Monday, April 26, 2010

Hot topic: Round II and private school tuition

This from a reader:
As Round 2 notices go out and private school tuition payments are coming due, is anyone reconsidering their private school placement if they get their wait pool school this week? or deciding the tuition is just too much and considering other options?

177 comments:

  1. We'll probably stick with our parochial for 2nd grade. Our Round 1 school is too depressing, but since I was dumb enough to list it, we're in the bottom cohort for our wait pool school. The parochial tuition is really quite reasonable, and I like the small classes (it's not Catholic btw), the 2nd grade teacher, and the available after-school programs. Also a good start time and location.

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  2. We paid a deposit at a private school and filled out a wait pool form for our assignment area school. We are very happy with the private school, but cost (obviously) and logistics are better at our assignment area school, so we continue to stick it out with sfusd. Should we be lucky on April 30, it will be a very hard decision. I personally do not think there will be much movement at this particular public school after April 30 (at least not until late August if at all), so if we are not lucky on April 30, we have decided to be done with the process. Good luck everyone! I'm sure spots will open up at both public and private schools, hopefully making many of our lives a bit easier and less stressful.

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  3. 12:31 p.m., we have a similar dilemma and are very hopeful that we get our wait list school. We have decided that it would be best for our family. I start thinking, you pick one school b/c it seems good for your first child but then start thinking about that second child, or even more children and how there is no one school that is the best fit for everyone. Then there is the cost which unless you are uber wealthy does impact when you retire, what type of vacations you go on, etc. even if it appears affordable at first blush. I also worry about the influence of overt displays of wealth and the lack of reality and drive I see in children of friends. That is not to say that private schools do not offer a lot of great things and I would go over our Round I assignment any day, I just hope it all works out.

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  4. We are reconsidering private school b/c of the cost, but did not put in an amended form or waitpool school form. Does anybody know if I can still do this? And if I would still have the 0/7 priority in the waitpool? Or would I have to wait until open enrollment in June and then just take whatever spot is available? That seems pretty glum.

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  5. 12:31, just something to think about is that once all the kids in SFUSD get locked down after the 5 or 10 day count, they don't allow any intra-district transfers, but you can transfer in from a private. I know it's disruptive but you could get the call in late Aug or early Sept. It's something to think about being open to. B/c the for ex. the first poster is trying to change schools in 2nd grade. It gets harder later. If you can get in the school you want for K, even late in the year you're golden for the next 6 years. And you can only do this if you are in a private K.

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  6. 1:51 - It's not like they maintain a waiting list and start calling people in private schools when people move away during the year.

    You have to be lucky to hear about some spot opening at the school you want during the year. Sounds pretty lame to me. What are you supposed to do call EPC everyday to see if some spot opens up? Pay someone to monitor for you? Give me a break.

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  7. 1:51 p.m., you are also forgetting that you are going to make the private school very mad by waiting that long to determine you want to switch and you are going to forfeit a year's worth of tuition for sure by waiting until school is started. Not to mention, taking up a spot someone else might like. I think you need to decide before school starts and if you want to gamble by holding your Kindergartener out of school for the first few weeks with no assignment, then gamble but not if you ever want to consider that school again.

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  8. "is anyone reconsidering their private school placement?"

    NO!!!

    With everything we have learned on this blog in the last year, and everything that we have been put through with the public school application process, we are entirely disengaged from the public school process.


    We are thrilled, happy, ecstatic with our private school.

    It's worth every penny.

    We're so thrilled that we will never again have to deal with the racist monsters of the SFUSD.

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  9. Nobody believes you when you tell them that if they just "wait it out" they will get a great public school placement, but it's true.

    You may have to wait till September or even October, but a great placement in a great public school will come up, and you should wait it out and save the money.

    It goes against every inch of your being, because we all like to plan ahead and feel secure and know what's going to happen, but it will happen. It never doesn't happen.

    And so many of my friends in past years get "the call" for Clarendon, Miraloma, Rooftop, Grattan, Yick Wo, Claire Lillienthal, Beuna Vista, Flynn, etc. just to name a few, and they all HATE themselves and feel stuck at their private school.

    Nobody believes you when you promise them that it will happen, but it will: the call will come. A spot will show up. And you will be happy with your public.

    So go ahead, donate all that chunk to the Catholic Church or the nonrefundable fancy place. Go ahead. And then have the guts to accept the call when it comes. It will.

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  10. 4:06, do people ever get the call when they got 1/7? We have a decent public assignment, but I sure would love to beat it with our waitlist school. What are our odds? Are you mainly talking to 0/7s?

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  11. The public school process (at least up till now) has been exactly like going to a highly rated five star dirt cheap restaurant and being treated horribly by the staff. You wait and wait and wait, and you don't know when you're gonna get seated.

    Then eventually you do, and you have the absolute best home cooking you ever have.

    For those of you who want to walk off in a huff, and pay for the high priced five start restaurant, go ahead. The food isn't free and it isn't as good, and the people who meet are as impatient and clueless as you are.

    Just be patient. The wait in line and horrible school system red tape is nothing compared to a great five year free public education your child will experience, with a great diverse group of kids as mates.

    I'm all for maybe paying for school come high school, and even for middle school if that's your thing. But spending $200,000 to $300,000 to send two kids K-5 is just ridiculous.

    Saying you're sticking with private because of the bad way the public school lottery system has treated you is just silly. Boo hoo. I'll sweat out a few months and cry all the way to the bank, and my children will be better for it.

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  12. 4"06 here. I got the call after going 0/15. Most all my friends over the past five years went 0/7, or maybe 1/15. We all got the call. Many of us had already committed to private, so we turned down the spot.

    The call always comes. Maybe not to your #1 pick, but I have never known anyone to be unhappy with the school with which they ended up.

    My experience. Your mileage may vary.

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  13. 4:14 p.m. thanks. Something to consider before putting down tuition, can live with giving up the deposit.

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  14. Yes, well, would that were true, 4:06. We're now 0 for I don't know how many rounds of the cursed lottery. After all of that, our daughter is currently finishing her first year at the extremely underwhelming school to which she was assigned and we're still struggling to get her into another school. Our top choice is one of the "hidden gems" that is supposedly not that competitive and which other posters claim is easy to get into in subsequent rounds. Needless to say, that has not been our experience. Several families at our current school are in the same situation.
    So, I'm sorry to be pessimistic, but that golden call doesn't happen for everyone. We're going to keep trying our luck in the lottery for one more year before we are forced to seriously reevaluate our options.

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  15. You people make me want to throw up. First you tell us all to find hidden gems and put them on our list.

    Now many of us find ourselves 1/7, not that excited about our schools and with no chance of "getting the call"

    I wish I never read this blog. All my own fault and I take full responsibility for putting schools on my list that I was not giddy about.

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  16. 4:23, will you tell us which school and what schools you've been offered in the process? Is your child unhappy, and do you feel that her learning is being affected?

    I'm one of the older wave of parents who has given people this advice in the past, and while doing an education blog I tried to find families who stuck it out through the process and who really had not gotten a school they were happy with in the end. I found a few who didn't get the one they really liked till 1st grade, but they tended to be some specific outlier circumstances.

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  17. 4:23 - That sounds like a sucky situation. It is no fun to feel helpless and for you and others in the school to have that feeling. Sounds depressing - I am sorry.

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  18. Spaces open in SF Public Montessori. If you are interested in Montessori education in public school, there may be space available for this fall in the SFUSD public Montessori school. Our program is growing and moving to a new location at 2340 Jackson Street for the coming school year. Due to confusion at EPC many applicants to our program were lost in the shuffle during the first round lottery. Spots will be filled from to waiting pools: first those with concurrent prior Montessori experience, and then those without.

    Parents interested in learning more about our growing Elementary Montessori program (Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade in SY 2010-11) are more than welcome to attend an Informational Tour for SFUSD Public Montessori Program: Wednesday, April 28th at 9:15 am. Dr. William Cobb CDC, entrance on Pine Street between Divisadero and Scott streets.

    Please RSVP by contacting Mary Starr Hope, President, Montessori Families Organization at 415-812-3046 for more information and any questions. http://www.sfpublicmontessori.org/

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  19. 12:31 again. Thanks for the advice. Responding to the comments that spots "always" open up, I'm happy that this has been the experience for some of you, but I simply do not believe this is universally true. I personally know families that never got a spot and either moved from the city or enrolled at a private or parochial school. In fact, the system counts on families doing this. There are simply not enough spots at schools the readers of this blog would find acceptable (which is certainly more than just the trophy schools, but not completely failing schools). Caroline, I appreciate many of your comments, but keeping track of families that stuck it out to the bitter end (sometimes years) is simply not helpful information. Most families do not have the intestinal fortitude to go through this. And for those that do, thanks to those that opt out, you may get the golden call (thus giving rise to statements that the call always comes). But if everyone tried waiting it out, this would not be everyone's experience. The numbers simply do not add up.

    Personally, I do just want to be done and to be able to be excited with my child about her kindergarten for next year. I also want stability for her and our family. I do not think this is asking too much. I spent a great deal of time understanding this lottery process and made informed, strategic choices. Our strategy did not work for us, but did work for others...reasonable choices for the first few slots, trophy schools to fill out the list to ensure 0/7 (and a better cohort) if we did not get one of the reasonable choices. I'm not bitter (and very fortunate to have another option, I know) and I appreciate the rationale behind the lottery (giving underserved children a chance at good schools). Again, if we're lucky on April 30, we'll have a tough choice to make. If we're not lucky, then we'll choose private school...giving those of you who can bear waiting until the 10-day count and beyond slightly better odds. Best of luck everyone.

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  20. What the "f" we put the Montesorri on our Round I list and didn't get it! And have Mont preschool. And now that I've already turned in my form with my waitpool and Round 2 choices, you are telling me there might be space. SFUSD is smoking crack! How can they be so disorganized!

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  21. I should say, we're in a somewhat different situation. We have one fairly predictable if not enormous professional income and our children are so far apart in age (graduating college next month and an incoming 2nd grader) that parochial tuition is not as daunting for us as it would be for many. I really wish I could have fallen in love, or at least in toleration, with our public assignment.

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  22. I know, it's incredible about the public Montessori and the lottery. We are trying to reach you folks that did put Montessori on your apps - since they were all essentially lost. Don't worry that you've already turned in the round II form . . . please, please do contact Marystarr - all hope is not lost!!!

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  23. Oh Montessori school ! If only you had a third grade next year ! :( This is major news though, will spread the word.

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  24. What I have maintained based on watching this process closely for literally years is that the families that "never" got a spot gave up partway through the process. I understand that it takes intestinal fortitude -- though if you weigh the need for intestinal fortitude vs. $20K-plus a year per kid for 13 years, or uprooting your life to move to an entirely new community, well...

    It's true that when those families give up, that opens up more spots for others on the wait lists, so in that sense the system counts on those families giving up. On the other hand, the more middle-class families that stay in the public school system and spread out to more public schools, the more they bring their resources to those schools and help them become "acceptable." I know that sounds like I'm saying middle-class families are the magic key to a school's success, but there IS something like that going on -- when a school enrolls a critical mass of disadvantaged, high-need kids, it becomes overwhelmed -- and the converse is true.

    I know of three families who had to stick it out for a year and in one case I think two years, but in all those cases, the circumstances were extenuating in a big way.

    Of course, this really is a moot point anyway in future years, if the new system makes enough changes to give applicants more security.

