Wednesday, March 18, 2015

School Days

Lovely to touch base with some of you that I have lost contact with (Hi Ally, Hi Nilsa!)...and you're already giving me more blog ideas! That means two posts in one out for other signs of the apocalypse...

On Monday, I noted that the girls start school in the fall, and that we hadn't yet ironed out the details, but that it will almost certainly mean private school..."I'd rather not spend that kind of money on elementary school, but that's the price of urban living, I guess."

Nilsa, who's son is just a little younger than the girls, responded because she faces an almost identical circumstance: "I HATE THAT! It's the exact same way in Chicago. The public school system is a mess. ...  It's exactly why we WILL vacate the city next year. We will not pay property taxes for a school system we do not use."

First of all, I can confirm, firsthand, her impressions of the Chicago Public Schools;-). If it's data you want, Zillow offers rankings of schools as a part of its data set, and of the 127 public High Schools in their database in Chicago, 37 of them are currently rated 1 on a scale of 1 to 10. Yes, you read that right...1/3 of the public high schools have the lowest possible rating!!! (BTW...I graduated from one of them...Class of '01 Whoop!). The results in Boston are pretty similar...22 public high schools have ratings, and six of them are 1's. Making the story even worse...the only schools that have scores above 3 are admission schools - public schools, but kids have to test into them.

The basic message being clear: we pay a lot of money for our schools (Boston spend over $20,000 per pupil, an extraordinarily high figure) and those schools are terrible. So terrible, in fact, that concerned parents of school-aged children, people like Nilsa and her husband, tend to flee the city if they can find any way to do so. They flee for the near suburbs which, in Boston at least, boast some of the country's best public schools. Boston compounds its problems by eschewing local schools in favor of an absurd busing system that shuttles kids all over the city, destroys the sense of community and has the net effect of making ALL of the schools as bad as the worst local school would be.

{This is a super long story, and it's more complicated than that...there have been some efforts made recently to roll back the busing, especially at the elementary level, and as a result the elementary schools in middle and upper-middle class places like Roslindale and West Roxbury have improved, but the damage done by busing was catastrophic and likely permanent.}

But we're not moving, and never actually even considered it. And yes, I know that we're crazy and will end up spending somewhere well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars to send the kids to school, but I just can't bring myself to move to the burbs. I'd be miserable! The Boy is much the same way, too. He grew up in one of those leafy suburbs, so he is more equipped to handle it than I am, but he's still not the least bit interested in moving. Of note, his Twin Sister is much the same, but his two older siblings live in suburban New York.

You know what else? I want to have hip city kids:-) I want kids that grow up around the sights and sounds and smells of an urban environment. I don't want to put on my social justice warrior hat, but I'd rather my kids be around people who look and talk and think differently than they do. [I'd also like to fully note the obvious inconsistencies in my theory...just go with it]. I don't want them to go to school and play sports and take dance classes and do all of their other extracurricular activities with the same 250 kids from ages 5-18.

I may also be spoiled by my first foray in urban parenting, which has resulted in one of the coolest people on the planet, and one who would absolutely not be who she is if she had grown up anywhere else. She's bold and confident and adventurous and she makes friends fast and she's incredibly nice without being a pushover and she is all sorts of awesome in a way that I think is heavily influenced by where she grew up.

That then, is how we came to where we are. It's a drag to pay a whole bunch of money for something that we are already paying for via property tax, but it's something we're willing to do in exchange for all of the benefits that come with living where we do.


Our Happy Married Life... said...

A lot of people vacate the city here and move to the naperville schools bc they are some of the best. Same boat currently although we do have the best schools and are currently still in private Montessori school. It just seems right for us but we will likely change to public for 1st grade.

Anonymous said...

So glad that you are blogging again😄

Anonymous said...

It's great to see you back. :-)

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

Wait wait wait, are you trying to tell me that by putting your kids in private school, they'll "be around people who look and talk and think differently than they do."????? Or you're saying that by living in the city that happens and by putting them in private school, you ensure they get a great education?

BTW, I was on the receiving end of the bussing system in Boston when I lived in Wellesley. I always wondered whether it was an improvement (even small) over whatever education those kids might have received at their neighborhood schools. Myself, having just come from a much more integrated school system, it showed just how lily white Wellesley was and how hard it was for inner-city kids to assimilate.

Accidentally Me said...

Nilsa - Longer post on the first half of that...

On the second, that is a little different...Wellesley would be part of the Metco program, which lets inner-city parents pay tuition for their kids to be put into suburban schools. And you are absolutely right about the assimilation, but it's still better than the alternative, because there ARE NO NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOLS in the city Boston.

Kids don't go to school where they live, and they don't go to school with kids who live near them, they go to school somewhere in Boston that the lottery sends them. For elementary kids, that usually means a place that is sort of close to home, but for high school kids, it can be almost anywhere...a kid in Hyde Park could well end up at Brighton High School, halfway across the city. Kids in East Boston may need to take two trains and a bus to get to Charlestown High School.

The best word is "asinine":-)

Ally said...

Fun seeing you in my reader again!;). I owe you an email too!