Monday, February 15, 2010

Hot topic: With SFUSD budget cuts will more families go private?

This from a reader:

We applied to public and private and in light of all the budget cuts, I'm a little worried about public. could you start a hot topic that would be about how parents are feeling about private schools and how the process went this year? I know a lot of parents gearing up to do public and private for next year and I know I could learn a lot from other parents and offer some tips also I do not know anything about what happens march 18, or whenever we hear if we get in anywhere and I'd love some perspective on that and how it works. Thanks so much for your great blog.


  1. We only applied to one parochial school but now, with the recent budget cuts, we are definitely hoping we'll get in. Not looking at public in the same was as before, which is a bummer.

  2. Yes, and no.

    I would think that many former would be private school families are considering an exit from the state altogether.

    My observations in this regard are based on a recent New York Times article:

    Report Warns Silicon Valley Could Lose Its Edge:

  3. We keep thinking we'll leave our private and go to public to save money. But each year we are there, the more and more worth it the 15K per kid (we have two in private) is looking. With just 13 kids in my son's 2nd grade class, that seems like money well spent. I can't imagine 4th and 5th grade classes with 35 kids, and that's why we keep paying for private and just living very simply so we can afford it. (No car loan, renting, eating out very infrequently etc.) We'll probably do private through 5th grade and then move to a suburb with good middle and high schools. I've really come to see how crucial it is to have an outstanding educational environment, worth more than anything in the world to us. Before I was so wedded to living in the city! now, if i have to, I will move wherever the schools are best for the sake of my kids.

  4. You have to do what you think is best for your kids, 2:03. But don't you wonder if you'll rethink your wisdom when you're looking at your empty college fund and retirement nest egg -- and discovering that the kids who went public are actually just as well educated as yours if you control for parent education and income?

  5. Where is tuition $15,000/year? I thougth going rate was over $20,000.

  6. 2:51 - Oh no, we'd never do private if we couldn't save for retirement or college! We sock away for both -- over 35% of our income in retirement funds each year and 20K a year for college, often more. To make private work, both my husband and I do have to work. I like picking my kids up at school, so I run my own business to maintain flexibility, but I do work a lot (working today for example). The real financial disaster for us would have been if I had been a SAHM. I thought about doing that, but glad we did not choose to. Many of our friends who chose that route are hurting financially now, as 7-8 years after their kids were born, they are still living on one income. Everyone makes different financial choices...

  7. 2:56 - I don't want to say which private school we attend because people will find some way to bash it! But tuition is 17k and we get a small scholarship as well as sibling discount. I believe there are several private schools in this range.

  8. SF public schools have improved considerably over the past 10 years, so the funding problems are a real shame.

    We have one son in an independent school (a K-8), and the other two have been in a good public school close to home (not a Clarendon/ trophy school, but excellent).

    We feel our public school kids have received an education on par with our son's situation (better in some ways; worse in others), and the cost advantage has been a boon (we've been taking summer vacations overseas with the money saved from tuition outlays).

    But these funding difficulties may make us consider independent high schools for all three.

  9. Can anyone else list schools with tuitions lower than $20,000? Or those with sibling discounts? I was under impression that nonparochial schools did not offer discounts.

  10. "Can anyone else list schools with tuitions lower than $20,000? "

    The Lycee Francais La Perouse, Stratford School and

    The Lycee and Stratford have add on afterschool and Fall and Spring break options that you can opt into or out of. Opting out can lower your costs by several thousand dollars a year.

  11. Around 15k a year when we looked two years ago: Katherine Micheals, Lycee La Perouse, Synergy, Adda Clevenger. They all had sibling discounts, I believe. Those are the only ones we looked at, there may be others in that range.

  12. There is also Hillwood Academic Day School -- $700 a month for 7:30am to 6pm and including lunch, and also a month-long summer camp for the same price in the woods in Marin. Our friends go there and love it.

  13. I'd love to hear more from people with kids currently in public school. Is this most recent round of cuts (and the build up from those before) making you reconsider keeping your kids in public, or not...maybe it's making you more determined to save/revive/help out/contribute/whatever verb works at your child(s) school?

    I ask as those with kids actually in school can have a slightly different perspective from those looking in, and anticipating enrollment of their kids in school....

  14. As a family who had financial options: Can't say for the future, but for now our public, Grattan, is great. We'll likely go private after 5th grade, but we're quite happy now.

  15. IMHO, there is no comparison btwn public and private schools. That is not to say you cannot get a good or even excellent education at a public school. The private schools teacher to student ratio, which will now be close to 3:1 over that of the public schools is what has up hoping we will be in a private school next year. A class of 25 4-6 year old kids, I cannot even imagine for our child. I hear teachers saying the same thing in public schools...they are tapped already and there is no end in sight.

  16. Hey 5:52....the one mildly good thing about being in the middle of flu/cold season is that your kid's class rarely has all the kids in it -- so 25 won't necessarily be the reality day to day.

    Also you'll find that when the teacher gets room parents involved, along with regular classroom volunteering parents, there's often another adult in the room, improving the ratio

    I know it's not private school with the more ideal ration, but in practice in the publics, sometimes things aren't as bleak as they seem...

  17. As it's my 8th year as a public school parent, I've been through this budget nightmare all but 2 or maybe 3 years. This year is definitely worse, but the classroom size won't affect those in 4th and up. (And, as much as everyone is flipping, I'm not convinced, and research supports this, that smaller class size directly leads to better outcomes - better teachers, do.)

    Both my kids will be in middle school next year. Even with large-ish class sizes, my current 7th grader is doing very well in public middle school.

    I think rather than flee the time is NOW to dial the heat up and really make education a political priority. I'm spending more of my 'free' time (and, like most here, I work full time in a demanding job) on public school issues.

    I've found that the parental guidance and input at home make the most difference in educational outcomes. We pay attention - a LOT- communicate with teachers, stay on top of homework, and set high expectations for our kids. I know our kids are getting as good or better an education than their cousins in another state (which is well funded .)

    My summary: Invest time in your own kids while you keep up the heat on the outside to make it better for the future of all children!

    Be sure and attend the town hall on Feb 25 and take ACTION!

  18. I have a question for 8:23.

    Do you feel like you are a minority that is involved with your kids at a public school or do you think that you are in a majority.

    My take away is that the majority of parents aren't involved with their kids at public schools. It was said that most kids going into kindergarten don't know their letters, how to write them or even the sounds that they make.

    Hopefully neighborhood school will change this. Parents who value education seems to live near each other.

  19. I'm in the same situation as 8:23. Two kids in middle next year, active in fighting for public education. My 7th grader is doing very well in middle school and is already evaluating (public) high school programs--including their academic offerings (i.e., not only their social ones).

    I've am impressed by the level of teaching at both elementary and middle school levels. My kids have had truly amazing teachers. I never thought my oldest would love science but it is happening thanks to a wonderful teacher in 7th grade--cell structure, genetics, etc. The honors program provides strong peers and extra work (extensions) are also provided--longer papers, extra work as appropriate.

    Something to know is that there are many, many strong student peers at this level, kids who are well-supported by their parents and also many who are expected to be first in their family to go to college--a lot is not taken for granted so they work hard. It's good for my kid to see that drive and be influenced by it.

    My kid also loves the larger school--more friends, and if the normal middle school drama kicks up, you go and spend time with a different set of friends for awhile--no hothouse issues of being only one of ten girls or ten boys. Not trashing the private school model, just saying that it has worked well to have the larger environment.