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  25. I guess it depends on what you mean by "partway through the process." Most people expect that the process should be done by Round 1 or Round 2 (and is that so crazy???). Saying that people "gave up" after Round 2 by not sticking it out until they eventually got a school (which could take a year or more) hardly seems fair.

    That said, I do appreciate your words regarding schools improving when middle income families stay with public schools. Hopefully the new system will help in this regard.

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  26. True, that's a nebulous issue (how do I define when a family didn't "stick it out"?) I guess I look more at the other families, the ones who determined to hold out.

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  27. Well, I guess it depends on how you define "giving up." We were assigned to a school we didn't want, we stuck it out through multiple rounds and wait lists and the 10 ten count and nothing. We were stuck. We've tried to make the best of it and have gotten heavily involved but ultimately, to no avail. There's only so much you can do when the administration is aggressively hostile and the teachers are so beaten down they look like they would rather be anywhere other than with your child.
    We don't want to give up on making this school better but we also don't want our kids going to this place a minute longer than they have to- you start to wonder, should our children be the guinea pigs for our ardent hopes for public school education? Thus we keep entering the lottery and waiting and hoping but I wonder which is "giving up"- abandoning a school that desperately needs change (despite the fact that the school district deems it above adequate) or abandoning the chance of a school we really want where our child could thrive?
    Oddly enough, my appreciation of what constitutes a "better school" has changed somewhat. Recently, I happened to visit one of the schools that has been tagged "low performing" and was surprised and impressed by the high tech facilities, the principal who knew every students' name by heart and the totally dedicated and frankly, cool, teachers there. So, I'm now at the point where I'm thinking I should transfer my kid there but for the fact that the state is demanding that due to their low test scores they must either fire the excellent principal or cut half of the totally committed teachers. This is truly insane.
    Ultimately, all I ask for in my school is an environment that inspires a life-long love of learning. Despite everything else we might do to fill in all the gaps that our school lacks- extra reading work, other extracurricular activities- we can't fight a teacher or a school that makes the act of learning seem tedious, boring and even pointless. That, for us, has been the system's biggest failure of all.

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  28. Maybe you are that family that I've never found, 9:45, and I'm sorry to hear that. What are the schools, and did you go through this for K and then again for 1st grade to no avail? Have you tried to get counseling from PPS?

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  29. "Find hidden gems"
    "Work the system"
    "Wait for the second round"
    "Don't worry you'll save lots of money"
    "Its wonderful - don't worry about less teachers, bigger classes, no science lab, no computer lab, etc etc etc...

    Hmmm.... find hidden gems.... if feels like a game.

    Is it just me or the public school system here seems to think our kids education as a game. And there seems to be a lots of willing participants.

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  30. Trust me, there are many families in the same boat. I can't believe this is a great surprise. We keep applying and keep hoping but chances are increasingly slim. I felt perverse and small for actually hoping that the budget crisis would compel the school district to increase class sizes and therefore increase our chances (however minimally) of a more acceptable situation.
    Does the name of the school really matter? It seems a bit rude to to throw them under the bus and I doubt it's an isolated example. As for counseling, when we went to turn in our form for Round I this year the attendant shook his head and said, 'Oh, no, first grade is very difficult. It won't happen for you.' Yes, thanks. We noticed.

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  31. The Montessori Program has been placed on the back shelf, in large part due to confusion and lack of SFUSD organization (not deliberate) and in part because of SFUSD District Administrative politics.
    This program is worth pursuing and it will require intelligent, diligent families to keep it alive. It is a life gift for your child. Don't hesitate.

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  32. Amongst our acquaintances and friends, for every one public school success story we know of five or six stories that strongly resemble that of 9:45 pm, and it greatly saddens us. To Caroline and other stalwart proponents of SFUSD, please realize that although you, your friends, and all of your children have had great experiences, there are multitudes of children currently in the elementary schools who are not on the path toward a "life-long love of learning," as 9:45 so beautifully puts it. You want so badly for everyone to believe that SFUSD is a great place to educate their child, but you're not seeing the reality: SFUSD is not doing right by many children. Read 9:45's posting one more time, as I have done, and perhaps it will start to sink in... but you have to be open to truly hearing what the poster is saying.

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  33. "should our children be the guinea pigs for our ardent hopes for public school education?"

    9:45, no. I'm so very sorry for your situation. I'm not there yet, but all I want is for my kid not to be warehoused for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week of her very young life. Not even for a year. This is what wakes me up at 4 AM crying. Call me selfish or conservative, but at the end of the day I'm choosing my kid over ideology. Since we can't afford private and won't do parochial, I guess this will mean leaving SF if we get a school I can't live with. I really hope you get a better chance, somehow.

    And yes, Revere rocks. Shame on the government for their stupid, shortsighted policies.

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  34. 10:13, I was referring to counseling by PPS. Seeking counseling from the SFUSD EPC is less likely to be successful, to put it diplomatically.

    I still wonder how many of these un-success stories there really are, though, since I've been an involved SFUSD parent since 1997, meaning I know lots and lots of SFUSD families, and I've never met any of them in person. I mean, of course I know people whose kids have had less-than-successful school experiences -- plenty of them, in SFUSD, private, charters and suburbia alike -- but not attributable to the failure of the assignment process to give them a school they wanted.

    Of course, there is a new process kicking in next year, so let's hope it makes life easier for parents.

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  35. But 7:20, even 5 years ago you'd have been waking up at 4 a.m. crying if you had feared being assigned to Revere. So that tells us something. Honest, don't panic. The horror stories are rare and isolated.

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  36. "Amongst our acquaintances and friends, for every one public school success story we know of five or six stories that strongly resemble that of 9:45 pm, and it greatly saddens us."

    Funny, my experience last year was been the opposite: most of our friends got one of their choices, and all but one (who only listed 3 choices) eventually got into a public they're happy with. About a third got into trophy schools. It was far better than the clusterf**k I was expecting.

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  37. Back to the original post, if you got your waitpool school assigned in Round II, would you consider giving up your private spot. I think these parents horror stories about undesirable assignments are compelling to take that wait pool spot now for K rather than take a private spot and then try to switch over at a later grade if it gets to costly or it does not work out because it is harder to switch into a desirable school.

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  38. We will go thru the K search next year. For privates, how do the tuition payments work? You give a deposit with your acceptance letter in March. Then in May you have to pre-pay the whole year's tuition? Is that why people are coming up to a decision point now? Is the full year non-refundable? What if you don't like the school or need to move?

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  39. Most schools require a deposit. Then you have a choice to pay it all up front or pay in installments (but if you pay in installments you commit to paying the entire year. You can buy tuition insurance in case something happens and you need to withdraw.

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  40. The horror stories are not all being told. We are a family trying desperately to leave our under performing school. We have been turned down again and again. Moving is not an option at this point. Private is not an option. We feel we are unable to parent our kids in a healthy way by sending them to a very unhealthy SFUSD school.

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  41. Thanks for the answers on how the tuition works. So the payments start now? In May for next year?

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  42. 9:05 a.m., if I were in your shoes, I would change schools to any other school with openings in the day count even if it meant sending me kids to different schools. What grade are your kids in and what is your waitlist school? Have you tried Creative Arts Charter?

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  43. I am also curious, when are private school tuitions for the year due? Does it vary by school?

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  44. 9:05 - what school is this? and what do you mean by "unhealthy"?

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  45. On Montessori again - thanks 8:04 for spreading the word - we are trying to reach parents, as spots are available *now*. 10:18 - you are right that we need intelligent, diligent parents to keep this afloat and the great news is that we do indeed have such a group of parents. We are a really well-organized and highly motivated group of parents that also is a pleasure to work with! Our programs has a strong 5-year-old history and is forging ahead with great momentum and enthusiasm, despite the stumbling blocks we've encountered!

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  46. Our private school (which I believe is typical) required a deposit in March (I've heard that deposits range from $500-$3000). Then in June we have to sign a contract whereby we commit to paying the entire year's tuition. This tuition can be paid all at once, in two installments, or in 10 monthly installments. There is the option of tuition insurance, which covers something like 75% of the tuition should you leave the school for any reason (and it might be more if it is a medical reason...I don't have the brochure in front of me). But, the insurance only kicks in after your child has completed 14 days of school. So this could work for a family who gets a public school spot in late-Sept. or thereafter, but not one who gets a spot over the summer.

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  47. Montesorri family,
    Won't any spots that are available for K now be filled with the Round 2 applicants that put it as their waitpool? Or from people that put the school on their Round 2 list? Do you think there will still be K spots available after April 30? I didn't put it on my Round 2 list b/c I put it on my Round 1 list and didn't get it, so I assumed it was full. Isn't it too late for me? Also, is Emily Green still with the program? THX

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  48. 9:33, thx for the answers on tuition. So it's June when it's due. That's why parents have to make a final decision b/f signing the contract and committing to the whole year. So really you just get to see if you get something else in Round 2. B/c the next waitpool run is done end of May and letters re mailed May 30, you might not have that letter by the time you have to sign the private commitment letter.

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  49. This conversation is somewhat meaningless without knowing what schools people are talking about. If you feel that strongly about a school not being acceptable, please state the name of the school. By not naming the school, you are defaming all schools.

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  50. For those going private but not positive you'll stay, I strongly recommend tuition insurance if it's available. I'm not in the tuition insurance business. Check the policy provisions to make sure "chose to change schools" (as opposed to illness, job transfer etc.) is a covered event.

    I feel for people who don't like their public schools and can't get out of them. The trouble with the "everyone who gives it a chance loves SFUSD" rhetoric is that I think the data pool is somewhat biased. If you have your kids in public school and hang out with mostly public families, most of your friends are going to be people who are happy with their public schools. The unhappy families who can leave do, so you probably don't see much of them. The unhappy families who don't have the means to do so probably don't want to make an uncomfortable situation worse by bad-mouthing it in front of their kids and everyone else.

    Our private school has families who were sufficiently unhappy at popular public schools like Alvarado, Commodore Sloat, Argonne, and Buena Vista to be willing to pay $20K per kid per year to avoid them. (Our school is full of two-income families but not wealthy families.) I know people who have left our private and been happy at these exact same public schools and are even more happy to be saving $20K per year. I guess the point is, mileage really does vary. SFUSD is great for many people, but it's not great for everyone. When I spent several hours at our assigned 2nd grade SFUSD school a few weeks ago, I saw a critical mass of bored-looking kids and unhappy-looking teachers, and a principal who seemed detached from reality. The thing is, friends of a friend are perfectly happy at this same school, it's not overwhelmed by high-need kids, its diversity matches that of the city, and kids in our demographic do just fine on the standardized tests. I simply am not capable of imagining my child being happy in that environment. It's very subjective.

    Of our friends who are happy in public school, every one of the families has a parent who does not work full time and who enjoys being involved at school.

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  51. 9:45, do you really know a number of people who have been so unhappy with BV, Argonne, Commodore Sloat and Alvarado that they're willing to pay $20K/year to avoid them?

    As an SFUSD parent of course I know many fellow SFUSD families, but as a member of the greater San Francisco community I also know a ton of private school families. I know a number of families who have gone back and forth from public to private and vice versa for various reasons. But I really am not seeing families paying tuition to avoid those overall successful schools because they just weren't working for them.

    Almost everyone here is anonymous, and the great value of this blog is that it's a source of essential information for other parents. It seems like a disservice to others not to name schools that are "unhealthy" and otherwise unsuccessful for you. I know that parents claiming they're stuck in SFUSD schools they are unhappy with do post from time to time on this blog -- and a consistent hallmark is that they don't name the schools. If you're anonymous it's not going to come back to bite you.

