When the family budget started feeling the recession's pinch last year, Angela Allyn and her photographer husband, Matt Dinnerstein, pulled their three kids out of Chicago-area private schools and enrolled them in Evanston, Ill., public schools.
It has been a challenging transition: Maya, 16, now a high school sophomore, "doesn't like crowds — and her high school is as big as a small college," her mother says. Though Maya is learning a lot in the "amazing" science program, she's also hoping to leave the crowds behind by doubling up on coursework, graduating by the end of junior year "and then going and doing interesting things," Allyn says. Her younger children face their own challenges, from bullying to sheer boredom.
The transition also has been an education for Maya's parents, who say they had "no choice" in the struggling economy but to switch to public schools.
They're saving about $20,000 a year in tuition, but like many former private-school families, they're coming face-to-face with larger class sizes and the public school bureaucracy as they push to get services for their children.
"We ask a lot of questions — we follow up on things," says Allyn, a former professional dancer who's the cultural arts coordinator for the city of Evanston. "We contact the school board. ... We'll challenge teachers, we'll challenge coordinators. My kids are mortified because they don't want to be singled out."
It's too early to tell whether the recession has had a profound effect on public schools' educational mission. But parents and educators across the nation say it's already bringing subtle changes to the culture of many public schools as some families seek the personal attention they received from private schools.
Private-school parents typically find that the structure of public schools takes some getting used to. In most states, funding for public schools is calculated on a per-student basis, based on average student counts during the first few weeks of the school year. If a student drops out after 40 days, the funding that student generated stays with the school — even if he or she does not return to that campus.
Private schools, on the other hand, risk losing tuition payments once a student leaves.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
USA Today: Recession fuels shift from private to public schools
An excerpt from a USA Today story:
Labels: Public vs. private
Posted by Kate