    We have many friends in public school who look like us in terms of race and class. Once you are in it, you realize that most kids really do well and are happy and have good futures. The curriculum is good, and so much depends on the teaching anyway. There are many fine teachers in SF. Not to mention that our kids develop a real facility in negotiating a very multicultural, multiclass world. Public school kids are so aware, so cool. {not that private school kids aren't, seriously, but really, I just know so many very cool, active, public school kids these days....).

  20. 8:23 and 9:52 - your comments about public schools are great to hear! Thanks for sharing.

  21. 9:52 .. what elementary school did you go to.

  22. (And, as much as everyone is flipping, I'm not convinced, and research supports this, that smaller class size directly leads to better outcomes - better teachers, do.)

    NO competently performed research fails to support smaller class sizes, particularly for children of color. Data that does not balance for class sizes before CSR is not competent. The one factor that can have a negative impact on the growth seen in smaller classes is teacher credentialing; CSR led to some districts hiring many uncredentialed teachers. This isn't really a factor in SFUSD, though.

  23. There's a great quote that a school is a building that four walls with tomorrow inside. When I think about the budget mess, it makes me furious. My kids are probably going to be fine no matter what. We are engaged, caring parents with graduate degrees (from Harvard no less!) and we can throw a ton of emotional and monetary resources at a problem. My kids/my family = lucky.

    We are in public school. We are not at a trophy school by any stretch. And my kindergartener is doing fabulously well. We have an amazing teacher. The school has a very good handle on discipline. And the kids in her class are engaged and interested. There's one squirmy one - but even he's fairly well behaved. The other classes at my daughter's school are in similar shape. I don't regret our choice at all - in fact, there are days when I thank my lucky stars for the experience - I was watching her class last week and I realized how lucky she is. She has friends! She's learning! She has a teacher that pushes her!

    I have no idea how the budget cuts are going to affect her school though. With the class size possibly headed to 25, our teacher could get cut because the school doesn't have the capacity to fit 75 kids in the upper grades and that would such a waste of talent that it makes me weepy. It makes me pissed as hell to think that this state is so f*cked up that they can't even figure out how to handle one of the most basic functions of government. At least I will try to do my part and fight like hell instead of turning tail to private schools...because again, it's tomorrow inside those 4 walls. We can't neglect that.

  24. Does anyone talk about private schools here at all? If not, what web site do private school parents go?

    I feel that public school-only fans should scroll down a little and post in the "I Love My Public School" thread. There aren't enough posts there.

  25. "Does anyone talk about private schools here at all? If not, what web site do private school parents go?"

    No. We're too polite.

    Also, since we've already moved on from trying to put up with all the current and impending problems of the public schools, we can look at the larger issues facing our state.

  26. 6:59 am for a take on private schools in general look at NY Schools on Urban Baby, you will likely be glad you live in San Francisco.

  27. I toured SF Day School last year, and both of their kindergarten classes had 23 kids, compared with only 20 at public schools.

  28. to the poster who asked about the climate among current public-school parents...the answer is, we're fired up and are coming together to lead the charge on reforming california's appalling tax system. that's an enormous undertaking, obviously, especially for people who already work, volunteer in class and take care of families -- a huge slice of the public school parents i have seen. (this is our second year in elementary, but we spent K at a different school and were enrolled and starting to become active in a third prior to K, so we've seen a cross-section of schools during our enrollment journey.) i would call the prevailing attitude stressed and alarmed, but also galvanized and angry. now is NOT the time to flee. i don't think it's exaggerating to say that the future of civil society is at stake, after all. besides, how far can people run? to europe? to the moon? once we stop funding public education and educating our people adequately, no private school on earth is going to shield you and your family from the fallout. it will be societal in scope. really, how can we not hang together on this???

    also re: the hysteria. as earlier posters point out, veteran parents are there to remind us to take the long view -- that there have been other tough years and eras, and we have gotten through them. not just intact, but, in some ways, triumphant.

    another poster expressed concern that most public school parents don't participate. far from it. at every school we have attended or know -- by now, through friends, dozens -- there is a committed cadre of parents who work alongside the teachers and staff. of course, there could always be more (and more $$$). but if you're using that as a factor for gauging parental commitment to education, i doubt very much you will find private school parents willing to put in the hours public school parents do. they're paying for the right NOT to, after all. adjusting for wealth and need to work, i would think that SFUSD's public school parents perform admirably volunteer-wise.

    for me, the public-parents' response to this year's crisis reinforces one reason that we chose public school in the first place: because our children benefit more from being part of the real san francisco, in all its scruffy, underfunded, politicized, problematic glory, than they do from anything private school might offer them. (mind you, i am a highly competitive, perfectionistic, capricorn, jewish-guilt-riddled worrier, so if i believed otherwise, i would most certainly find a way to purchase peace of mind, in spite of my politics or ideals.)

  29. 11:52, Parochial Schools have 35 kids in each class. The main reason I switched from parochial to public was class size.

    I think 25 kids isn't as swell as 20 kids, but it's still better than 35.

  30. The teachers are better in public schools. IMO. They are better educated, better credentialed, and have better benefits. I also feel they are more professional. You have to ask yourself, what kind of professional settles for lower pay and lesser benefits, when if they're any good, they'll get into the highest paying longer term professional environment that the public school system provides?

    I also feel that from my experience, public school teachers are in it for the love of teaching all kinds of kids, not just the affluent white kids that generally go to private school.

    If I'm a teacher, I want all sorts of kids to teach. The value of true diversity is priceless. No matter how hard the privates try to achieve diversity, they can't touch the public schools.

    If there is one time for kids to be exposed to other kinds of kids, it's when they're very young. k-5.

    I just don't see the value of paying for private education for these years. Maybe for high school or middle school, but certainly not for k-5.

  31. Our kids have gone to public for the past five years and we were absolutely ecstatic with it . . . up until fourth grade when class sizes went to 33 in our school! The increase in class size has been very tough on our eldest. His grades are struggling, and even the teacher has admitted that the increase in class size has been tough on her. Previously our school had kept fourth and fifth grade class sizes at 26 and I picked the school precisely because of that, but then came the budget cuts, grrr. Our school also had great parental participation in class -- again up until fourth grade. I don't know whether the parents burn out by fourth or the kids just don't want parents around, but parental participation at our school in fourth and fifth grade is way down. (We both work, so our volunteering is limited.) Private is not an option for us because of our limited budget, but we are seriously thinking about moving to Marin or to Albany. We love the city and don't want to leave.

  32. Thank you, Kim! You said it better than I could but this is my experience too.

    As for private school parents being more "polite" than public school, excuse me? Is this some kind of third grade one-upsmanship game? The stakes are too high for this name-calling nonsense. And anyway, it's silly to say that private school parents are categorically more polite (or rude, for that matter) than anyone else. The huge, angsty, snarky private school thread last spring, when everyone was stressing about whether or not they got into private, or whether they went to an elite enough preschool to get in, proves that point. And yeah, the Urban Baby site in NYC on a daily basis proves it too. And so do your own comments, 7:52.

    I do think it is true that this is more of a public school blog in general, perhaps because its owner is a public school parent and booster (even though she is welcoming of all). So you just see more posts on public overall (and both delightful and rude posts in that category).

    As for private school parents somehow having more vision for the problems facing the state as a whole, compared to those of us whose kids are in public--because we're too busy dealing with the muck of everyday life in the trenches or something like that (was that the line of reasoning?).... um, that's a bit arrogant, or at least precious, isn't it? I'll just say that I know many public school parents who are not only fired up, but very well educated as to the root causes and likely pathways to making change.

    7:52, what is your purpose in making these blanket statements? We should all have an interest in building up the public schools, and we need all hands on deck, working together, whatever your personal choices. No need to trash those of us who made different choices. I haven't seen anyone lighting up the public-private debates lately on this blog, or calling private school parents names or claiming that we are better suited to lead the charge than you are. We should be working together, not calling names.