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  52. We will pay for our little Jeffrey's tuition with dividends from our blue chip portfolio. These funds have already been set aside. We would never dream of touching principal, nor would it be necessary.

    Sincerely,
    Catherine and Kent

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  53. I'm not 9:45, but I know several families who have moved their kids out of Alvarado and other public schools at the same level into private schools because the schools weren't working for them. Some of them attend the private school that my kids attend. I don't know why it's so hard hard to believe that a family would make financial decisions and sacrifices for the sake of their child's education, if they were not happy with the education that they were getting in public schools.

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  54. Thanks, caroline for such supportive words. I have spent the year being a target of public critic at our school. How silly of me not to become one here.

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  55. "9:45, do you really know a number of people who have been so unhappy with BV, Argonne, Commodore Sloat and Alvarado that they're willing to pay $20K/year to avoid them?"

    Yes, I do know these families. They go to our private school and pay the tuition (our school does not offer financial aid and is not considered "elite" by anybody's standards), and they've pulled their kids out of the public schools named. Except for the BV family, they stayed at their public schools for a full year before making the decision to leave. They were not people who just dismissed public schools out of hand. Interestingly, the people who did not like Argonne struck me as complainers and I doubted they would last at our school, but they've been there three years now. While these families are above median income, they are not so wealthy that they don't have to make sacrifices to afford the tuition.

    I met another mom at soccer who said she thought Alvarado, where her kid goes, was not very good and the only reason she kept him there was she could not afford private with two kids. I ran into a family from our school touring McKinley a while back. They had a second child reaching school age, and were wondering how on earth they could come up with the money, but were shaking their heads in dismay at McKinley--and are also still at the private school.

    I am naming the specific schools here because I agree that it's helpful to be specific about "which school." These are popular, well-established schools with strong support from their parent communities. The fact that some people I happen to know have not been satisfied with them won't really hurt them. As I said, impressions of schools are subjective. Maybe the people who've pulled their kids out of public and put them in our private, or who are keeping them in private after touring public, are just deluded that because they are paying $20K per year their kids are having a better experience. But they seem like pretty savvy, hard-headed business people to me.

    I'm not naming our assigned 2nd grade SFUSD school because I met some very nice parents and one in particular is working very hard. Since I hear some people are happy there, I don't want to undermine the efforts to make the school more popular (not that anybody would necessarily care what I think), though I wonder what the odds are with such an uninspiring principal.

    Please remember, I also said some people have left our private and been happy with public.

    I just don't buy that everyone who sticks it out with SFUSD ends up happy.

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  56. I think it is a disservice to tell parents to just stick it out, that something will work out by the end of the year or in one or two years, tops.

    There is always confirmation bias from any situation. The numbers do not support the theory that there is space for everybody in a public school that will make everybody happy. There are not enough spots in SFUSD for all the kids in SF if everybody was forced to go public. Much less a spot that everybody would consider desirable. The system as currently set up requires that people drop out of using the public school system. There is also evidence that there is more demand (from better perceived schools, more options for immersion, the poor economy, less migration to the suburbs) from middle class parents without the requisite increase in overall number of spots in SFUSD. The district has been planning for two decades to shrink the size of the district and has only started to deal with the upsurge in enrollment from the past 5 years or so. The district doesn't move that quickly. Add to that the budget crisis and you have the perfect potential for high demand and low availability. If you have the intestinal fortitude or options to be able to stick it out with SFUSD, you may get lucky as more and more people drop out of the available spots. But I would think that people should make an informed decision based on reality and their family's situation rather than just blind hope and trust.

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  57. Just to clarify, I haven't said that everyone who sticks it out with SFUSD ends up happy -- as I just posted, of course I know families who are struggling with various issues.

    What I've said is that everyone I've known who stuck it out through the enrollment process has wound up with a school they were happy with, as in contented to accept. And to be fair I should be saying "initially" happy, because of course in some cases there are eventually problems along the way, for whatever reason.

    This doesn't really make sense as a complaint: "There are not enough spots in SFUSD for all the kids in SF if everybody was forced to go public." -- well, of course not, because since ~30% of children in SF have been going private for a good 30 years, the district could hardly hold spots open in case all those kids suddenly went public.

    "The system as currently set up requires that people drop out of using the public school system." -- well, the district is operating in light of the fact that people drop out of using the public school system. It would be impossibly incompetent management for the district to operate in another way.

    "There is also evidence that there is more demand (from better perceived schools, more options for immersion, the poor economy, less migration to the suburbs) from middle class parents without the requisite increase in overall number of spots in SFUSD." Unless all spots at every SFUSD school are are filled, that's not accurate by definition.

    "The district has been planning for two decades to shrink the size of the district and has only started to deal with the upsurge in enrollment from the past 5 years or so." Enrollment has been shrinking since the '70s, so that's also logical, and there has only been an upsurge in recent years.

    In other words, it seems apparently that the district HAS been responding to falling and rising demand -- perhaps not as absolutely nimbly and perfectly as it could, but with reasonable efficiency. That whole commentary was intended as a criticism, but I don't see how it reflects poorly on the district. I can DEFINITELY cite areas where I think SFUSD has screwed up and could do things better, but responding to fluctuations in demand isn't really one of them.

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  58. More on Montessori - 9:37, that's a good question - I will see if there's an answer and get back to you. My understanding is that there are and will be spots available after 4/30. In the meantime, you might wanna email Marystarr marystarr.hope@mac.com who will know more of the ins-and-outs. Emily Green is with us through this summer and our move - beyond that, we still don't know.

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  59. Caroline - it is not all about you - I was responding more to the anonymous postings at the top of this thread.

    I also do not think that I am criticizing SFUSD. I think that I am just articulating the current situation in the school system the way I see it- good, bad or indifferent - and advising people to make their decisions with that in mind. I personally think that SFUSD is doing a reasonable job addressing all their myriad constituents' needs. Not everybody will be happy, but that is not their job. For the cohort of people who read this blog who probably have some options - I think that they need to be realistic about their chances about getting what they want from the system. Reasonable people may disagree.

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  60. Hi 9:37 Here's the scoop and a message from Marystarr, MFO prez:
    Because EPC never designated a number for the Montessori School the same situation as occurred with round one will happen with round two: the lottery will ignore any requests for Montessori or assign those children to the Cobb Elementary School. EPC has turned the process over to the school directly. If you would like to enroll in the Montessori Program you should contact the school and request the site manager or Montessori Implementer. This is the only way you can be added to the pool for prior Montessori students. If you have any further questions please contact Montessori Families Organization President MaryStarr Hope at info@sfpublicmontessori.org . There will be an informational talk tomorrow at 9:15 for any prior Montessori Families who were affected by the confusion at EPC, at our current location at Dr. William Cobb Child Development Center at Pine and Divisadero. Please RSVP to MaryStarr at 812-3046 if you would like to attend.

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  61. To miserable parents and students everywhere -

    Lousy teachers and a hostile environment - honestly you owe it not only to your child but to the other kids whose parents don't have the resources to pull their children out of such a lousy school.

    Name the school. I'm a firm believer in public shaming. I wish we could bring back the stocks to the Town Square for just such purposes.

    Then march down to the EPC and a demand a transfer - if it's designated as underperforming - you have the right to get the hell outta dodge under the No Child Left Behind. While it won't guarantee you a seat some place else, it should put you ahead of everyone else who is trying to get into a school at your grade level. And if there's push back, contact the Chron, the Examiner, the Board of Education, your local, state and federal representatives with details on what you have seen and heard. It's unexcusable that schools like this exist. The district talks a big game about creating joyful learners and equity. Schools like yours are failing us all, not just your kid.

    I still kick myself for not making such a stink when I ran into an exceptionally racist teacher as a high school junior. I managed to apply to private schools and fill out the financial aid paperwork on my own to get out of there for my senior year, but he taught there for another 15 years after I left. I'm sure I'm not the only minority that was subjected to him and that's a true shame.

    Signed,
    Still Fuming Inside but Now Happily Enrolled at our not-a-trophy school

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  62. I'm really curious about the parent shaking his or her head in dismay at McKinley...was this all from going on a tour? That is, did he or she get her entire subjective impression from that?

    I had horrible impressions touring Clarie Lilienthal, which I'm sure were also totally unfounded. It's just that it was raining, and I couldn't even see in the classrooms, and saw kids that looked a little adrift. But that was one rainy day! It's ridiculous to think that was enough to write off a school. I didn't put it on our list as I was thinking there had to be some value to gut impressions, but in truth I knew that my momentarily subjective perception was at best weak...

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  63. Does anybody know if I take a spot in open enrollment in June, do I get to keep my waitpool school? Can I stay on the waitpool list for our dream school even though I take a school in open enrollment?

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  64. Yes, the couple shaking their heads in dismay got their impression from a McKinley tour, led by the popular principal Bonnie Coffey-Smith (now retired). I actually kind of liked McKinley though I had reservations based on observations of the upper grades where troubled kids seemed to be monopolizing the teachers' time. My husband, who went on very few tours, went on that one. He usually defers to my judgment, but on that school he said, "No way. I don't want our kid in this place." I'm not saying these are "correct" assessments of McKinley, only that they are the honestly expressed opinions of individuals who spent a few hours there.

    Unless you want to commit to volunteer at a school to get real inside dope, you are always dealing with incomplete information filtered through various potential traps, like your mood and the weather and whether the person giving the tour is knowledgeable and having a good day. If, after spending an hour or two at a school, your gut says "no," then why waste a lottery choice or an application fee on it? I was not at all fond of Rooftop, which is probably the most requested school in SFUSD. I had a hard time seeing my kid at Stuart Hall even though we're an alumni family.

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  65. I've just been reading this string and feel very torn about the whole discussion. Negative comments about particular schools really matter and can hurt. When I hear about someone pulling their kid out of X school, I stand up and take notice. Maybe it is "your mileage may vary," but maybe there's something there I need to look into more. But when all I hear is that someone had a terrible impression from a tour, then I really think such comments frankly aren't worth very much. Having said all that, I'm now going to contradict myself: I cringe when I read comments where people (including Caroline) asked folks to name the schools that they were trying to transfer from. Yes, "mileage may vary," but also -- you may not want get that transfer. Why on earth would I defame a school my kid may be stuck with for one plus years? We've been trying to transfer for four years now. We've got some extenuating circumstances for how we got to this point in time, but suffice it to say that SFUSD has not excatly been forthcoming in giving us a better alternative. It is ABSOLUTELY not in my or my kids' interest to defame their school and risk the place sinking even deeper into the mud. Selfish yes, but I'm always hoping things may change -- maybe a sufficient group of K parents will come in next year and really start a fire under the PTA; maybe the clueless principal will retire and be replaced with a dynamo. I mean look at what has happened at some schools -- when I read about the 40 families making a commitment to Juniperro Serra I say couldn't this happen at my school?

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  66. I don't want to see schools blasted unjustly by name, but I also believe that it's important for parents to be able to share information. Obviously, no one should be badgered to name the school if they don't want to, but it's frustrating for parents to hear about problems and not be able to get that information.

    Criticizing or expressing a negative opinion or describing a bad experience are not the same as "defaming."

    BTW this may not be the case every time, but so many times when I've heard young parents commenting on tours of schools that are turning around, they comment on how the upper grades seem troubled. Well, if a school is turning around by attracting more involved families, those families aren't coming into the upper grades, so the upper grades ARE likely to have a different character than the lower ones. Often, that does mean a higher number of high-need, challenged students, possibly approaching critical mass, in those upper grades.

