"Commit Financial Suicide" Really?

The NY Times Sunday edition has a story about private school parents struggling with what to do for the coming school year. Deposit checks are late across the country as parents, who have cut out frills for their child's education, now worry about a possible job loss. Why this title? From the article:

"Later, in an e-mail message, the therapist wrote that the family had decided to, as she put it, “commit financial suicide.”'

Wow. To think that making the decision to put your child into private school puts you at the edge of financial disaster is very compelling.

From the article:

"This year’s hand-wringing over tuition might be dismissed as the latest hardship for the patrician class, which, like everyone else, can simply educate its young in the public system. But of the more than three million families with at least one child in private school, according to the 2005 census, almost two million of them have a household income of less than $100,000. According to a Department of Education survey, in 2003-4, the median annual tuition of nonsectarian schools was $8,200; for Catholic schools, $3,000.

So for every family that pays $30,000 and up to attend elite schools in Manhattan, thousands more will pay tuitions closer to $2,700 — next year’s cost for St. Agnes Catholic School in Roeland Park, Kan."

Will the recession make a difference?

"In past recessions, enrollments in independent schools remained stable, according to the National Association of Independent Schools, which represents 1,400 institutions with a median first-grade tuition last year of $14,640. But it may be different this year. Smart Tuition, a New York-based firm that handles payments for some 2,000 private schools across the country, said that by mid school year, 7 percent of families had already dropped out, double from last year."

Parents are considering figuring out if private school is more important than one child over another, opting for public school with private tutor supplementing, or putting the deposit down but not being fully committed to staying.

The last paragraph of the article struck me as somewhat ironic:

"Recently she attended a contentious meeting about overcrowded public schools in her Upper East Side neighborhood. “It was filled with people like me, desperate to get their kids educated,” Ms. Hall said. “And parents whose primary goal is to keep my kid out of their school.”'

And so, how would current public school parents feel about crowding in public schools where all comers must be served? It's interesting because I recall some years back a Board director who put forth an amendment to the assignment plan to give preference to parents who children in a public school for at least 2 or 3 consecutive years. He felt like the Board should back up parents who had shown their commitment to public schools. It failed.


Jet City mom said…
And so, how would current public school parents feel about crowding in public schools where all comers must be served?

True- they must admit all students- that live in the city.
However- I believe there are hundreds if not thousands of parents, who would quibble with the assumption that their kids are being "served " , there is not equity in the district, there is not accountability and as our former president would say " Is our children learning?"
dj said…
I love that this article was in the Style section, next to an article about a writer who was bummed that her kid didn't get into Brearly or Chapin. I subscribe, but sometimes that paper really is All That is Fit to Print Between Canal and 96th Street.

Incoming parents should be subjected to the same rules as anyone else coming in. Although, as someone who moved to Seattle after the school assignment period was finished, I can tell them first hand that the choices you have as someone coming in aren't the same choices you might have otherwise. And I remember someone ahead of me in line at the district office who also had moved here, finding out that no, his child could not attend the school that was right down the street from where they lived.
Maureen said…
It's my understanding that people who move from private to public (or from out of town) have preference for SPS spots that open after Oct 1st. The trick is that it's first come first served and you have to take the spot when it opens up--you can't wait until the end of the semester or whatever.

I suppose this is to discourage people from moving their kids from one public school to another in the middle of the year. I understand that it makes sense for people moving to town, but don't see why the privilege should be extended to private school families--they had the same chance as everyone else during open enrollment.
That's my understanding as well, Maureen. Thanks for mentioning it. I believe it is fairly new.
dj said…
Maureen, if that is true, it certainly was not explained to me during any of the three trips I made to the district office in person to try to deal with my child's school enrollment, including during the specific discussions I had with them about how wait lists work.

So, it's one problem, or it's another one.
SPS modified the rule so that starting in the 09-10 school year, waitlists will dissolve on Sept 30th rather than Oct 31st.

The original reason that they changed this a few years ago was because families that moved to Seattle in the middle of a school year didn't have any shot at all of getting into the "good schools" with 100+ kid waitlists.

For example, if you move to Seattle in the middle of the school year, you would never get into TOPS or JSIS. However, when the wait lists dissolve then new families have a shot at getting a mid year opening.
dj said…
North seattle mom, it makes me feel a bit better that th the policy wasn't in place in the summer of 2007, rather than that the various district officials weren't familiar with it or weren't sharing it.
I don't know the exact year that the change took place but it was some time ago. It used to be back in the day that the waitlists were year round. If you were 5th on the TOPS waitlist you would keep you place in queue all year long and if a few spots opened up during the year the list would move and you had a good chance of getting in even in April. I can't remember the year that they changed it so that the lists dissolved on Oct 31 but I think it might have been the 04 school year.

With this policy if you moved to Seattle at any time during the year, you only got the left overs and you didn't even have a realistic shot at a wait list spot as the lists were already very long at every premium school.

When they changed it, it also saved the district some money because it stabilized transportation. It is fairly expensive to reprogram the busses every time a kid changes a school. Starting next year, the lists will dissolve on Sept 30th to increase cost savings. This has the additional benefit of helping families that move to Seattle after October 1.

But since you said that you moved during the summer that is the worst time to be looking for a wait list place. If you move over the summer you are just SOL.

Over the summer, all of the wait lists are pretty much frozen and you have no idea at all which ones are likely to move and which ones will never move. That is because of the district's policy of over-booking popular schools. For many popular schools, they presume that now everyone will show up in Sept so they over book the seats.

Many school just don't know if the wait list is going to move until Day 4 and the enrollment center has even less visibility into this.

The choice system is pretty hard on locals that know the ins and outs. It is just crazy for folks that move over the summer.
dan dempsey said…
Looks like we need to publish the SPS Blogger's guide to gaming the Enrollment System and update it every 4 days so that everyone can be kept current.
h2o girl said…
Very interesting story on NPR this morning about New Orleans and their new school choice system, which includes charters:


Sorry, I don't know how to do cool links. The story's 2nd part will be broadcast tomorrow, I believe.
dan dempsey said…
New Orleans from 2000 to 2007 was the large urban school district that showed the most academic improvement over that 7 year span. #1 out of 50.
Seattle was #24.

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