    This whole topic is framed in such a way that it is playing into people's fears without a whole lot of light being shed on how to make things better. Too bad.

  33. 10:00 AM, 11:52 here. The parochial we applied to has 25 kids per grade. That's the same as the proposed public school number, but I guessing (hoping) the kids are more well behaved and many are a bit older. (Could be wrong.) There is only one class per grade so the school is smaller, and it's very close to our flat so I could be quite involved. We'll see how it all shakes out.

  34. --The teachers are better in public schools. IMO. They are better educated, better credentialed, and have better benefits. I also feel they are more professional. You have to ask yourself, what kind of professional settles for lower pay and lesser benefits, when if they're any good, they'll get into the highest paying longer term professional environment that the public school system provides?--


    I can only speak for our private school, were there is a concerted effort made to retain talented teachers, including competitive salaries and benefit packages. They are also well credentialed, at least as well credentialed as public school teachers with most holding multiple advanced degrees. In 10 years at the school, with 2 kids, I would say we have only had one mediocre teacher and several brilliant ones. In general, the teachers love what they're doing, are committed, etc. etc.

    Why the need to disparage? Especially with tired old homilies that belie no actual first hand knowledge.

  35. Kim Green for School Board!!!

  36. Our son goes to SF Day.
    They have 2 classes of 22-23 kids.
    Each class has two full time teachers. Plus they have a reading / language specialist who splits their time bewteen the classes. So there are 2.5 full time teachers per 23 kids. This doesn't count the other teachers in specialty subjects like art or science, which also allows the lead teachers time to prep and plan.

  37. Why the need to disparage? Especially with tired old homilies that belie no actual first hand knowledge.

    Yes, indeed, this whole thread seems framed so as to fan the flames of the public-private wars. Although it may play on some truths, these wars are really not helpful to anyone. Most private school parents are not snobs, most public school parents are not rude, and they are all capable of seeing the lay of land of California's problems (not sure where that one came from, 7:52--hadn't heard that one before!). There are plenty of good and even brilliant teachers in both systems. There are some differences that can be objectively laid out (class size versus significant diversity). There are differences (and similarities) that can only be described, but from which gross generalizations are difficult to draw. Are all private school kids sheltered hothouse flowers? I don't think so. Are all public school kids ghetto gang members? Um, no.

    The truth is that most supported, middle and upper-middle class kids do well in either system (yes, even with budget cuts, and I've seen my share). Some kids move back and forth for particular reasons. I know of several private school girls who got burned by the small class size (aka cliques) in middle school and moved to Lowell or Lincoln for high school--and were so much happier. I know of public school kids who found the atmosphere they needed to thrive in private school. But most middle class kids do well in either. I know dozens of kids in both (and parochial too) in SF and I think you'd have a hard time telling the difference if you saw them all together at my daughter's recent birthday party or at my son's soccer games last year. Really!

    The issue of saving and strengthening public education is a much bigger question that should be a concern for all of us, no matter where we send our kids or whether we even have kids. I wish this thread had been framed in a more positive and less fear-based way, to encourage us to think about that instead. In the meantime, no one here can even think about making a decision about schools until everyone hears back from SFUSD and private/parochial, to know your exact options and weigh them then.

    I hope everyone will attend the February 25 town hall and the March 4 rally--no matter where your kids go to school next year.

  38. Q is whether more families will go private because of the budget cuts? IMHO, the question really impacts those who were on the fence about private vs. public. There are only so many private school spots so outside of moving, families will still attend SFUSD despite the budget cuts. For all parents, the increased class size is clearly a concern as well as any impact on enrichment programs. Independent private schools offer smaller classes and enrichment programs, two key factors in the decision making process. Thus, each family will have to decide what is best for their child. There is no right answer.

  39. It should be noted that most parents that have their kids in public school today likely did not end up an a very challenged school. They ended up at schools like Grattan. Or they really wanted language immersion and were lucky enough to get that, like Kim Green. Or they really wanted Clarendon and got that, like Kim Green.

    Public school parents can't speak for the experience of many current and former parents in the city, many of whom were forced out of public schools.

    Additionally, the fiscal problems of even three years ago pale in comparison to the problems of today, so I don't think advice from veteran parents is terribly relevant.

  40. I agree with the poster above, I would love to hear from parents of current K students (22 in a class) who are not at a trophy or immersion school and how they their kids faired in school this year and how they see the impact of increased class sizes on their First Graders, next year.

  41. No one was "forced" out of public school. You made a choice. I don't question your judgment as to why, only the accuracy of that phrasing. It is possible to be forced out of private school, or not let in in the first place, but public school will offer you a place. I do realize that all places are not equal, but it's important to be accurate, I think.

    Back in our day, Alvarado and Grattan and Miraloma were very challenged schools. We helped to build them into the "trophy" schools so many crave today. From many years involvement, I would say that there are now more extras at some of these schools now, although we have also lost Title I funding so in some areas it has been a wash. The demographics have changed a lot, though, and so test scores have gone up and the playground looks different. Many of the teachers are the same, and they were equally brilliant then as now. My older and younger kids got similarly good educations in each manifestation of a school that went from worst to first as it were.

    Kim Green stuck with the assisgnment system through some very difficult ups and downs (Flynnarado fiasco). She ultimately got what she wanted via the lottery for 1st grade, choosing a lower-achieving school, as it happens, over trophy Clarendon. She didn't cheat, she didn't get particularly lucky, she just stuck with it.

    My kids are quite spread out in age, so I've been around long enough to see dire cuts, threats of dire cuts, and relative boom times. I do think that experience is relevant. What it tells me is that the middle and upper class kids will do okay. As long as the teaching is good and the curriculum is strong, they will have access to what they need, and parents will supplement the rest either through PTA funding or through outside sports and arts programs, and travel (for much, much less than the cost of private school). And these middle/upper class kids continue to benefit from education of being in a context of significant diversity, which gives them a skill set to navigate a diverse and fast-changing world.

    The kids I worry about the most right now are the ones who don't have so many resources at home--books, art or dance classes, etc. That's what the increasing privatization of education means to them--they miss out on the stuff they can't get elsewhere. Tutoring, smaller class sizes, extra programs.

    We're fighting for a more equal playing field for all our kids, from pre-K through college. The American Dream says that kids of all backgrounds can get an education and make something different of themselves. That's what the GI Bill, what public education in general, the California higher education compact, were all about.

    I understand why private school looks so attractive, especially in fearful times such as these. I would only suggest that the reality of public school in San Francisco is actually good! and that there are many parents eager to work together to build schools that work for all. That's an education in itself for our young ones--seeing how much we value it for them and for all their friends and classmates. If you have fears, and believe me, I was there too, I hope you'll go out to coffee with parents at all grade levels and find out more. And all that said, I won't question your final decision. I only ask that you look past the bells and whistles, hype, and fears, and give it a real consideration.

    However, I still hope that no matter what you decide, you'll find a way to support public education! The meeting on the 25th, the rally on the 4th, and a variety of ballot intititives coming up (including one targeted at the 2/3 budget requirement) are all good places to start. It's for all of us, not just the public school kids.

  42. 1:37 PM:

    You're condescension and willful blindness regarding the state of our schools and our fiscal crises will do nothing to persuade voters to once again approve more funding increases.

    I really did try to access the public school system. In fact, I tried multiple times. I'm so sorry if I value academic excellence and chose not to opt for our assigned school, which had CST scores in the 30% range.

    A strong academic background has certainly stood both my husband and I, who both went to public school, in good stead. Even in this terrible economy we both have high paying jobs and high demand skills.