    Then the upper grades graduate and move on. That's how school turnarounds look.

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  67. 4:01, you expressed exactly why I did not name the name of our 2nd grade assigned school. A place like Alvarado is so popular that sharing an anecdote to illustrate the reality that it does not work for everyone is not going to materially harm Alvarado's standing in the community. Popular opinion probably puts the families who've left Alvarado for private in the crackpot category. Saying that you decided to go private instead of accept your John Muir assignment is not really going to adversely affect that school's reputation either. Its API rankings speak for themselves.

    It's the mid-range schools where naming names has the most potential to deter potentially energetic, involved families from giving the place a fair shot. It may not be to my taste, but I would not want to deter others from forming their own opinions.

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  68. Actually, we have similar talks in thread about private schools. YMMV. For the same school, some parents love it, some hate it so much that they transfer to public.

    I think information should be shared. However, the information must be detailed enough so others know exactly what the issues are. "My friends don't like it" is not good enough. We need "my friends don't like it BECAUSE 1...2...3..."

    Ideally, we should get first person account on what's wrong with the school, not from a third person. Psychologically, when people make a choice (on anything), they make up reasons - good things about the one they pick, bad things about the one they reject. We never know the real story from a third person.

    So, my opinion is that if you are talking about a school from your own experience, then name it if you like. However, if you are telling a story from someone else, then do not name the school

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  69. Who would not give up their private K spot for Clarendon or Claire Lillenthal? Not saying that there are not folks who would not but I do think specifics help.

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  70. I think Caroline's point about turnaround is really true.

    We're at a school where the lower grades look absolutely nothing like the older grades. And what you find as a new parent, is that you're focused on the families in your own kid(s)' grades -- particularly if you're starting in Kinder -- not in the older grades. Fifth graders seem like they're an entirely different species than (one's own) kindergartner. It's sort of like when you go to a playground with your infant and you see kids around age 4 or 5 playing, and they look like wild behemoths, ready to stampede into your wobbling little one...and then your kid turns that age, and the 4 and 5 year old suddenly look entirely nonthreatening...

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  71. Round 2 - Regarding Public Montessori confusion: no children were assigned to the Montessori school during round one, and no record exists for the school of who requested it in that round. It is possible that children will be assigned from round two but it is entirely likely that the same confusion will occur because EPC has not given the Montessori school an assignment number. Therefore anyone interested in Montessori should contact the school to provide their contact information, so that the school is able to track them and make sure they are not lost or turned away by EPC. The school will connect you to EPC to be certain your request makes it to the appropriate place for the third round. There are two waiting pools for the school: one for those with concurrent prior montessori experience and another for those without. This is simply a square peg/round hole issue because the school is moving next year and has two waiting pools and this has caused a great deal of confusion at EPC and misinformation for parents. Some parents were turned away by clerks who were unfamiliar with the school and told people it did not exist or was not open to their children. Others were assigned to the general education program at Cobb Elementary. If you did not choose Montessori in round two because you believed the school must be full, please do not panic. Simply contact the school, let them know you are interested, and they will help connect you to EPC for round 3. If you have further questions you can write me or call me, I am the PTO president for Montessori (Montessori Families Organization). That will be much more effective than posting anonymous questions in this forum. I will be reaching out to PPS to let them know about the situation, but for now they are not really a good source for information on this issue. Hope this helps! MaryStarr 812-3046 info@sfpublicmontessori.org

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  72. If you have to ask the question of how you should pay, you shouldn't be going to private school. Two words: dividends and interest.

    Sincerely,
    Catherine - Jeffrey's mummy (Kent's working late tonight)

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  73. If you have to ask the question of how you should pay, you shouldn't be going to private school. Two words: check or cash.

    Sincerely,
    Kent (working late tonight) - Jeffrey's daddy

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  74. What percent of take-home income is reasonable to commit to private school tuition?
    Anyone have any advice on this???

    We finally settled down to the idea of our assigned public school (unpopular, has potential, we went 0/7 round 1), then got a call from a private with an opening....

    "if you have to ask, you can't afford it" rings true for me, but any input would from others would be appreciated.

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  75. 4:01 pm again -- Caroline, I'm not sure who you directed your comment about schools turning around to. But at my mid-tier school, things have gotten MUCH WORSE in the upper grades. I too went to the tour for my school years ago and thought, "don't focus too much on those out-of-control third and fourth grade classes, because the school's going to be turned around by then." Well, we are now there, it hasn't, and we're in BIG trouble. That's why we have been trying to transfer. Another very big reason is that, in the past, the differences between trophy publics and mid-tier ones like mine were the extras -- the rock-climbing wall, the Spanish afterschool class, etc. Now the differences are MAJOR -- are there 33 kids in fourth grade or 24? We are not sticking around at a school that considers itself fortunate to raise $50,000. That's just not going to cut it in this period of unprecedented cuts. Caroline, with all due respect, your world is coming to an end -- some elementaries are going to thrive because their PTAs are raising $250,000, some are going to get good help because their population is so needy, but the ones like my school are stuck-in-the-middle. And we are going to get screwed.

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  76. 8:33 p.m., assume the tuition is going to go up 5% a year. So, this year say its 24K (if you are looking at $48K pre-tax $$) and then there is aftercare and $5K easily for camp and then there is the donations and events another $5K. So, realistically, $60K a year, or $5K a month pre-tax that you would need for one kid. To afford an extra $5K a month, if you ever want to vacation or retire, I would not do it unless combined income exceeded $400K a year; little more than 1/3 of a net salary of $14K which assumes you spend another 1/3 on mortgage and then have 1/3 for other expenses and savings. Even this is pushing it.

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  77. 8:55

    You are using pre-tax number for the tuition, then after-tax number for income. Doesn't make sense.

    Revised:
    34K for tuition + other expenses = 3K/month. If you take-home pay is 9K/month, it is tight but can work. That requires the couple to make a little over 200K/year gross.

    I would be more comfortable at 250K.

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  78. 9:48 pm, makes since $3K after tax ($6K before) but I would not consider private without a $10-12k after tax income or 400K plus considering you will likely also pay 2K a month additional for child care and the amount of school/child-care is going to well exceed 30% of your take home pay.

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  79. I'd have to agree with @9:48. We have accepted a private spot but are budgeting and it is very tight to make it work and we have a combined income in the low $200k's. Though we have 2 kids, so we're paying for preschool (so more like paying for 2 kids in private). We'll make it but it will feel tight and already we are putting off non-necessities, we'll see how it goes.

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  80. Are you saving for retirement or college? A friend told me (was shocked) college tuition is $40K plus a year now...12-13 years from now, its going to be much more. I could not do it on $250K for one child unless my mortgage/rent was under $3K, have to think of the future.

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  81. Truthfully unless the child does great in school - you won't have to worry about going to a good school

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  82. Independent school tuition fees have doubled over the past 10 years--from around $11,000 to $22,00 on average.

    Unless you are a TrustFundBabe or a Trustafarian, the hurdles are getting higher.

    The Economist reported last month (in an article about Portland, Oregon) that Trust Funders are the only people who can afford to buy homes in San Francisco and Portland now.

    We are becoming the New Mississippi: The middle class dead and gone. The landed aristocracy sending its children to gated schools and the proles fending as best they can down below.

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  83. Re college costs: My college-freshman son's full tuition, dorm room and board (but not incidentals) are $53K a year at Oberlin, and that's not unusual. He gets some merit scholarship money and some need-based financial aid, adding up to a considerable amount. Also, he's at Oberlin as a conservatory student majoring in jazz trumpet, but plans to move into Oberlin's 5-year dual-degree program, double-majoring in poli sci in the liberal arts college. He has close enough to a semester's worth of credits from AP tests taken in high school, so that's just one extra semester.

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  84. Our kids won't need to do great in high school to get into college. But even options in the Claifornia public system will seem relatively expensive if things keep goin this way.

    I was at an alumni gathering last night for my wonderful private liberal arts college. the full freight is over $50K a year now and I can expect that it will cost about $100K a year when my kids are ready to go.

    Private school tuition also increases - that's something to keep in mind. Private college costs have risen an average of 6% over the years - so it's reasonable to expect that tuition will be close to $37-$40 for the independent privates by the time 8th grade is over and done. Then there's no way that if you've gone to independent schools the whole way through that you'll head to public high school, and those places (which are in the $30K ish range now) will be running $60K by the time Catharine and Kent's little Jeffrey is ready.

    There's no money tree or trust fund for us. While we make more than 99% of the United States, it's just not financially feasible for us to commit to that kind of cash outlay at this point. Many of our friends have opted for private school even in light of this and it's somewhat alarming to see what they have subjected themselves to. My husband's firm cut partner draws pretty significantly this year and we have friends who were previously making $700K a year now borrowing on credit cards to pay for private school because the draw has dropped to $400K and private school tuition for 2 kids just not doable on the expenses they have. I feel really really lucky that we are in public school (and again not-a-trophy) and our kid is thriving - learning and having fun.

    Good Luck to all of you in Round II.

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  85. Fifth graders seem like they're an entirely different species than (one's own) kindergartner. It's sort of like when you go to a playground with your infant and you see kids around age 4 or 5 playing, and they look like wild behemoths, ready to stampede into your wobbling little one...and then your kid turns that age, and the 4 and 5 year old suddenly look entirely nonthreatening...

    So true, and even more true for middle schoolers!

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  86. "We're at a school where the lower grades look absolutely nothing like the older grades."

    I've toured John Muir. The Ks and 1s look like happy, engaged little students, albeit a bit browner than your average trophy public. Nobody's deluding themselves that John Muir is in any kind of turnaround mode.

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  87. Well, playgrounds at middle schools are always, like, totally trippy!

    Some 6th graders look like little tots just out of nappies. And some 8th graders look like they are ready for duty in Iraq.

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  88. "Browner than your average trophy public."

    I like that line.

    Just curious: Do these noveau trophy schools ever lose their momentum and fade back into non-trophydom (turning browner again)?

    Has this ever happened? Are their former-Grattans and former-Shermans out there that have lost their luster, reverting to their older, less hectic formats?

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  89. Sad to say, if you have 2 elementary-age kids, committing to 13 years of independent private K-12 with a pre-tax annual income of under $400K is risky business, unless you are of sufficiently modest means to get a predictably nice aid package. Every nickel of private tuition comes out of your after-tax income. The rate of annual tuition increases is alarming. Parochial is about 1/3 the cost of independent private but not everybody can tolerate the religious environment. And if you get a good solid public with predictable and powerful parent fund-raising (which is really pseudo-private these days), lucky you.

    Of course keep a close eye on your kids no matter what their environment. It's not "free" to have your kids come out of high school with so little education they can't function independently as adults. My siblings-in-law are are ages 45 and up and none have ever been financially independent, largely because their parents did not pay attention and take the steps necessary to be sure their kids got decent educations.

    I had a financial aid consultant (not associated with a school, more like a personal financial planner type person) tell me that only suckers save for their kids to go to college. The less you have, the more free tuition and dirt-cheap loans your kid will qualify for.

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  90. 7:41, with all due respect to the Economist, they are painting with a broad brush, and their characterization of San Francisco is not what I see on the ground. The families we know have two parents working, spending probably too much of that income on their mortgage for a modest home, and looking at public schools. And calling Portland a trustafarian city in the same vein as San Francisco seems strange, since it is much cheaper than San Francisco.

