participation in QEIA (Quality Education Investment Act), a state grant program.
Will the district lose state funds for expanding class sizes?
SFUSD receives some funding from the state to keep class size at 20 in Kindergarten through 3rd grade. However, the savings created by increasing class size far exceeds the small penalty for exceeding 20 students per class.
Is SFUSD opening more Kindergarten classrooms?
SFUSD is looking at opening more new kindergarten classrooms. Some schools have already added classrooms to accommodate this year’s growth in demand for Kindergarten. However, most elementary schools are fully utilized and there is no space to expand due to fire safety rules requiring Kindergarten classes be located on the ground floor of the building.
Starr King Elementary School, on top of Potrero hill, has several openings in its 3rd grade Mandarin Immersion program for Fall 2009.
This would be an excellent opportunity for children who come from families where Mandarin is spoken in the home, or who have been attending Chinese school.
There may also be a limited number of first grade (at Jose Ortega) and first and second grade (at Starr King) slots available as well.
Children joining in immersion programs after first grade will be tested for language competency by the San Francisco Unified School District's Educational Placement Office.
If you have questions about the Mandarin Immersion Program, feel free to contact Beth Weise, the president of the Mandarin Immersion Parents Council at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information about testing in, you'll need to contact the District's Educational Placement Center.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I'm among the anxious crew of parents counting the days until we receive our Round I decision letter for K from SFUSD. In today's Chronicle article on the district decision to increase K enrollment to 22, I found this tidbit at the end intriguing and hopeful:
"District officials are considering reopening a school by this fall - something unheard of even a year or two ago when declining enrollment meant empty classrooms and possible school closures.
Garcia said the former De Avila Elementary School at 1351 Haight St. is one option. The site had been leased to City College in the past. 'It's in a very central place for us," he said, adding that a new school could offer unique or in-demand programs that families would want.'"
This seems like a great idea for a new discussion thread on your kfiles blog. E.g., Does anyone know more about this? On what basis will the district make this decision? It sounds like a great possibility to me so how can we best advocate for it/try to shape it? Another close-to-us Spanish immersion program would be music to my ears and to those of many families I know from the neighborhood!
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
With 362 pink slips for San Francisco teachers in the mail, Mayor Gavin Newsom vowed today to give schools $23 million from the city's Rainy Day fund, doubling the amount he previously promised.To read the full story, click here.
The district sent the layoff notices Monday by certified mail. School officials said the money would help save nearly 300 jobs, if not more.
The Board of Supervisors is expected to also support the allocation.
Once the district gets that in writing, it can rescind most if not all those pink slips, said school Superintendent Carlos Garcia. "We're really concerned about the impact it has on morale."
When: Tuesday, March 10 / 5:45 p.m.
Where: Irving G. Breyer Board Room / 555 Franklin Street
Who: Superintendent Carlos Garcia and SF Board of Education President Kim-Shree Maufus
Why: SFUSD recently announced that it would send out pink slips to teachers, principals and paraprofessionals due to the $51 million budget shortfall in mid-year and 09-10 school year cuts.
The $23 million is 25 percent of $92 million currently in the fund. The school district is eligible for up to 25 percent of the total if two conditions are met: The school district must be getting less money per pupil from the state when adjusted for inflation and must be facing significant teacher layoffs.
The rainy day fund was created in 2003, when voters passed Proposition G. It requires the city to save revenue above 5% growth year over year, during good economic times.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Ad Hoc Committee on Student Assignment
Monday, March 9, 2009
Dr. Charles Drew Academy
50 Pomona Avenue (at Bay View Street, near 3rd Street)
San Francisco, CA 94124
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Dr. Myriam Met, an international speaker and educator, is a renowned expert on foreign language programs with an emphasis on immersion programs.
- How fluent do students become?
- Does a second language come at a cost?
- How do programs in other states compare with SFUSD immersion programs?
- What can parents do to support their children in immersion?
These questions and more will be addressed by Dr. Met at an exclusive Immersion Night for SFUSD parents and teachers.
Monday, March 16, 2009 - 6:00-7:30pm James Lick Middle School
1220 Noe Street, 25th Street and Noe Street
About Dr. Myriam Met:
Dr. Myriam Met is the former Director and Senior Researcher of the National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland. Her previous positions include supervisor of foreign language programs and bilingual education for major urban school districts, including responsibility for designing, implementing, and supervising a variety immersion program models.
J-Church to Clipper & Church Streets, #48 to 24th & Noe Streets, #24 Divisadero to 25th & Castro Streets
For Translation into Spanish and Chinese:
Please RSVP to Ling Chen at
- The SFUSD Multilingual Education Program
- SF/AME (SF Advocates for Multilingual Excellence)
- Mandarin Immersion Parents Council
A generous grant from the Mayor's Office
Call 241-6053 or email
NOTE: LIMITED CHILDCARE SPACE AVAILABLE. FIRST COME, FIRST SERVED.