    Unfortunately, even after many tries, I could not access a public school in San Francisco which was similar to the one I attended.

    I heard an advertisement on the radio this morning, sponsored by the Teachers Union. It was asking voters to support more school funding increases.

    Yet, I'm forced to reconcile my traditional support for public schools with the fact that increased voter support in the past has not led to better schools.
    It has not led to wider availability of good schools.

  43. 2:01

    1:37 here again.

    I don't think I am being condescending or blind to point out the *fact* that my kids' elementary school was also at about 30% CST when my oldest started there. You and I took the same situation and made different choices.

    I am simply testifying here that my children are turning out well. They are good readers and strong writers. They are in the highest math levels for their grades (8th grade algebra track and onward). They are bound for college.

    Again, I don't question your judgment in making different choice for your child; I'm just telling my story and asking that prospective parents consider it, as they may also consider your story.

    Objectively again, there certainly is wider availability of good schools, if you go by the increased number in the higher API range and also by the increased number that are oversubscribed in recent years. You may not have received one of them, and I am sorry for that, but there are more of them available than there were when I was applying under a long-defunct former system.

    San Francisco's support of its schools through Measures A, H and then another A has made a difference. If you tour any school today, you will hear the refrain about Prop H--the library is open full-time thanks to Prop H; the arts program is funded through Prop H. We have all seen it make a difference. I saw my kids' schoolyard transformed by a greening grant through the older Prop A (facilities upgrade). The newer Prop A (teacher salary increase in return for greater flexibility in staffing) is less visible, but surely is helping with teacher retention and better staffing decisions.

    From the wider evidence, as opposed to your specific unhappy experience with the lottery, I don't see how you can say that increased funding hasn't helped our schools. It may not be enough, especially set against state budget cuts, but it has made a visible difference. Ask my kid, who gets to use her middle school library during lunch period to get her homework done and research her term paper. That wouldn't have been possible five years ago. I hope you will reconsider your position on voting for school funding, because I can assure you it has crucially important. Prop H is an example of a grassroots movement making a difference for local schools. San Francisco schools are so much better now than they were when we started, yes, despite the state crisis. Now we need to step it up to another level.

    I understand that your particular experience with the lottery was bitter, and I'm sorry for it. You and I also made different choices with somewhat similar public school offers--and not because we don't both value academic excellence, either, despite your implication; I was educated at a well-known and highly regarded private college back East and I care a lot about my kids' education. As it happens, my oldest is aiming quite high in applying to college and for a difficult field of study.

    I don't assume ill will or bad judgment on your part; I hope you can accept that my choices were also well-considered. I also hope that prospective parents will listen to the stories of a wide variety of families in making these sorts of choices, which is why I offer mine.

  44. 2:36 PM:

    This isn't about your choice or mine. It is about the overall state of our schools in San Francisco and California.

    Given your "well known and highly regarded private College back East," I'd hope that your education had gone somewhere and that you could look at the bigger picture (beyond your own family's school situation.)

    This thread is about "will more families go private." I think it would be more apt to ask:

    Will more highly trained drivers of our economy, fed up with high home prices and bad schools, leave the state, thus accelerating the rate of downward decline in California?

    I'm hoping that people like you will hang around so that I can unload our house when it comes time for us to get out.

    Good luck.

  45. I'd hope that your education had gone somewhere and that you could look at the bigger picture (beyond your own family's school situation.)

    Why the insults?

    There are several levels here. The question on this thread is framed on a very personal level: will (and by implication, should) more families go private given the budget cuts. I offer our story, as a highly educated middle class family that stayed in public school over many years, to consider. I expect there will be other stories, some of them quite different from ours. I answered the question on a personal level because it was asked on a personal level: What will (should) individual families do.

    Then there is the bigger picture. I don't deny at all that California is going the wrong way on the wrong track. California is disinvesting from its public sector and the results could be terrible. I share your concern that the situation in California will not be sustainable even with the steadfast support of San Francisco itself for our own schools. That is why I am working on a couple of different campaigns to address the structural issues that have put the public schools in jeopardy.

    Meanwhile, I am thankful for the support shown our local schools by San Franciscans in terms of money (taxes) and time (labor of love, in many cases by people who don't even have children in the schools).

    Again, we may be making different choices in the face of the same situation. You may choose to sell your house and leave (I would ask, though, to where? Everywhere is or will be in crisis--we are just the harbinger). I choose to stay and fight.

    Fortunately, I haven't found, in San Francisco so far, that my children's educations have been compromised by staying, even in the midst of crisis. It helps that they are supported, middle class kids. It helps that we have a large cadre of good teachers here. It helps that we have an active parent base. In other words, seeing the big picture as dire and staying in the lcoal schools hasn't been a contradiction for us, not so far. Again, I offer that as my experience. I understand that others have different views and make different choices.

    I don't think we need to insult each other to see that there are multiple layers and perhaps different valid choices in play.

  46. "Again, we may be making different choices in the face of the same situation. You may choose to sell your house and leave (I would ask, though, to where? Everywhere is or will be in crisis--we are just the harbinger)."

    That's just it. Businesses are relocating out of California because they can't attract talent due to our schools and high home prices.

    Depending on the sector where one is employed, there are many options outside of California. I can think of many places outside California where the public schools are still excellent, home values more reasonable and job prospect good.

    Beyond venture funding, California is not doing a good job at pursuing new areas of research. There can only be so many Googles and Twitters. Many people aren't aware that much of Apple's workforce has been offshored (along with the taxes they would have paid.)

    Other states and countries are embracing various new technologies such as wind energy. California is missing the boat because it doesn't have the government investment dollars to support this capital intensive new initiative.

    I am tired of hearing how great the public schools are from parents who got their kids into public school four or five years ago. Sure, five years ago, it wasn't very difficult to get your kid into Grattan. Now you would be extraordinarily lucky to access Fairmount.

    So many new issues have beset our schools in the last five years. There is no avoiding that classes are going to go up to about 30 kids per teacher. I won't even get into all the other problems.

    Sure, a few parents will make a go of it. Their kids will do OK. Their parents might scrape together the afterschool programs to make up the gap at what won't be taught in the classroom.

    Fine. But that doesn't seem like the rosie situation where people will be thrilled to approve more funding increases.

    People are not blind to what is happening. Read the comments on SFGate sometime. We are not blind to that Elephant in the Living Room problem.

    Any casual observer can understand why our schools are failing. Funding increases will not fix our schools.

  47. Sticking to the topic....

    Our daughters attend public high schools (Lowell and Galileo) and we are satisfied with both (I prefer Galileo, actually). The spending cuts will hurt, but we are not jumping overboard and running for the Dreaded Suburbs. I will be attending the Marina MS meeting on Feb. 25.

    The fact that California now ranks 50th in spending per pupil at public schools, below Mississippi, is a true embarassment for this state.

    Now it is we, Californians, who are the green-toothed, yokels, the laughing stocks, without the will to pay for our childrens' schooling

  48. "I can think of many places outside California where the public schools are still excellent, home values more reasonable and job prospect good."

    Not for long, in the U.S. as a whole or in many places in the world. Pulling a geographical might work in the short run but it is not a solution, not really.

    "Read the comments on SFGate sometime."

    You're kidding, right?

  49. 3:44, okay, somewhat OT but would love to hear more about why you like Galileo more than Lowell! We'll be looking for high schools next year and while Lowell is on the list, my kid wants to look at Galileo (having checked out websites, not gone to look yet).

  50. What you don't seem to get is that many people who have driven our California technology economy forward in the last twenty years are the highly trained from other countries.

    Or do you read the papers.

    Yes, the New York Times must be wrong.

    "Not for long, in the U.S. as a whole or in many places in the world. Pulling a geographical might work in the short run but it is not a solution, not really."