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  91. Lakeshore is one of the schools that has lost some of it's hype and demand. It's still the great school it has always been, but b/c of it's location in the far south western part of the city demand has waned as other schools more centrally located have gotten more acceptable to the middle class. That legacy list of Trophies is made up of all city wide or alternative schools (Lakeshore, Lawton, CL, Rootfop, Clarendon, etc.) It wasn't until about 7 years ago that middle class people started sending their kids to non-attendance area schools, hence the rise of Peabody, Sherman, Grattan, Miraloma, McKinley, Sunnyside, etc.

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  92. I was told financial aid was available for $180K and below at most privates. If you make more than that you can't get aid.

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  93. @10:56 I imagine this varies depending on the private but we make $200k+ and got some assistance. Not a lot and definitely not full freight but enough to help and take the edge off. And agree with above, we are saving for retirement but not college at this point.

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  94. That's amazing. We make a WHOLE lot less than $200K and were turned down for financial aid (last year.) Things must be improving!

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  95. Caroline is stuck in a time warp.

    She's talking about another enrollment process in a vastly different city than the one we live in now.

    I have no idea why she is so invested in shelling out erroneous information.

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  96. Whether or how much to save for college should be based on very individual calculations.

    For example: I'm divorced after a long-term marriage in which I was on the career slow lane to take care of the kids, although I am working full-time now. My ex's high salary will make it difficult for my kids to qualify for financial aid at private colleges (the situation is a little more tricky at public, which honors FAFSA and the custodial parent's income). The kids would probably qualify for close to a free ride with my income. Yet he will almost certainly work it out to pay less than full freight--and I'll be on the hook for more than I can afford.

    Divorce law around college costs is a sticky wicket. There is no way to force him to pay what most financial aid offices would tell him to pay if my income were not in the mix; most private colleges simply calculate the total "family contribution" without dividing the responsibility between two VERY disparate incomes and leave the families to figure it out.

    I would be surprised if there were not a good deal of brinksmanship around this on his part, aimed at getting me to pay more than I would if I were paying on my own. Which means that at some point I will make the choice to compromise, for the sake of the children and their education. Some fights are not worth having to the death (don't worry, I did demand child support and fought for a decent divorce settlement overall....but at some point it has to end; and as mentioned, divorce law and college costs is a trickier thing anyway).

    I don't want to saddle my kids with enormous student loan debt, although some may be unavoidable given the situation.

    FWIW, I also find it useful to reduce my pre-tax income due to current alimony income (which will be long gone by the time college rolls around).

    Therefore: I am saving modest amounts for the kids via pre-tax 529 accounts. I'll be paying something for college without a doubt--better to mitigate the pain by saving in smaller amounts now, especially as I can use the tax break now.

    I'd also like to put out there that no one can know what will happen to their family situation. Sad to say, divorce or death can happen to any family (I was gobsmacked when divorce hit me out of the blue). Make no assumptions that you will continue to have the income(s) you have now! That is why saving even a little a month is not necessarily a sucker bet.

    Another thing, my kids are in public school. Ex-H insists he has no money for private (despite income over $400K) because of additional costs in new marriage, blah blah. Again, with his income the kids can't qualify for aid. But this is okay since the kids are happy with their public schools. We had chosen the public route even before the divorce, so this is not a choice forced by the divorce. However, the fact that my ex pleads poverty now tells me what is coming down the pike for college expenses in just a few years. I'll be happy with UC for sure! But at this point want to leave the possibilities open.

    Bottom line: life will throw curve balls, so be ready to swing at them.

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  97. @3:18 Sorry for your trouble; this is wise advice indeed. Without going into a lot of detail, I can confirm that a divorce where the person with money and assets is unwilling to pay will really screw up the financial aid picture.

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  98. However, it is unfair for the private schools to use the total income of both families after divorce.

    They could use the income of the birth parents (but not their current spouse), or half of the income of both families, or one of the families.

    Otherwise, divorced parents are already screwed no matter what.

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  99. This is 3:18 again.

    Thanks, 3:49. Time has gone by, and I'm now happier than I would have been, even though I wasn't the initiator of the divorce. Still and all, I am so, so sorry for its impact on the children, and I can also testify that divorce wreaks havoc on the finances. Including paying for school and or college. Unless you are both very wealthy, I suppose. Even then, don't people still fight over the (much bigger) pie?

    My advice is to think before you leap into divorce, and, especially for women: plan for a life without your husband, even if you are in a happy, loving marriage. You just don't know what will happen. Keep your resume from getting too dusty, and save money for retirement and college.

    I would also say: take this cautionary tale into account when choosing between investing in private versus going public, especially if the choice is a close one, or if the public school is a decent one (albeit missing the bells and whistles of the private). I am SO glad that we had the cushion of not paying private tuition so far and that this hasn't been yet one more contentious issue. And that we didn't have to take the kids out of their school based on changed finances.

    4:16: Divorced people are definitely screwed when it comes to financial aid. No way colleges won't look at the income of married partners--they fear being cheated and they see it as "household income" even though the step-kids are not "your" kids. The idea is the kids *are* your family if you choose to marry into it.

    I can see the logic going both ways, myself. My biggest beef is that the private colleges simply put out a single number for the whole family to pay, even when the incomes are quite disparate. They assume that the parents will work it out (not always easy or possible in these situations), and often enough it is the child who has to negotiate between the parents about this, which I find odious.

    Public universities are a bit different though; they are still stuck in the idea that there is usually one custodial parent, and they go by the FAFSA form which is the custodial parent's income. If this is still the case in a few years then I'll be in better shape, assuming we'll apply based on my income, not my ex's, and based on current calculations get a big reduction on fees based on my income. Which also doesn't seem fair, in a way, given that he could/should pay his fair share to a struggling public institution, but I'm not in a position to argue this point.

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  100. I've been that kind of screwed (I paid a stepchild's private HS tuition--gladly by the way--because my DH, her dad, couldn't and her mom with the $ wouldn't and she needed the attention to make up for many lost years in public K-8), but I honestly understand where the privates are coming from on this. There is only so much financial aid to go around. Between giving it to a kid whose parents can't pay and to a kid whose parents choose not to pay, I'd go with the former. The private schools shouldn't be getting involved in other people's personal dramas.

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  101. Well, I suppose it's dramatic, but after 12 years of raising us on the poverty line, when I was a high school sophomore my mom simply looked at my upper-middle-class dad and said he could sign away his parental rights so we could get aid, or pay for college. He chose to pay for college. We were really lucky that our private school did not count his income, as he refused to put a penny toward that, or much of anything else. I've always been grateful for the college education, but my brother's attitude is that college is part of the ticket you pay to have a kid, if it's within your means.

    If you are planning on a UC, know that by 2015 or so tuition alone will be over $20K for residents. Add room and board and you are talking about $30-40K/year, I imagine. The UCs are privatizing fast. If your household income is under $60K you get the "blue and gold" plan, which is significant help, but if you are stuck in the middle, you can no longer assume the UCs are within reach without your kid taking on significant debt.

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  102. Actually I've volunteered as an enrollment peer counselor with PPS under the current system (I got training from Orla O'Keeffe), and have paid close attention to the changing situation with supply and demand in our schools. And just in case I was wondering about how current my view was, I now see parents who just went through it last year now saying the same things I've been saying.

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  103. some elementaries are going to thrive because their PTAs are raising $250,000, some are going to get good help because their population is so needy, but the ones like my school are stuck-in-the-middle. And we are going to get screwed.

    No, those elementaries with nothing will get what they always get: nothing.

    They are the schools losing all their low-seniority teachers. They also have been subsidizing the schools who will keep their higher-seniority teachers, since schools pay a weighted average per teacher. Nor is Title One some magical slush fund.

    Sure, one or two of these schools might hit some kind of amazing, mystical jackpot. But most of them will take this right on the chin. No one will do well, but the poorest schools will do the worst. Please don't allow the very horrible situation a school that raises $50,000 annually is in to cloud reality.

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  104. I have my fingers crossed for Sat. mail, if we get our wait list, we will be happily going public. I can hardly concentrate on other tasks in anticipation. If not, I will be okay with one of our other 7 picks. If nothing, I will be devastated. After Round I 0/7 I did not sleep for weeks because I was so upset. I guess I am anticipating getting nada again b/c I am already looking at houses in Marin. Its all or nothing for me on Sat. There is no way, I can wait until Sept. My kid asks me constantly where they will be going for kindergarten, my response kills me: Not sure yet. I just want a school..why is this so hard.

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  105. What I think is amazing is how unclear people are with how much money it takes to attend private school.

    Financial aid is uncertain, and if we couldn't afford school (I mean really afford it), I would have never thought of sending our children there--how much stress do you really need in life?

    We are "middle class" at our children's school, and our income is over (on average) a million dollars a year, and believe me, it still adds up--and it just seems that everyone has more!

    there is just an assumption that you can attend countless meetings, fundraisers etc.--which add (sometimes 100's of dollars in childcare costs alone per month). There are the various lessons after school because your child wants to be with friends, and you don't want them to be left behind. There is ski week, vacations, getting a second (or in some cases) a third car, and birthday presents. It sounds ridiculous and snobby, but if you're in it, that's just the way it is.

    I don't know how (why) anyone with less money would do it--I would leave this city in heartbeat if i couldn't afford it or didn't get into a decent public school--and i HATE the suburbs!!!

    What your children need most is parents who aren't stressed out just trying to survive year to year. Save the cash for 5th grade, when things get a bit more complicated.

    my 2 cents.

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  106. "We are 'middle class' at our children's school, and our income is over (on average) a million dollars a year"

    You have got to be kidding. In what universe is that middle class? What are other people making? What private school is this?

    Signed,

    Just over $100K/year household income, which I consider wealthy compared with how I grew up.

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  107. What 12:50 meant was that by the standards of their children's school, $1 million+ per year is middle-class -- not that it's objectively middle-class.

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  108. We have income of $250k+ and completely ruled out private (ruled out catholic for other reasons) b/c of the cost. We have 2 kids, a mortgage (on a modest house) and one car (a toyota) payment. Even if we skip vacations and dinners out there is no way we could come up with the tuition payments each month.

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  109. Caroline,

    It's very different to be a volunteer with PPS than to be actually going through the enrollment process.

    Many people never contact PPS, so you wouldn't know their stories.

    Actually, no one should have to contact PPS. It is irksome that many families seek an inside track to a school spot through PPS.

    So you don't really know what the over all situation is.

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  110. We have 1 kid, a combined income of $350,000 a year.

    We're sorry that the SFUSD is so discriminatory and that we went 0/14 two years in a row.

    However, we are also happy that we can afford private school.

    We don't feel any compelling need to have more than one child in an already very overpopulated world.

    We're not sorry that we ultimately chose private school.

    We're sorry for anyone that does not have access to a good school.

    However, the forces at work that lead to poor schools have far more to do with poor choices at the SFUSD and with city politics in general, than with well-off families sending their kids to private school.

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  111. I too can't stop thinking about Saturday's letter. I don't really expect good news, but I am hoping. I hope to at least get one of our Round 2 choices. I doubt we'll get the waitpool school, but am still hoping. We are enrolled in our assignment school and will attend if we have to, but I'd love to get something better, closer to our house, etc. Our assignment school is one of the schools that their PTA raised $50k. It seemed like a nice place to me, but someone on this blog has been hammering away at the $50k raising schools and talking about how grim they are. Makes me worry.