For more information:
SFUSD Kindergarten Applicants Survey
I am conducting a research study examining SFUSD school choice for
families with children eligible for 2009-2010 kindergarten enrollment.
This study will be examining the role of culture on the
decision-making process. Our study asks primary caregivers of
kindergarten applicants to complete a survey. The survey will take
approximately 20-minutes to complete.
I am recruiting participants who meet the following eligibility requirements:
1) must be at least 18 years of age, and
2) the parent or guardian of at least one child eligible for
kindergarten enrollment in the San Francisco Unified School District
(SFUSD) for the 2009-2010 school year.
To be screened for eligibility, please visit:
Once you are determined to be eligible, you will be prompted to begin
the first portion of the school choice survey. You may complete the
survey at your convenience.
All the information you provide will remain confidential and the
questionnaires will be identified through the use of identification
numbers, not names. Upon completion of the study, all survey will be
destroyed and in no way will your participation in this study affect
the outcomes of your kindergartner's school assignment. I am
conducting a research study in an attempt to understand the
decision-making process for parents of SFUSD kindergarten applicants.
I hope you will participate.
If you have any questions, please contact me, Kathryn Riel, by e-mail
at email@example.com. I will be happy to answer any questions you may
San Francisco State University
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
The round one letters go out in two weeks and I'm already cracking a little from the strain. I am assault-eating Girl Scout Cookies and occasionally laughing maniacally for no reason. But seriously, how is everyone coping with the stress as we come down to the wire?
The latest Castro Courier (neighborhood newspaper, the latest issue is not online yet) has an article about a new school at 117 diamond (the old SF Friends School.) It's a spin-off of Marin Day School (preschool/day care owned by Bright Horizons) and called Marin Preparatory School.
Here's a link with more information:
I thought you might be interested.
"I am curious if people felt their preschool helped them get into private school. Which preschools were more helpful and which were least helpful?
It seems like there is an insane amount of sibling in the 2 and 3s class of preschool this year."
Sunday, March 1, 2009
In California, a 1996 law provided schools with an extra $1,000 in state money for every student in the earliest grades whose classes had 20 or fewer students. The state quickly hired 28,000 new teachers, but many of them lacked experience or education credentials; a 2002 study by the Public Policy Institute of California found that the best-qualified teachers fled poorer urban schools as the extra funds created jobs in wealthier areas, and that children who were in smaller third-grade classes did not have higher scores on fifth-grade tests.
CAROLINE HALL was supposed to sign the contract a month ago guaranteeing a kindergarten spot for her son at an Upper East Side private school. He had already spent two happy years attending its early-childhood program.
But Ms. Hall, a corporate counsel, began ducking the school’s calls. Where was her deposit toward the $22,000 tuition? The school had an eager waiting list.
Her son, 4, knew the answer: “I can’t go here next year because Mommy didn’t get a big enough bonus.”
An annual rite is well under way, as families around the country receive their private-school renewal contracts or acceptance letters. In conventional years, grumbling over tuition aside, their outgoing mail would include signed forms and a registration fee.
This year’s hand-wringing over tuition might be dismissed as the latest hardship for the patrician class, which, like everyone else, can simply educate its young in the public system. But of the more than three million families with at least one child in private school, according to the 2005 census, almost two million of them have a household income of less than $100,000. According to a Department of Education survey, in 2003-4, the median annual tuition of nonsectarian schools was $8,200; for Catholic schools, $3,000.
So for every family that pays $30,000 and up to attend elite schools in Manhattan, thousands more will pay tuitions closer to $2,700 — next year’s cost for St. Agnes Catholic School in Roeland Park, Kan.
To many parents who step outside the public system, an independent or parochial school is not a luxury but a near necessity, the school itself a marker of educational values, religious identity, social standing or class aspirations. Whether tuition payments to the country’s 29,000 private schools are made easily or with sacrifice, many parents see the writing of those checks as a bedrock definition of doing the best by their children.
But this year, even as realistic qualms about employment, savings accounts and tuition increases stay their check-writing hand, parents across the economic spectrum feel guilty about somehow failing their children. Which priorities should shift?
“We’re finding that people are setting a higher bar for private schools this year,” said Roxana Reid of Smart City Kids, an admissions consulting firm in New York City. “In the past, any school would do as long as it was private. But now they’re saying, ‘Let me take a second and third look at my local public school options.’ ”
How many private-school students will make the switch to public school will not be known for months. In past recessions, enrollments in independent schools remained stable, according to the National Association of Independent Schools, which represents 1,400 institutions with a median first-grade tuition last year of $14,640. But it may be different this year. Smart Tuition, a New York-based firm that handles payments for some 2,000 private schools across the country, said that by mid school year, 7 percent of families had already dropped out, double from last year. And administrators, financial aid counselors and parents themselves say many families have been questioning for the first time their ability to pay for private school — and what to do if they cannot.