    I am very sorry, but the above statement is extraordinarily uninformed.

  51. There is a lot of talk about "supported middle class kids" doing fine in public or private. Independent learners and students whose parents are able to pick up slack in the classroom are indeed likely to succeed in any environment.

    Middle-of-the-pack kids whose parents have some financial resources or who can get some financial aid may be better off with smaller student-teacher ratios at private schools. When we come home from long work days, the last thing we want to do is micro-manage our kids' schoolwork. Of course we make sure the homework gets done, spelling words are learned, etc., and we eat dinner together and read together in the evenings. But we are not good at TEACHING our kids how to approach math problems or write expository essays.

    Most private schools have a teacher and a full-time paid aide in each class and/or they select for behavior, as opposed to public schools which generally depend on volunteer parents as "aides" and cannot control what behavioral and learning differences appear in the classroom. In general, the consistent adult-child classroom ratio is better in private schools, which I think is a real benefit to middle-of-the-pack kids who might otherwise be left to drift quietly.

    I think the "better teachers in public schools" rhetoric is largely NEA hogwash. Most reputable private schools have only accredited teachers even though they are not required by law to do so, offer competitive pay and benefits, and offer environments where teachers can focus on teaching rather than trying to keep order with a huge range of learning and behavior issues and get enough pencils. If private schools were such rotten employers as the NEA would have one believe, there would not be as many former public school teachers in private and parochial schools (though the movement goes both ways). There is less job security than in public school, but private sector employees typically are not entitled to keep their jobs regardless of competence or commitment anyway.

    I'm not putting public school teachers down (though I could do without a lot of aspects of the NEA)--they have a very hard job and mos do it remarkably well considering. I wish our public schools were better resourced so that behavior and learning issues were not so disruptive and teacher's didn't have to go out of pocket for classroom supplies.

    However, our kids are middle-of-the-pack kids, not independent learners. Our parental skill set does not include back-up teaching. We've seen our kids do a lot more to reach their potential in private school. I think the calm classrooms and greater one-on-one attention they've received has a lot to do with it.

    So, bear in mind as you look at these issues that not only is public school funding drying up in an unprecedented way, but public schools have greater classroom challenges than virtually any private school to begin with. By all means lobby with all your might for better funding for public schools. By all means, talk to public school parents about their successes--there are some great stories there. But don't just blindly follow the cheering crowd.

  52. You don't make sense. You describe fewer good schools and resources over time. Do you think this just "happens" to coincide with the shrinking school budgets? Why are you so sure funding won't fix it )or at least be a major part of the solution)? The funding is the key issue. Anything else is just blaming the victim. Like defunding the government and then claiming that government doesn't work.

  53. "The funding is the key issue."

    Yes, funding is the key issue.

    Unfortunately, the are many more students in California than there were ten years ago, with parents who have less funds and pay less tax, than ten years ago.

    Do I really have to tell you this?

  54. 8:32 from last night here.
    In response to this post:

    Do you feel like you are a minority that is involved with your kids at a public school or do you think that you are in a majority.

    Absolutely NOT! Parents contribute in various ways - whether you are an immigrant (legal or illegal), professional, educated or not, I've found that parents by and large all want the same things for their kids - they want them to have a quality education and succeed in life. Do they do it in different ways? Sometimes.

    Frankly, I've found some of the biggest value discrepancies coming from parents who 'look' like me and have similar educations.

    And on this:
    My take away is that the majority of parents aren't involved with their kids at public schools. It was said that most kids going into kindergarten don't know their letters, how to write them or even the sounds that they make.

    With all due respect, this is just plain crazy wrong. My kids' have both had UCSF professors, business owners, day laborers, single parents, double mom/dads, and everything in between. But I've found virtually all care and are involved in their schools and education - the issue is to what degree. Some can spend hours a week volunteering at school (I can't) - but others focus on supporting their kids' at home. Both are needed and important.

    Regarding this:
    Hopefully neighborhood school will change this. Parents who value education seems to live near each other.
    Again, crazy wrong. Get out and talk to more parents and guardians. They don't all live in one place - they live on each and every block in the City.

  55. "You're condescension" [sic]
    "willful blindness"
    "I am very sorry, but the above statement is extraordinarily uninformed"
    "Or do you read the papers"
    "I'd hope that your education had gone somewhere" [sic]

    So much for the oh-so-polite private school parent base ;-)

    I think we have a lot more in common in terms of concerns than is being recognized here--albeit different strategies and choices being made, perhaps. Are our choices so invalid that we need to invalidate each other, rather than find common ground?

    I still say this to prospective parents. Talk to lots of people, and make your personal choice, to the degree that you have one come March. Remember that most will not have a choice.

    And then, please, attend the meeting on the 25th, the march on the 4th, and work for whatever intiatives will increase school funding and turn the tide of disinvestment from the public sector in California. You are right that the state's economy, and not only a specific set of children, are depending on us to step up to the plate.

  56. 2:01

    Please remember that thanks to local voter initiatives, SFUSD has been largely spared compared to other school districts as the state has slashed funding (our main source of funding.)

    So the increased SF voter funding has offest the other cuts - there's been little to no overall gain.

  57. "So much for the oh-so-polite private school parent base"

    Yes, well I could edit you're comments to try to turn yet another salient conversation, with a bit of color, into another public vs. private school snark session.

    This blog really is getting old.

  58. Just wait till everyone starts getting their rejection letters from private schools to see how much capacity they can hold.

    Then there will be those that have to leave privates because they'll be told that the schools cannot educate their child (this seems to happen most often in 1st-3rd grade.)

    I'm a PPS Parent Ambassador and have gotten 4 calls from parents in private schools in the latter situation just this year.


  59. 4:28, aka private school parent who plans to sell and move, and won't vote for school funding because you think the schools are getting worse, and couldn't get a school you liked, etc etc, and who now says "this blog is so old."

    I think people have been trying to talk with you to find common ground, but you seem so bitter and unhappy here. Maybe time to give this blog a rest then?

  60. From Wikipedia:

    Confirmation bias (or myside bias[1]) is a tendency for people to prefer information that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses, independently of whether they are true.[2][3] People can reinforce their existing attitudes by selectively collecting new evidence, by interpreting evidence in a biased way or by selectively recalling information from memory.[4] Some psychologists use "confirmation bias" for any of these three cognitive biases, while others restrict the term to selective collection of evidence, using assimilation bias for biased interpretation.[5][2]

    People tend to test hypotheses in a one-sided way, focusing on one possibility and neglecting alternatives.[4][6] This strategy is not necessarily a bias, but combined with other effects it can reinforce existing beliefs.[7][4] The biases appear in particular for issues that are emotionally significant (including some personal and political topics) and for established beliefs that shape the individual's expectations.[4][8][9] Biased search, interpretation and/or recall have been invoked to explain attitude polarization (when a disagreement becomes more extreme as the different parties are exposed to the same evidence), belief perseverance (when beliefs remain after the evidence for them is taken away)[10], the irrational primacy effect (a stronger weighting for data encountered early in an arbitrary series)[11] and illusory correlation (in which people falsely perceive an association between two events).[12]

    Confirmation biases are effects in information processing, distinct from the behavioral confirmation effect (also called self-fulfilling prophecy), in which people's expectations influence their own behavior.[13] They can lead to disastrous decisions, especially in organizational, military and political contexts.[14][15] Confirmation biases contribute to overconfidence in personal beliefs.[9]

  61. "I think people have been trying to talk with you to find common ground, but you seem so bitter and unhappy here. Maybe time to give this blog a rest then?"

    I wasn't aware that there was a requirement to find common ground.