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  112. Tomorrow, SFUSD will update the website with waitpool numbers. If the waitpool numbers for my WP school are lower can I read that kids got it? Or could it also mean that people just changed their waitpool? Just wondering what info I can gleen from the numbers Friday morning before I get my letter on Saturday. I'm so anxious. It's very distracting.

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  113. 8:25 "We don't feel any compelling need to have more than one child in an already very overpopulated world."

    I'm sorry this comment wasn't even necessary and snarky.

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  114. 9:10 am -- I don't think you can necessarily take that lower waitpool numbers mean some got in. For example, we -- and likely some other parents -- changed our wait pool school AFTER that first waitpool chart. So this chart will be different just on that basis alone.

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  115. "8:25 "We don't feel any compelling need to have more than one child in an already very overpopulated world."

    I'm sorry this comment wasn't even necessary and snarky."

    In fact, I think this statement is VERY necessary.

    Every politician in California continues to promote a "growth" agenda. That's why California is considering oil platform drilling off the coast of California.

    Given our growth agenda, driven by both Democrats and Republicans, we cannot meet our energy needs without policies which will drastically degrade our environment.

    Look at the disaster developing right now in the Gulf of Mexico. Do we really want a huge oil spill off the coast of California?

    It needs to be said that we cannot pursue a "growth" population strategy without destroying ourselves.

    The current policies in San Francisco and in the SFUSD say nothing, *nothing* about limiting population. In fact, they reward families that choose to have larger families.

    This is not a "snarky" statement. It is a statement of the most dire necessity.

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  116. 12:50 - my kids are in private school, our income is similar to yours, and I don't feel anything even close to the kind of extra spending pressure that you're discussing. The private schools vary widely in their socioeconomic makeup and in their culture.

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  117. I'd like feedback from any families out there who do attend private independent schools, but are on the low end of the income scale at their school.

    Do you feel like your lower income affects you in the school community? Does it affect your kids?

    Are the extra expenses associated with private school really as extreme as some of the posters here say?

    If we can get into a good public, we'll send our kid there. But we've also considered looking into private if we can get some financial aid. We only make about $100K, but do feel we can afford some tuition, maybe up to $10K. Of course that would mean major sacrifices. We don't own a home and live very modestly.

    The schools we would consider aren't the Pac Heights schools - but are still expensive - more along the lines of Live Oak, Synergy, SF School, and Friends.

    Thanks for your input. This is not for this year, obviously.

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  118. I have to speak up for PPS -- it's not that people are seeking an inside track; it's that PPS offers counseling, support and information to often-desperate parents in a way that SFUSD is just not equipped to do. www.ppssf.org

    As to my knowledge, I have a pretty good overview, having been an SFUSD parent since 1996. Last time I went through the actual enrollment process was 2008, for my younger child for high school. It's a different perspective than an incoming K parent, but you can hardly call it a less-informed perspective.

    The reason I point this out is that over the years, I've seen the situation improve greatly in a number of ways, despite the ongoing challenges with the enrollment process and the ever-present funding crisis.

    There was a huge segment of the middle-class community back in the mid-'90s who would not sully themselves by looking at or considering an SFUSD school (this included dear friends and relatives of mine). But now their younger counterparts are serious about sending their kids public if at all possible.

    And of course I'm sure most readers here know that the firm believe at that time was that "there are only five good schools in SFUSD; they're impossible to get into; and if you can't get into one you have to go private or move." Now the number of SFUSD schools viewed as acceptable-to-good by the counterparts of the parents who used to make that statement has to be a good 35 or 40, and increasing year by year.
    The list of SFUSD schools scorned by my private-school-bound contemporaries in the '90s overlaps heavily with the list of SFUSD now viewed as highly desirable by their younger counterparts.

    Meanwhile, an activist cadre of empowered young parents is really poised to make changes in our cultural attitudes toward funding public education --and other public services. We've seen the long-term damage done by our shortsighted grandparents and great-grandparents and their tax-cutting fever, and these new dynymic young leaders are ready to change the culture.

    I know the picture looks more negative and scary to someone facing the enrollment process or currently in 0/7 limbo. But the big picture is brighter.

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  119. Caroline is wrong.

    The picture is not brighter. If you are a family that does not fit any of the diversity criteria, your chances of going 0/14 + bombing out of the wait pool are probably better than 50/50. I'm being generous.

    Caroline, you continue to write this nonsense, when hard statistics do not bare out what you are saying.

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  120. We are a dual-income professional family making approximately $400K+ a year, own a modest house, two cars, and feel comfortable making the 2-child private school tuition payments. We also give modestly to the annual fund and a few other select fundraisers (probably for a total additional sum of $1,000 - $3,000 a year). We see ourselves as the "middle class" at our school (with lots of others in this category), but we have never felt uncomfortable with that status. We don't do "ski week" and don't have a second home. There are certainly uber-wealthy families at our school, lots of long time SF family money, with multiple houses, etc., but for the most part, they are all very nice and not snobby in the least. I think anywhere you go there are going to be some people you don't like.

    Our kids go on playdates at enormous SF mansions as well as at flats in the Mission / Potrero Hill / Richmond / Sunset areas. While they probably realize our house is smaller than others, they love their friends and are happy going to school every day. We freely talk about the fact that some families make or have more money than we do, and that's just life. I think the most you can hope for is happy, well-adjusted and well-educated kids, which you can get at both SF private and public schools. It's really what works best for each family given their particular circumstances.

    What has worked for us is the private school route (although we did try for public and went 0/7, twice). Nothing in life is perfect, and certainly our private school is no exception, but, like I said, our kids are happy and getting a stellar eduction with lots of diversity at our private school.

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  121. 11:22, what a sane posting. Civil , thoughtful, non-snarky, and informative. Thank you!

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  122. The entire situation is so different from the mid-'90s that it's impossible to compare the odds, with far more schools on the sought-after list but what appears to be far more middle-class families seriously trying to get into them.

    But the SFUSD picture is brighter in these ways:

    -- Many more SFUSD schools are on the popular, successful and desirable list.
    -- There appears to be enormously more interest among the middle-class (and up) in sending children to SFUSD schools. (I don't know the actual indicators.)
    -- Popular and successful programs like language immersion have been and continue to be expanded to many more schools.
    -- If we want to go by test scores, SFUSD continues to be California's highest-scoring large urban school district, with its scores rising year by year.
    -- SFUSD's reputation in the greater community is rising. Scorning the public schools and dismissing them as "failing" was the way opinion leaders, including the Chronicle and Examiner, routinely treated them in the '90s. That's no longer socially acceptable.

    Yes, there are negatives too, obviously. SFUSD is a diverse, high-poverty urban school district coping with a daunting achievement gap. The enrollment system causes enormous angst and anger. But with one or more anonymous poster(s) insisting that things are bleak and gloomy from top to bottom, I just think it's important to respond to that.

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  123. Agreed that 11:22's post was sane and non-snarky and thus a welcome post, but I think we need to be clear that while $400,000 family income may be "middle class" in the world of private schools, that is a very, very skewed perspective. $400,000 is by any definition "wealthy" (though maybe not "uber-wealthy") in the rest of the world, even including yuppie San Francisco.

    I don't say that with a sense snark or jealousy. Just pointing out the facts that it is far, far higher than average or median family income around here. Far above the marker of $250,000 for a family that the feds have designated as wealthy enough to tax for our new health care plan. $400,000 income is well into the high-90s percentile range for earnings.

    I'm glad this family is happy and well-adjusted with their choice. It's just that most people will not, in truth, have the money for this choice--and that is the topic of discussion here in some sense--what is the cut-off point where a family should try to pay the hefty tuition, especially for multiple children. Obviously there is not a clear answer as circumstances differ, but $400,000 means you can probably afford it.

    What concerns me when people refer to this level of earnings as "middle class" in any way is that it encourages other families to think they can afford it, when they really cannot. We all like to think of ourselves as middle class, whether we earn $40,000 or $400,000. There are families that take out equity money from their homes to pay private school tuition. Who take on multiple jobs. Sometimes the impact of their stretching goes beyond the boundaries of their families. You think private indebtedness--and default--does not have a societal impact?

    $400,000/family income is NOT middle class. Most truly middle class families cannot afford private school tuition unless they get substantial financial aid. That is what parochial school is traditionally for, albeit with other religious strings attached that may be okay, or not, to any given family.

    I guess my point is that I hope families are doing real budget calculations in making these decisions, and not figuring that because their playgroup friends can afford private that they can too. If your playgroup friends make $400,000, then sure, they can afford it, but you may not be able to with your $100,000 family income. Or your $75,000 one-earner job. There is a lot of income diversity within the surface look of "middle class," anglo, educated families in this city. Which is why so many of us are actually in the public schools (and doing fine) or parochial (and doing fine). Take a hard look at your monthly and yearly budgets before making your decision!

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  124. If you are a family that does not fit any of the diversity criteria, your chances of going 0/14 + bombing out of the wait pool are probably better than 50/50. I'm being generous.

    I know it feels that way, but you are objectively wrong. The rate of non-siblings going 0/14 and no waitpool is far below 50%. There is plenty of evidence that shows that. Start with the stats that Rachel Norton and PPS have published and check it out if you don't believe me. That said, I realize that it doesn't make anyone feel better to be told you are among the several hundred who didn't get something you wanted or could accept. And even though that is single-digit percentages by the end, it's still too high.

    The good news is that this is all moot for future families! The new system will apparently provide much greater certainty. If you like your assignment school, then you will be able to relax through the process, even if you are doing the lottery for something you like more. That will take care of a lot of anxiety, I bet. Yes, there will be those who don't like their schools, but I bet this cuts down on the pervasiveness of the dread of going 0/7, 0/15, etc. I hope so, anyway.

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  125. I think 11:22 makes a good point--that feeling pressure or financial burden is relative, and they probably attend the same school as our children judging by how happy they are there. But because they are a 2 income family (and therefore less likely to do most of the "heavy lifting" of fundraising and in class volunteering, etc), they may also be a bit clueless of how "hard" others are working to make the school successful (theres A LOT of unpaid mommy and daddy labor at most private schools).

    I also however think that giving $3,000 a year seems a very low portion of giving--not enough to fund the annual gap in actual costs of a school for 2 children. That seems unfair to us in that you KNOW what it costs to fund your child's education--pay the FULL FARE if you can (and that way others who cannot pay can actually attend the school). If they said they made, $250K, it would be understandable, but if they are not "feeling" the pinch, then stop free-riding!

    Also, most private schools in SF are actually not that different in the need for parents to give of themselves (live oak AND Hamlin expect a lot of support from parents)--what is different is your perception of what is expected of you; if you can feel comfortable not giving and not helping, thats your own business.

    Our perception has been different, and if you are sensitive to that sort of pressure, do be prepared to know what private school entails. IMHO, when people "pay" for something, they feel they must be more "committed" or give the appearance thereof.

    It’s just not like our school years when your parents just let you loose to walk to school, never asked you anything and just showed up for the parent nights. You gotta be "there"--physically and mentally to be a "good" parent. This has obvious benefits, but some serious disadvantages too.

    What I mean by that is you're expected to be a part of the school, and contribute financially, socially and emotionally (blood sweat and tears is not so far from the truth). Everyone wants to show how important their children are to them--and there is no evil intent, but it can get ridiculous. Again, if you are not sensitive to that sort of stuff--or worry about the consequences for your children if you aren't a real part of the school, just disregard this.

    The truth is, there is so much to be done--so many fundraisers/clubs/projects/etc. that if you’re a dual working family, you will be out of the loop unless you're super organized and can afford help. No one is trying to exclude anyone, but it is noted that some parents never help, and thus, there can be less playdates for these children, and these families (imo) are not as connected and a part of the school.

