Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday Muse: Public vs. Private Education

This is our first Monday Muse post, where each of us will offer our viewpoint on a variety of topics the first Monday of every month. Our first discussion is on public education and private education.
Mom: I have always been a proponent of public education. I grew up attending public school and worked as a speech pathologist in public schools. Our family was fortunate in that we lived in places where the public schools were of high educational standing. There was only one locale where my husband and I considered private schooling for our children. But in the end we agreed that if we didn't place our children in public school then we would not be faithful to our philosophy. If public school is not supported by the public, then it will eventually become less stringent in educational achievement and it will only offer the most minimal education for those who can't afford private school. Schools are successful when there is an investment of time and attention and that is best given by parents and by the community. It is a parent's responsibility to reinforce education. A parent needs to support the school in volunteering time to help in whatever capacity he/she can. Parents have to be actively involved in the PTO of their child's school. They need to check on the homework assignments and make doing homework an important part of their child's day. They need to communicate regularly with the teacher and they need to reinforce that school is a priority and learning is the number one activity in their child's day.

So what, you say! You can do those same things in a private school setting and pay for a better education. Well remember that one place where we almost enrolled our children in private school? If we had done that, our children would not have attended a school that exposed them to racially different schoolmates. It would not have allowed them to learn about and develop respect for other cultures. It would not have enriched their lives beyond book learning. In my opinion they are far richer and better educated to have attended a public school. Oh and as far as their educations...they went to universities that were top ranked in their areas of study and got university degrees just the same as those children who attended private school.

Grandma: I say amen to what Mom said. I am also a proponent of public school systems. My husband worked for the school district and had first hand knowledge of how it worked. Very seldom did a school bond levy get voted down. The people in our town knew schools had to be supported. Teachers were well known and respected for their dedication to their profession. There were times when I disagreed with a teacher's discipline philosophy but after discussion with the teacher and my child things got worked out. All three of my children knew how to read by the time they got out of first grade due to the diligent efforts of their teacher. All three of them attended colleges or universities, so I am thankful that they had the opportunity to be taught in a public education system.

When I attended grade school there were very few private schools in our area so it was pretty much left up to the public schools. The teachers I had, Miss Odegard for first grade, Miss Brady for second, Miss Caseman for third, Mrs. Luke for fourth and Miss Burns for fifth and Miss Torkelson for sixth grade left an impression on me for all the things they taught. My education was a good one and was based on the three "r"s. We respected our teachers as leaders and educators.

I am not against private schools and I can see a need for them but we need to support the public schools. Every child needs an education and we need to support our teachers. The "no child left behind" program could be better, if the teachers and principals had more input in it and if there were more volunteers among the parents to help tutor the underachievers. This country of ours is built upon the public school system and we owe it to all the children to help them get a good education.
Daughter: I was raised to believe in public education, but slowly I've begun to question its merits. While I was a reporter, I saw first-hand the condition of schools in rural South Carolina. In most schools, teachers were working with dated materials and crumbling facilities. There were no bells and whistles. And unfortunately this was not an area that supported its schools. When there was a referendum for more taxes to improve the condition of the county's schools, an overwhelming percentage of residents voted it down, because they didn't understand why students needed new computers, or a roof that wasn't leaking, or walls that weren't crumbling. And contrary to what they thought, these things did affect the quality of education.
I have seen schools that look like small universities with smart boards in every classroom and Olympic sized swimming pools. But then there are those that have been forgotten--where buildings are deteriorating from age and the education is woeful. Sadly, the difference lies in the wealth of an area. It seems that those children who happen to be born into a poor region of the country have less opportunity to grow and advance than those who were born into wealth and opportunity.
My husband and I will face a very big decision once we have school-aged children because public education in Chicago is awful. It's not just bad; it's terrible. Most people either move to the suburbs once they have school-aged children or they pay for private school. Is it better to move to a new wealthier locale, where there are excellent public schools, or to stay where you are and pay for a private school? Are you really supporting public schools in that case?
Some people believe that the more parents support private school, the more likely it is that public education will become a poor man's institution. But maybe if we have school choice, public schools will no longer have a monopoly and they'll be forced to compete against private and charter schools to attract their customers. When an organization has a monopoly, they have no need to have the best product. If they have competition, they have to offer the best.
I know that the solution is much more complicated because it really comes down to dollars and cents. And if the federal government and state government can't commit more money and local residents won't either, then there's really nowhere to go.


  1. As a teacher in a public school (court ordered incarcerated teens in drug rehab), I have to say I am a proponent of this very important institution. The idea of valuing what you have and supporting it is a very important part of having the system. Without support and public backing, no, there won't be an institution worth a hoot, but if parents value it and don't use it like a glorified baby sitter then maybe it will respond better, along with the attitude of the students they send in. Here in California we are going through cut after cut after cut. I work for the county who have laid off teachers with up to 6 year long contracts. Luckily I never had a contract to loose so I just keep subbing, but it's been 4 years without a contract and I'm getting kinda tired of it, but without that I would have left teaching years ago.

  2. Thanks for commenting Cat. I always have said that if our legislators were required to sub in a classroom, for a day,then money for our schools wouldn't be an issue!The U.S. can't afford to keep making cuts to the public schools.

  3. Maybe you should go into politcs!