    However, I will not vote for anymore school funding in San Francisco. Not because I'm bitter, but because I don't see that my increased tax dollars would improve education. Nothing happened with the last tax increase I voted for except that I now pay more than $200 a year for schools that are poor and getting worse.

  62. Correction:

    Nothing happened with the last tax increase I voted for except that I now pay an additional $200 a year for schools that are poor and getting worse.

  63. To those who are fearful about sending their children to public school in SF: our child attends a public school and not one of the so-called "trophy schools". As a kindergartener, he visits the library weekly, the computer lab weekly, has a 4th grade reading buddy,PE, and has gone on multiple educational field trips. The hallways of the school are covered with artwork, changing every few weeks. He's learning to read and write - and can add and subtract. The children are happy and engaged. I don't know where the budget cuts will take us, but I can say the PTA at our school is very motivated - principal, parents, and teachers. I think there are many schools in the district like this...

  64. I am deeply impressed with the patience and restraint of those of you who have been trying to give a balanced view when engaging with the incredibly negative and often wrong commenter. I assume it is more for the benefit of other readers. Personally, I think it is a brilliant idea that she/he leaves the city. Or even better, the state. There is probably some Tea Party somewhere that would love to have her.

    Of course there are good public schools. Of course there are other (many!) engaged parents in them. Our kids will do as well or badly in them as in a private (and having plenty of friends and family from private school (I didn't grow up in this country) you can do poorly in those too if you are so inclined). Many parents and children in my child's school would be quite at home in the toniest private, AND they are at home in a fantastically diverse environment as well.

    Of course the public schools differ, as do the privates. As someone else pointed out, there isn't enough private spaces for those who are already fully committed to them. Good luck to all trying to get in, and you might want to read last year's postings from that time.

    I think everyone need to check their assumptions about the families and children in our public schools. This persistent insistence that "they don't care about education", is incredibly wrong, and ignorant at best. All the families I know are committed to their child's future, and do their best to support them and their school.

    A strong public school is the bedrock of a strong and fair democracy. We all benefit from a well educated population, and personally I would much rather spend money on education now, than on prisons in the future.

  65. To answer the original posts question (shocking!), the answer seems to be yes. Applications at 3 private schools are higher this year. Those are the only ones I know about. (SFDay, Marin Country Day and Friends before you ask and slam me) Obviously, this is anecdotal but seems to be a good indicator. Unfortunately, in the end it also really doesn't matter. Regardless of the pain in the public school system, the number of open slots in the private system will not go up. Thus, the same number are going to either be forced to go public here in SF or move.

  66. Will more families go private? Maybe. But just add up the available private spots. They are finite.

    And if you're concerned about attending the toniest/most selective/most prestigious schools, the spots are even fewer.

    So even if you choose private, private may not choose you. And do look for reference at the entries last year following private school acceptance/decline letters (or the unclear wait list)

    So you could move. Or you could stay, because you love living in a city..

    But the decision is usually more complicated for most people -- one that takes into account a combination of factors: jobs, family situations, personal comfort in urban or rural or suburban areas, proximity to relatives, financial support (school or otherwise.)

    This whole discussion gets more interesting once people really decide what they're going to do. My gut sense is that more families are staying in the least they are in my neck of the woods (Western Addition)

  67. Nothing happened with the last tax increase I voted for except that I now pay an additional $200 a year for schools that are poor and getting worse.

    For the benefit of those who will read this with ears to hear :)

    The $200 that all of us homeowners now pay thanks to the parcel tax [the most recent Prop A] is going to increased pay for teachers. In return, the teachers' union, UESF, signed a memorandum of understanding that gives the district more flexibility in staffing that it had desired but had not been able to get before in bargaining. There are some pay incentives for teaching in hard-to-staff schools and subjects. Also soome support for master teacher strategies.

    None of this is as visible as the effects of Prop H (arts, libraries, etc.) or the previous Prop A (facilities upgrades, including schoolyard greening), but the teacher pay is important in retaining good teachers in general and especially in these uncertain times. How would you like to work in a profession where pink slips went out almost every April? The additional pay, courtesy of San Franciscans, not only makes it possible for some teachers to stay. It also boosted morale to get that 2/3 vote of confidence.

    Meanwhile, we are seeing the effects of Prop H every day: libraries are open and art classes are supported. The old Prop A is also in evidence in just about every school renovation that has happened in the last four years or so.

    And then there is the Rainy Day Fund, which has helped to mitigate the budget cuts and will continue to do so this year--although the pain will be greater this year.

    Thank you, Tom Ammiano (the author of several of these initiatives back when). And above all, thank you, San Francisco!

  68. My daughter is in SIP kinder at Daniel Webster. Of course, we read the news and we panic. Schools in transition don't need any more challenges.

    But then we think about what we have - one of the smallest schools in the city with a committed, strong staff and a group of creative, driven parents who believe intensely in public education. I think that's how we'll make it through the crisis ahead - our strength is our small size which gives us a little bit of cushion and flexibility in trying creative solutions to the problems ahead. Yes, we're still figuring out how to do this and we can't offer the perks Trophy School does...but we're not speed dialing anyplace else and don't plan on it anytime soon.

    My daughter has had an incredible year so far - 17 kids in her class, a phenomenal teacher, a caring and responsive environment. She could have more, but she could also have less, and right now we're happy with what we have.

  69. What is a PPS Parent Ambassador referred to in an earlier posting?

  70. A PPS Ambassador is a parent representative who is made available through Parent for Public Schools San Francisco (PPS-SF) to talk with parents about the school, its programs, but more than anything, what day to day life is like for kids and families. Some training and support is provided to these parent volunteers, but basically it is peer-to-peer support and information.

    This reminds me--a lot of thanks are due to Parents for Public Schools for building parent advocacy and support networks in this city. Our schools are miles ahead of where we would be without this wonderful civic and advocacy organization. PPS has helped to give parents a voice.

  71. Thanks, 9:05, for your comments on Daniel Webster. That is one great community over there.

  72. As an SFUSD teacher, I can assure you that those last few initiatives really made a difference. We were so happy to get librarians again: in our school, the library is now our pride and joy. The arts program is terrific, too. As for Prop A, we can't thank you enough: it isn't a lot of additional money on our paycheck, but the gesture counts. I'm so proud of the way San Franciscans have supported the schools! And yes, I pay the increased property taxes, too.

    This latest budget crisis is terrible, but know this: we love our work, and consider it extremely important. We hope you will support us in keeping class size as low as possible. We may ask for supplies to be donated next year. But we're still the same motivated, highly-educated professionals. If you don't think that matters, or (apparently) you're allergic to immigrant families, then by all means: bail. In any case, your negativity will not deter us in the least. We'll continue to do the best job possible with every student.

  73. You have had an encounter with the Lou Dobbs--war against the middle class--school of thought, to put a name to it.

  74. 9:48, SFUSD teacher:


    I don't know if I know you, but I may! I know so many like you.

    You are my heroes.

    Thank you for your dedication to educating my children and all of the children who walk through your doors in August each year.

  75. Teacher at 9:48 p.m., thank you for your dedication. I hope all teachers are as committed. I don't think anyone is challenging teacher commitment in this tough financial crisis. If anything, I think there is wonder as to how you accomplish what you do.

  76. Join teachers, parents, students on March 4. There will be marches from different areas of the city, converging at civic center for the rally.

    On the same day, college students and professors from community colleges, CSUs and UCs will also be rallying for public ecucation.

  77. Kate - I have a new topic. When we did our tours, we did not see any of the schools reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Can the readers help us understand if the pledge is spoken at school and if not, why?