    We love being a part of our school, but sometimes it gets to be too much, and even with a very good income our time and resources have felt stretched. If you don't tend to feel that you should be really active in any school, this may just sound crazy, but thats how we feel. Most of my friends send their children to public school and they too give loads and loads of their time to fundraising and helping out at the school, but somehow it just seems to mean more-when they help or donate, they bring the majority of the kids whose parents have no time or money or language skills with them to success. Private school fundraising or labor just doesn't seem so profound, and somehow I always just feel its an exercise to show others what a great worker you are.

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  126. 1:04 - I couldn't agree more, especially with the last paragraph.

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  127. Interesting perspective - and I agree.

    We were actually hoping to get into one of our top public choices because we thought not only would it be good for our child but good for our entire family. We wanted to really plant roots, and invest in the school and the community. We were looking forward to the friendships and community that would be established as a result. I agree - I think it might be more rewarding to volunteer at a public school. It seems like the time and money contributed could go farther, so to speak.

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  128. I agree with the last several comments. Having gone to school in both worlds myself and having had kids in both worlds - public and private -- and still straddling the two, I've felt a real difference in the fundraising.

    I hate to say this, but the fund raising at the private feels sort of patronizing, while the fund raising for the public feels like barn raising. Also at the public, the money raised is less, yes, but the opportunities to be involved -- and to really feel like (you're) actually having an impact -- stretch out to people of all stripes and income levels.

    This isn't to say that one should measure a school simply by how good or not so good the fund raising feels -- it's just an observation. And clearly in many cases, including mine, there are superseding situational reasons/circumstances for where your kid(s)ultimately go to school.

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  129. 2:30 - I like this...
    ...the fund raising at the private feels sort of patronizing, while the fund raising for the public feels like barn raising.

    I've been reading this thread with interest as our public school just raised over $90,000 last weekend (up from $37,000 last year) at our auction and it definitely felt like a barnraising. 8 years ago when we founded the PTA our goal was to reach about $12,000 for the year!

    I feel sort of embarrassed by the absurdity of riches we now have (of course, we lost Title I funding long ago, and had many years where almost the entire staff was pink slipped as we had among the least senior teachers, and parents have performed miracles with out-of-this-world time and volunteering, etc. etc.) We definitely worked hard to get up to this point and the parent group is beyond what I ever could have imagined when I started there with my oldest (now in middle school.)

    I struggle as a portion of this money could really have an impact on other SFUSD schools - not sure how it would go over with the PTA but I will be suggesting it (especially since we beat our income projections for the event by a wide margin.)

    Now to try to raise more than $20,000 at our public middle school with three times the number of kids!

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  130. "But with one or more anonymous poster(s) insisting that things are bleak and gloomy from top to bottom, I just think it's important to respond to that."

    Actually, Caroline, since I'm probably one of the posters you are referring to, I'll respond as well: you are right -- it is NOT all bleak and gloom. But neither is it the peaches and roses situation you continue to present, given the unprecedented budget cuts. If you are in a school that is fundraising over $100,000 and can fill the budget gap by filling laid-off teacher slots, then, congratulations, you've hit the jackpot. Things will be fine. If you are going to a school -- like apparently Juniperro Serra that has 25plus families willing to put up $3000 plus dollars to turn around a school, then, again, congratulations. But if you are like me and stuck at a school with a PTA raising less than $50,000, you are in for an extremely bumpy ride over the next two years. This year with fourth/fifth grade class sizes of 33 plus is only the beginning. That's why this string has references to a considerable number of parents (like me) who are trying to transfer into the $100,000 plus schools. What I hope to impart to the newbies is that they have to be looking at these second-tier schools with a careful eye. And that this may NOT be the year to settle for second best. Rather, it may make more sense to do a year of private and then try to get in to a better public next year. For some reason (and I'm sure someone will say I'm just dreaming this up but damned if it doesn't happen EVERY time), private applicants for upper grade transfers seem to do a hell of a lot better than public school transfer applicants.

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  131. For some reason (and I'm sure someone will say I'm just dreaming this up but damned if it doesn't happen EVERY time), private applicants for upper grade transfers seem to do a hell of a lot better than public school transfer applicants.

    You are not dreaming this up; it is true. The SFUSD is required to place a student without a school before they move one with a school. If you are outside of the SFUSD system, for all intents and purposes you do not have a school.

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  132. " Private school fundraising or labor just doesn't seem so profound, and somehow I always just feel its an exercise to show others what a great worker you are."

    I also engage in fundraising. I work full time. From my salary, I give a portion to the school (and also pay a sizeable chunk of tax to the state). For me, that's a far more time efficient way to fundraise (for me, for the school, and for the state of California) than trying to volunteer.

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  133. "somehow I always just feel its an exercise to show others what a great worker you are."

    Exactly, and those others are your children. Teach by example.

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  134. huh 7:06? I don't know that the kids are really watching the fund raising activities of their parents all that closely. I do agree with providing good examples for your children though. I do know they notice when you come on a field trip or come to class or do something with them. (When you're at an evening auction, you are generally not with your kids, for example.) I think maybe the earlier poster was talking about appearing like a hard worker to impress or ameliorate her parent peers..

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  135. Read the posts, less than 400K is going to be tight at private school and even then, no one at that level is mentioning savings for college or retirement. So, for the not uber wealthy you are going to spend a lot of time fund raising to look like you work hard and be out of $$$ to boot. Let me guess those who are uber wealthy are not so committed to volunteering...or care, they just donate.

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  136. We make about $200K per year and pay full tuition. We did not apply for financial aid because I felt that there were other children that would be better served by it. We are at one of the "Pac Heights schools", but we do not live in or near Pac Heights. We live modestly, but well. We own our home. We go on good vacations by using miles for airline tickets and doing home exchanges. We do have a budget, but I would not say that we are stressed about finances. There are families from all socio-economic levels at our school, and we have had playdates and dinners in houses MUCH bigger than ours and some in houses smaller than ours. We have never felt uncomfortable in our school community and no-one has ever balked at having to drive to the "South side of town" to see us. This blog makes it sound like you have to make upwards of $500K to be able to afford private school. If that is "middle class", then what are we? I certainly don't feel poor. I feel middle class. We fit in. Our child is happy. We both work full-time and rest easy knowing that our child is at a terrific school.

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  137. 12:31 a.m., you have one kid..right? Would you be able to afford it for two?

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  138. "Read the posts, less than 400K is going to be tight at private school and even then, no one at that level is mentioning savings for college or retirement."

    That's absolutely nonsense.

    We at about the $400K level. One kid in a $25K a year private school.

    We have two moderately priced vehicles, are well on our way to paying for our modest home, and have very nice vacations.

    With one child, careful investing, and smart choices, I see no reason why a family income > $300K a year can't pay for private school and savings.

    Still, as someone points out, $300K is A LOT.

    Get Real.

    There's something wrong if you can't pay for at least one private school tuition with a family income > $300K.

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  139. "12:31 a.m., you have one kid..right? Would you be able to afford it for two?"

    I'm not 12:31, but face it, there are a lot of families in the 200K range who have one kid at private school who are happily living in the city.

    Having two kids ups the required family budget for private school, after taxes, into the $250K to $300K range.

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  140. Now I really am hoping for good news tomorrow, $300K a year with one child and it does not sound like there is a lot of cushion left over!! Thank you for acknowledging this is a lot for most families.

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  141. 3:40 As one of the incoming J Serra parents I'm interested to know where you got the info that we are each contributing $3000. The issue of cash contribution to the school has not been raised.

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  142. When will EPC post the waitpool numbers? Can someone link to it when it's up. THX

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  143. Why can't these discussions ever focus on the topic? I am so sick of the same old antagonism on this site.

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  144. Human nature, and frustrated people venting.

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  145. "$400,000 income is well into the high-90s percentile range for earnings."

    Only 16% of U.S. households earn over $100K.

    Only 1.5% of U.S. households earn over $250K.

    $400K is well into the top 1% of income.

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  146. We were at the low end of income at our private HS, worked too many hours to volunteer (though we did show up at anything that was about our kid and her activities), and made only one donation. There were a few nouveau riche jerks but we tried to keep a friendly, open attitude and found that even the wealthiest families were friendly and open too. We weren't really looking to make friends or be part of a school community. We just wanted our kid to fill all the holes in her formal education. Our kid made nice friends and never complained that we weren't taking her skiing in Switzerland over winter break. There were bumps of course--it's HS for heaven's sake--but she repeatedly expressed her gratitude that we were willing to make sacrifices to keep her in such a supportive school environment. There are many good reasons not to go to private school, but if you have made a thoughtful determination that overall a private school will be significantly better for your kid's educational outcome, fear of not being able to keep up with the society page crowd should not keep you out.

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  147. The thing about "middle class" is it's such a broad definition in Americans' minds. If you are not so rich you don't have to worry about money, you consider yourself middle class. If you are not so poor that you have to live in Section 8 housing, you consider yourself middle class. People who are educated but don't earn a lot of money often consider themselves "middle class."

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  148. These income-to-affordability numbers that people are suggesting are alarmist. You can't lump in after-care, donation requests and summer camp - those are relevant for public school students too.

    Stick to the apples-to-apples. $2K extra per month to send your kid to private school. $1K per month for parochial.

    A family should be able to afford send one kid to private school on income of pre-tax $200K and two kids on income of $300K.

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  149. I have found that the wealthier the parent, the MORE they volunteer (they have the resources you know to hire help)!

    Most of the rich parents that are rich at our school are not snobby, and do most of the heavy lifting; its the two full time parent families who tend to think their meager donations (comparatively, 1K is not what the weathier parents give, not even close).

    They're the ones who cop out and think that their piddly donations are a far better use of resources than showing up on Saturdays or after school to fundraise, organize and clean. Seriously, who is giving the better message to their children--the ones who plead poverty and say they can't volunteer or the ones who give money and volunteer (and oddly, it does seem to shake out that way)?


    And you know who you are.

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  150. 4:07 p.m., that is $4K pre-tax or close to $50K a year plus donations and extra childcare b/c private schools have more days off, events, etc. you need to cover...so safe to say somewhere between $60-70K for one kid. If you make 200K and want to spend close to half your income on private school, then go ahead but do not try to discount the cost. Apples to apples is 200K to $60-70K. I think that is why parents focsed on $400K so it would be less than 1/4 of your income; which is equivalent to roughly 1/3 of your taken home.

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  151. Movement on our wait pool school, we are hopeful and will be going public if we get it.

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  152. does anyone know what happened with Alice Fong Yu? It says only 6 people on the wait list now - compared to 39 a few weeks ago. i would bet a lot of people with private school spots could switch if they had a chance at such a spot. thoughts ?

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  153. 12:31 here, the $200k family. Yes, only 1 child currently in private k-8, with another one in preschool. While we are comfortable paying full fare for one, we will apply for financial aid for #2. When the time comes we will look at our budget and figure out how much we feel we can pay and request assistance based on that amount.

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  154. April 30, 12:31 says:
    We make about $200K....I feel middle class.

    You are not middle class. You are in the top 5% of income. You are well-off. I don't mean that in either a negative or positive way. I just think it is good to have perspective.