  78. 10:43, the California Education Code states this:

    EDUCATION CODE SECTION 52720. In every public elementary school each day during the school year at the beginning of the first regularly scheduled class or activity period at which the majority of the pupils of the school normally begin the school day, there shall be conducted appropriate patriotic exercises. The giving of the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America shall satisfy the requirements of this section.

    It is important to understand that no one, including teachers and students, can be compelled to say the Pledge. Nor does the Code say that the Pledge must be said. There are objections to it from various religious groups, including Jehovah's Witnesses, and people of various political persuasions, including libertarians of some stripes. Although it is de rigueur for politicians today to have to say it, ironically it was originally written by a Christian socialist. The words "under God" were of course inserted a long time after the original was written.

    At our elementary school, the Pledge is normally recited at morning assembly once a week. On other days, other "appropriate patriotic" activities are carried out, including various national and community and peace songs from various cultures and languages.

  79. @8:18

    You make some good points, but I think you overestimate peoples' ability to move if they don't get into private or a public school they think is acceptable.

    I think many families have almost no equity in their homes. If they were to sell, many of them wouldn't have enough for a down payment on a house in the suburbs. We've got a lot of families stranded in San Francisco. On the plus side, that might translate to more support of the public schools here.

  80. This is not just a San Francisco problem, this is a crisis for the entire state.

    This year moving to the 'burbs is not going to solve your problem.

    Friends in San Carlos and Cupertino are are in much the same boat as we are here in San Francisco. They have also had to suffer through last year as well with no Rainy Day fund to support them.

    Some of these school districts have foundations, but when it comes down to class size reduction this money may not last that long.

    This is a state problem, and we should be treating it as such.

    To 9.41, I do not feel stranded in San Francisco, my child goes to a public school that I am very happy with, not a so called trophy, a school that 3 years ago my next door neighbor was assigned to, but would not contemplate attending.

    A school that will suffer with a reduction in funding, yes we will loose enrichment and field trips and will see an increase in class sizes. The parents are ready to rally and fight and fund raise as able.

    But, ultimately this is a school with a good leader and stellar teachers at all grade levels, so my child my not get many of the bells and whistles that come with a private school but he will get a first class education.

  81. "I'm just against rampant illegal immigration in our country"

    Go down to the border and join the self-styled Minutemen, then. It's not an issue for SFUSD, unless you're proposing they turn away children of illegals because of the choices their parents made.

    February 17, 2010 8:23 AM

    There are fair systems such as E-Verify that would do a better job of limiting illegal immigration.

    We really don't have to point the Lou Dobbs/Minuteman racist finger at anyone who expresses a concern about illegal immigration. We are, after all, only asking that some attempt be made to enforce the law. Or is that out of fashion?

    The current state of affairs will only lead to a downward spiral in our schools.

  82. 11:06

    What we really need is comprehensive immigration reform that finds humane ways, perhaps including E-verify, to deal with the border and slow or stop the movement of undocumented people across it (I'm very liberal, but not for open borders), while strengthening the economies of the nations that are relying on remittances to bolster their GDPs and are therefore turning a blind eye to the outward flow.

    Reform should include a reasonable pathway to citizenship for those already here--I know this sticks in the craw of many, but it is the only practical and humane solution at this point. In an ideal world this would be traded for better border controls. Also, consider how to have reasonable flows of workers in legal fashion--with labor guarantees enforced so that they are not exploited like the guest workers of past years, and so that that our domestic labor standards are upheld.

    Unfortunately I don't see this happening with the GOP saying no to everything and stopping even minor bills from passing.

    The point is, SFUSD cannot take care of immigration reform. We have an obligation to educate all the kids, many of whom are American citizens anyway even if their parents are not, and who will be staying here--providing education is the right thing morally and pragmatically. We should pass the Dream Act on the federal level actually, to provide a pathway to higher education.

    As a pratical matter for the schools, it's not all that helpful to focus on this issue. Yes, it is out there. Yes, California is bearing an unfair burden that is not being funded by the federal government that is largely responsible for not dealing with the immigration issue. It one of a series of complexities that we are dealing with.

    But. For the purposes of this list, there is not much to say about it other than to encourage folks to advocate for reform. Call your congressional reps and advocate for comprehensive reform. Tell them we need more money for California schools. I just don't think that going on about here is all that helpful. And I also think it's important to be careful not to demonize immigrant kids. It is so easy to blame them for problems that are much bigger than they--structural funding issues, just to name one. I do think it should be addressed, but there is so much demogoguery on the issue that I urge you to be careful how you frame it. It can easily devolve into Lou Dobbs-style ranting that sees immigration as the main avenue through which middle class families are getting screwed--which leads so easily to blaming immigrants rather than outsourcing, declining standards for job quality and pay (and pensions), health care insecurity, increasingly regressive taxation, and so on.

  83. 11:33 AM:

    Thanks for your comments.


  84. @9:41

    8:18 here,

    No, I agree with you! I was trying to be evenhanded, but my point was that simply deciding to up and move is generally a more complicated process/option that takes into account things including your point, like whether it's even a financial option given your current housing/equity situation. That and a whole host of other factors play into whether a family can even get to the point of choosing whether to go or stay...

    What I don't think is that being "stranded" in SF is all that bad. There's so much wonderful going on here, even in a time of budget cutbacks and a fiscal mess. On a day like today the whole city looks like a wedding cake

  85. Hello --I am new to this blog and am surprised by how many people don’t use their names. To the question about going private with the recent budget cuts… my son attends K @ Monroe Elementary. We are fortunate enough to be able to afford private school but we chose public and will stick with public even with the budget cuts. We have had a fantastic experience thus far with the teachers, principal and the general community. It is a very diverse school and I see all parents from the three strands: Spanish emersion, Chinese bi-lingual and General Ed involved and active at school. But the cuts are real and a school like Monroe, that does not have large sums of PTA money to help cushion the blow, is going to really struggle with losing staff and programs over the next two years. Both public and private should be out protesting the budget cuts on March 4th – it impacts your kids and your community.

  86. "Is this most recent round of cuts (and the build up from those before) making you reconsider keeping your kids in public, or not...maybe it's making you more determined to save/revive/help out/contribute/whatever verb works at your child(s) school?"

    Naw, still committed to publics. But my kid's in an immersion program, and the alternatives for immersion outside of SFUSD, even in the suburbs, are very limited and hard to get into. So I'm just going to pony up more to the PTA.

  87. "Thank you, Tom Ammiano (the author of several of these initiatives back when)."

    Tom also was the backer of setting up the Rainy Day fund, without which last year would have been even worse.

  88. "There are fair systems such as E-Verify that would do a better job of limiting illegal immigration."

    Again, WTF does it have to do with education? Unless you're advocating turning kids of illegals away from school. I'm sure that'd work out well.

  89. "Nothing happened with the last tax increase I voted for except that I now pay an additional $200 a year for schools that are poor and getting worse."

    You're not even directionally correct.

    Last year, rated SFUSD as a 6. Now it's rated as a 7, equivalent to Mountain View or Alameda. Given that the percentage of low-SES kids is far higher in SFUSD than those two districts (54% free/reduced school lunch in SFUSD, 37$ in Mountain View), it's actually impressive that SFUSD does as well as it does, relative to other districts.

    Comparing SFUSD to affluent Bantustans like Danville or Mill Valley ain't comparing apples to apples.

  90. 12:40 - THANK YOU!

    SFUSD schools have indeed done better and better - and with less and less from Sacramento.

    Every year when I read how SF has improved, I'm amazed given all the obstacles put in our way- I think there have only been 2 years in which we haven't had to deal with threatened or real cuts and pink slips in the past 8 years.

    I, too, will stick with publics and work on the rolling momentum to get education properly supported and funded in California.

    (Mom of two SFUSD middle school kids next year)

  91. "i doubt very much you will find private school parents willing to put in the hours public school parents do. they're paying for the right NOT to, after all."

    Kim, I expect better of you! You have that all wrong....

  92. Okay, Kim may have overstated the point.


    I understand where it comes from, though. It's the constant drumbeat that public school families don't care as much as private school parents about their children's education or academic excellence (or else we'd be making the sacrifice to send our kids to private, right?). It's just so wrong, when set against the incredible *passion* of our public school families (not only middle class or professional families, either) to build better schools for all our children from diverse backgrounds.

    It is important, I think, to note again what someone wrote about how SF schools have improved by most measures (overall test scores, number of high-scoring schools, progress on achievement gap, support for arts programs) while under the gun of decreased state funding most years--and certainly against the odds for success that private school can buy through admissions/selection and money for facilities, class size, bells and whistles. SFUSD's success is at least in part due to that passionate support of our parent base. Hard to compare the two--this is grapefruits to pineapples for sure--but when you consider what we do with so little, it is amazing.

    I'll avoid comparisons, okay, as I've no doubt (seriously) the SF private school moms are super volunteers. I'll just say we public school moms are second to none around here ..... :-)

  93. At my public school, there are parents helping out around the school every day. Some help teachers with clerical tasks, some run art centers, some stop by to help supervise games on the yard. Others help the office staff get memos ready to go home. Some write grants, or do fund raising, or chair committees. No, it isn't a 'trophy' school. Just another well-loved public, chock full of dedicated parents and staff. I have no idea who these garbagey comments about public schools are coming from, but if you haven't visited one lately, it seems unwise to comment.

  94. Public school parents do amazing volunteer work. They pretty much have to if they want the things they do to get done, because the public schools don't have the money to pay for most of those functions. It's another way of privatizing public education. The parents who have time and/or money to contribute make their public schools better than the public schools that don't have those parent assets. It really kind of sucks--you feed the privatization beast by doing what the state should be doing for your kids, or you send your kids to badly under-resourced schools, or you opt out completely and go private (assuming you can afford it).

    Private schools have some awesome parent volunteers too, but there's not the same sense of urgency.

  95. To 10:17...

    I'm the one posting about how things have gotten better despite less and less from the state.

    And I agree wholeheartedly that public school parents have been instrumental in making this happen.

    Parents for Public Schools has been around for just over a decade in SF - during that time, they succeeded in not only growing more parent leaders of all backgrounds, languages and neighborhoods.

    Additionally, PPS succeeded in bringing more middle class voting families to a wider variety of schools throughout the city. Those parents are now becoming a critical mass in SFUSD and are taking up the gauntlet on school funding issues (hooray!)

    We've finally reached a tipping point in SF with more families taking on the public education cause not only for their kids but for the future of all our children.

    I agree - public school parents have been a critical part of the success of SFUSD in the past decade.

    (Personally, I'd like to see more acknowledgement and encouragement of this from SFUSD central administration - I think you'll find plenty of school site principals and teachers that will acknowledge parent power.)

  96. someone alluded to it here, but it shouldn't go without repeating, if the public schools go down the tubes, the private schools will also fall in quality. this is not just a problem for the people who can't afford private school. as with all business, competition pushes quality. if private school loses one huge competitor, i.e., the public school system, they will not push their quality up b/c what do they have to lose? parents are going to suck it up and pay the high private tuition even when they aren't getting what they're used to if public school is so wretched that they wouldn't even think of letting their kids go there.

  97. As well, public schools would be even worse without competition from private schools.

  98. That is certainly debatable as an overall point. Yes, the competition and market sensitivity argument may be valid, but it's also true that private schools drain energy and funding from the public schools and cherry-pick the kids most likely to succeed--similar to our health care system where insurance companies seek the healthier & younger people, which is why large (i.e., mandated, community-rated) pools work best for keeping the system in balance. Our schools get out of balance in part because of the drain of students. So it is debatable whether or not public schools would be better or worse if all private schools were abolished. In SF, we'd be a lot better off in some ways if the particular set of 21,000 kids who attend private and parochial schools were back in our system.

    The economics are different going the other way, in other words, if public schools are allowed to get worse. It's not a mirror-image argument.

    I take issue with the phrasing "even worse." You could phrase that more neutrally and still make an argument about the role of competition. We have the best urban district in the state, and a significant number of our schools score in the top third in the state. No need to bash our public schools to make your point. So sick of the knee-jerk schools are bad, blah blah, sfgate-comment style. Most of our schools are good and some of them are great. There are a few that are genuinely chaotic.

  99. I keep reading about these volunteers in the class-room at public schools but I never saw a one at the numerous tours I was on. I applaud those who volunteer in the classroom, I work and its not an option. However, I just do not see it filling the void in reality.

  100. 7:50

    I was a school volunteer, including in the classroom, for years (my kids are now in middle school and want me out of sight!). Sometimes the teacher wanted me to cover the time when the kids went to art class or library or science, so that it could be turned into a prep period for her/him. Sometimes I was asked to run errands--like in kinder, a kid would have an "accident" and I would help her find clothes from the extra clothes box in the office, or I would be making photocopies of field trip slips to send home. Or I was a designated reader at library hour. Often, though, I was in the classroom. I know many who still are.

    Other years, I would be taking care of office or PTA tasks like collating read-a-thon slips. Or weeding the garden. Or helping as a recess or lunchtime volunteer.

    I saw what you saw, but our elementary school was usually humming with volunteers. Don't know if you toured our school. I guess the best I can say is that you can't extrapolate from the very short tours that tend to happen first thing in the morning.

  101. 8:02 p.m., would love to know which school, it makes a big difference.

  102. I'm not convinced that moving 21,000 private kids into public school would be so great for the public schools, even assuming it would be logistically possible to absorb so many bodies. You'd get more per-student funding, but you'd be serving that many more kids, many of whom have accustomed-to-being-catered-to families. Maybe test scores averages would go up, but public school culture could change a lot. As the squeaky-wheel former private parents make their demands, the achievement gap could get even wider. Instead of contributing tuition savings to public schools, former private families might be just as inclined to divert that money to stuff for their own families as put it into a common pot for the school. People on this blog already complain that Clarendon is too snooty from having too many "would-have-gone-private-otherwise" families in it.

    There's also a tendency to forget that private schools fill a variety of parental desires: for religious education, for substantively different curricula, for single-sex education; for language instruction public schools do not offer. Take those aren't-and-will-never-be-available-at-public school features out of the mix, and I don't think your private population count would be anywhere near 21,000.

  103. 1:55

    No, we'd never get the whole 21,000. Some families will always go private or parochial. But if we got back the ones who left when busing started....we once had capacity for what, 70,000 or more?

    Or (big hypothetical mind game), if private schools simply didn't exist, what would happen? That was the original question, the ostensible nothing-but-positive impact of private on public schools.

    I'm willing to say that there is benefit in having competition. I thought our choice system also provided competition that drove schools to succeed more. But there is a downside to having private schools too, especially when that sector is so large as it is in many cities today. It pulls away the most likely to succeed, it diverts attention and energy and undermines the commitment of upper-middle class voters to the tax base for the schools. Privatization in any area tends to undermine the commitment to the commons.

    Public schools have an impact on private and vice-versa. But the economies of how that works are not exactly the same.

  104. IMO part of the objective of the new assignment system is for fewer very affluent families living in Pacific Heights/Marina/Presidio Heights/Russian Hill/ to go private as their kids will now have a better chance of going to a nearby school with like (read: white, affluent) kids. And don't get me started on the whole Cobb Montessori business where parents who can afford a private Montessori preschool get a leg up.