    We fit in .... We have never felt uncomfortable [in our private school community]

    I just ask you, please, to remember that you are speaking from a $200,000, top 5% perch when you say that. Again, I don't mean that in a negative way, just that your situation is very unusual compared to that of most families. The fact that you are in the lower income bracket at your school doesn't change the fact that you are in the stratosphere compared to most families. And it's not just the money/cost that might make other families uncomfortable where you are not; there are a myriad of class-cultural issues that go along with it. Not that people don't succeed in navigating the difficulties, but they are obstacles.

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  155. I didn't say I'm in the lower income bracket. I'm certain there are many with lower incomes than us judging by parent occupations and by the amount of financial aid that is awarded every year.
    Go back and read my original post. It was in response to comments saying it would be impossible to pay tuition with less than a $400k minimum salary. I think most readers of this blog would be surprised at the diversity -- socioeconomic too -- in some (not all) of the schools.

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  156. I think people make very different choices about what percentage of their income they decide is right (for them, for their future savings, other needs, etc.) to pay for their children's educations.

    The whole $400,000/household income needed for one child to go to private is based on very fiscally sound/conservative/traditional valuation. It's probably the safest way to interpret the income needs, but likely is not the situation most people actually have.

    For many, many people it would seem that the only way to go to private school is to pay a disproportionate portion of their income and savings to do so. Just as in the Bay Area, many people pay a disproportionate about of their income/savings toward housing. And yes, I think there are lots of us on this blog who make far less than $200,000/family per year. We don't even figure into this discussion really, but some among us do at least consider private school -- and don't always get financial aid.

    For many families, it is a real stretch to go to private school, and it's a little painful to read of dual-income families (who often need to be dual income, like most people) being denigrated for not giving enough financially to a school or for not putting in enough volunteer hours. If you're working as an educator or in nonprofits or in govt (sometimes, not always) or the arts, or any other number of fields you generally don't make anywhere near the salaries (combined) that one makes in the financial sector. It can be hard just to get enough for tuition.

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  157. I am not surprised to read the denigrating comments about families with 2 working parents not "giving" enough to their schools. When I toured schools, there were some that were quite proud of their high level of volunteerism. The moms leading the tours actually creeped me out a bit, seemingly having recently relocated to San Francisco from Stepford, Connecticut. From touting volunteerism it's just one short step to treating families that choose to spend their limited discretionary time on family rather than school as pariahs. From what I've heard (and read here) that is how working families are regarded at some schools. Luckily we found a school with a different mindset, and our kid is thriving there.

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  158. Regarding the whole volunteerism thing and the resentment against dual income families.

    It's nonsense, at least at our private school.

    At the beginning of the year, our school puts out a list of tasks that parents can do to help out. Generally, everybody helps out, far beyond what is asked.

    However, our school does have a professional (paid) development department. There is more continuity with that.

    Our school actually limits volunteering to specific tasks.

    I would say that 3/4ths of families are dual income professional, if not more.

    I don't get the sense that there is any resentment toward dual income families, or not. It would be kind of uncool to fight for the moral highground on whether a family participates through volunteering, through donations, both, and to what degree.

    To April 30, 2010 4:31 PM:

    "You know who you are."

    You make me laugh. So full of moral self-rightiousness.

    Spending too much time at your children's school and not enough time at life.

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  159. 4:31 sez: "its the two full time parent families who tend to think their meager donations (comparatively, 1K is not what the weathier parents give, not even close).

    They're the ones who cop out and think that their piddly donations are a far better use of resources than showing up on Saturdays or after school to fundraise, organize and clean."

    Every time I think private school might be a real option (I know, at $100K a year, get real), I see something like this and feel like running screaming in the other direction. Did it ever occur to you that parents in two-income families are often exhausted? That Saturdays might be days for sleeping in, or hanging out together in the house, or doing chores? Or that $1K is 2 months' groceries, for some of us, and that's why both of us work?

    No, of course not. As a stay-at-home parent, you're being supported by someone else. An easy place from which to judge.

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  160. Did it ever occur to you that the independent school "experts" posting about families being looked down on because they are dual income or because they give modestly to the annual fund are actually people just like you, without a satisfactory school option hoping that their commentary will make you run screaming, should you, by chance, happen to recieve a call offering you a spot at the same independent school that THEY are waiting on?

    At my child's independent school, close to 2/3 of families are dual income. Parents volunteer as much or as little as they like. I am one of the full-time working parents, and I feel 1) no pressure to volunteer 2) that when/if I do volunteer it is welcomed and greatly appreciated 3) not denigrated for any of the previously mentioned issues, and both apply to us.

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  161. 10:18, well, what school? Because no, I don't think that the snotty parent who looks down on dual-working families is just like me, trying to scare me away in a fiendish plot. I think she's representative of a particular school's parent culture, and if I knew which it was, I'd question the fit and look into the parent culture pretty carefully. Similarly, if I knew which school's parent culture is friendly to dual-income families, I'd be more likely to think of it as a possibility.

    Sorry, but on this blog parents are ambassadors of the schools and even the school systems they are part of, whether they choose to acknowledge that or not.

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  162. I think this thread is instructive on 2 points, the hard realities of the the cost of private school and the expectations of time and donations. When you look at the cost being pre-tax $60K or so then add in the camp, after school care, etc. (which you will be covering anyway), child school/care costs pre-tax easily run $75K to 85K for one child who goes to private school. Obviously it is more for those with more than one kid and clearly folks have different monthly household costs and views on savings, etc.

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  163. note that many people like us give $250 or $500 to our private school - but as a percent of our disposable income it's quite high, even higher than many families who give many thousands. many schools seem to really appreciate there is a continuum.

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  164. So is there an expectation of giving if you are receiving aid? Does it seem odd or normal if you are getting help from the school to then contribute money back to the fund, considering the school already knows you don't have enough money to pay the tuition?

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  165. Yes, everyone is asked to participate -- amount is not important, participation is. Here is why:

    Why is 100% participation important? In addition to being imperative to the school's overall financial health, the Annual Fund serves as a measure of a school's strength. All Annual Fund donations directly support the school's daily operations, and also indicate a show of personal support for the students, mission, and overall community. Foundations and corporations, which frequently contribute to the school's larger initiatives, look at participation numbers when asked to invest their resources. These groups are more likely to provide charitable assistance to a community which receives charitable dollars from its own members.

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  166. 6:12 am, 7:47pm:
    grow up!

    My god, what belly aching! This forum is here to tell you ALL opinions of those that have experience with private schools and what the schools MAY expect of you (parents and administration). The comments aren't here to make you feel all cozy and warm about your future at these schools (esp. when you're attitude is, "I'm tired, and poor and you stay-at -moms have everything, whine, whine whine").

    What kind of date do you make yourself out to be, for chrissakes?!??!! I mean, you sound like such a catch--why wouldn't they want you at their schools?!!?

    I don't think you are ready to play with others at private school if you're gonna curl up and die because some parents may look down on you (why? because you don't want to volunteer)!


    At our school, no one looks down on anyone because they are on aid or because they don't participate--they just don't have a clue who these people are!

    There will always be a gaggle of type A moms and dads that do most of the work and fundraising and volunteering, but if you want to spend that Saturday decompressing with your kids (and wouldn't we all?) instead of helping out for a few hours (because you're so exhausted), that's your business.

    Just remember that someone else will be there doing that work, and like all things in life, the building of community takes everyone--not just the stay at home mothers who also work their butts off, but don't get paid!

    Perhaps its time to move to a bedroom community and just be done with it?

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  167. My concern about private used to be about the monetary cost but reading these posts I find my self concerned about the judgmental nature of private schools and the parents who appear to feel they need to keep up with Joneses or whoever rather than building community or spending quality time with their kids. I don't want to pass that on to my kid and I also want to make sure my kid learns that they are very fortunate. I value self-reliance and kindness to others above many other vaules. I have thought hard about the best way to instill these values in my child. We received a good public school assignment, I am seriously considering it.

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  168. If you got a good public school assignment,and you have such reservations, just take the public school spot!

    Its clear private school presents too many dilemmas for you, and you seem like you and yours would be a perfect addition to any public school. Kindness can be found everywhere, but if private school presents such anxieties about who is thinking about you and what you have (or don't) and whether you can instill the proper values of kindness and the prevention of greed, private school it isn't for you.

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  169. 10:46 a.m. here, guess I should have been clearer. We can afford private school and can afford donations as well as our time volunteering though I have always had reservations that you get what you are paying for (hence the above post on monetary cost). I could care less what others think; what I do care about is my child being surrounded by a parent community which appears very critical of others and pampered.

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  170. Again,
    private school is not for you.


    You are waiting for someone to put on a dog and pony show for why private school is for you and is all lovey feeley, and to tell you that everything will be okay. Not going to happen.

    just go public and stop the worrying.

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  171. "What I do care about is my child being surrounded by a parent community which appears very critical of others and pampered."

    You will find those kinds of parents at all schools, public and private, though perhaps in greater number at private school. If you are worried about parents behaving badly, you'd better home school--assuming you never behave badly. Personally I am more concerned with what goes on in the classroom than the parent politicking.

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  172. So tired of the anxiety. Did you receive an offer to a spot at a private school? If so, then I'm assuming that you paid the deposit to hold that spot. And if so, you must have had at least event where you were able to meet the other incoming kindergarten families and other current school families. If after all this you are still that anxious, then I agree with the previous poster -- please give up your spot so that someone who would be absolutely thrilled with the option can take it. Take that good public school assignment and move on.

    Didn't receive an offer at a private school? Well then you really don't need to worry.

    But keep in mind that you will find values and kindness and a commited community (as well as a jerk or two) anywhere you go.

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  173. It is tough to read here, let alone post. The mean spirited, jealous and judgmental comments are truly indicative of our frustration with the school assignment process.

    I don't think private selection is more frustrating then public. We attend a private school, are way under middle income, pay full tuition (because we don't own a house and spend the money on school.) Having one kid affords us the opportunity to prioritize her education this way.

    Our private is casual, progressive, and fantastic. We cooperate, celebrate. No insider fighting, or judging. We respect each other, and adore our amazing diversity (real diversity. 70% latino or 65% white is NOT diverse.)

    Our private happens to prioritize indexed tuition and pays the highest percentage.

    BTW we have an opening in 2nd grade.
    i'm unwilling to risk a knife in the back, so please post "I'm interested" and your email address. I'll return Friday to send you the school name.

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  174. 9:44, can you translate this? "Our private happens to prioritize indexed tuition and pays the highest percentage." I'm not being snarky; I truly don't know the lingo.

    You and your school sound great, though.

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  175. I just spoke with our Admissions Director. Someone is moving, and so an incoming 2nd grade spot is opening up. We have more girls in the class, so a boy will balance the room.

    Feel free to ask me questions.

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  176. 9:44 may be talking about The San Francisco School. I believe we have one of, if not the highest percentage of indexed tuition families in SF, but I'd look at Synergy for that title, too.

    Is that what you meant?

    I haven't been here in ages and am catching up. I know a couple of our friends who, in lue of buying new cars for each grown up and owning a house, are sending their kid(s) to a progressive private school because they think it's important.

    We are just like many of our friends who are not uupper middle class, or home owners. Our cars are great but used, and we pay a decent percentage of our income to private school. Keep in mind many folks try for the lottery.

    Good luck, folks.

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  177. The poster is almost certainly talking about The San Francisco School. Most long-time posters will have a good guess as to who the poster is. Whatever. I've heard it is a lovely school and is, in fact, quite racially diverse. They don't admit many Ks, as they admit at the Pre-K age. If you happen to be looking for a 2nd grade spot, you might want to check it out.

    Their website explains the indexed tuition.

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