Now that my friends are having kids — and those kids are growing up fast! — the question has often come up:
“What school should I send my kids to?”
Translation for some: “Should I take out a second mortgage, move in with my in-laws and find a second job to pay for private school tuition?”
Parents — and potential parents, like me — have strong opinions about where they’re going to send their kids.
Most private school graduates will tout the benefits of their pricey education, pointing at smaller classrooms, more challenging curriculum, better facilities, more support and opportunities, and a strong network of alumni that will undoubtedly help their children well after they graduate from high school.
But talk to public school graduates — or survivors — and they’ll have different opinions about education. They’ll talk about an environment that fosters individuality and socialization, less pressure to keep up with uber-rich classmates, dedicated teachers, and the belief in the concept of, “You get out what you put in.”
There are no guarantees that a private school education will lead to a more successful person. And vice versa. Sure, I have friends who went to Punahou and Iolani and are now lawyers, doctors and business owners. But I know public school graduates who are those, too, and went from, say, Roosevelt High School to Ivy League schools.
So what’s the problem?
Tuition for Punahou, for example, is $18,450 for the 2011-2012 school year. That’s more than most colleges. And if you start paying that tuition for a child in Kindergarden and, assuming that tuition never goes up, you’ll pay $239,850 in just tuition by graduation. (Iolani’s tuition is $16,900.)
It’s more at boarding schools like Hawaii Preparatory Academy on the Big Island. Tuition for high school is $20,800 — it’s less for other grade levels — with an additional $41,200 for boarding costs.
Those costs add up.
But to be fair, most Hawaii’s independent schools charge less than $9,000 per year for tuition. But that’s still more than some folks can afford — and a public school education is the only option they have.
But when you do have an option, what do you do?
What would you do?
I believe you can be successful and learn a lot in most environments — and one’s motivation and drive factor in at all schools — but I am not comfortable with sending my kids to Hawaii’s public schools. From my experience, public schools tend to teach toward the middle (or devote extra resources to kids who are behind), while kids who excel are often undersupported. I understand teachers’ constraints, but I just can’t stand that idea for my kids, so we make many other financial sacrifices — driving older cars, not eating out often, buying second-hand — to generate the funds to afford private school. To me, it’s worth it, especially since independent schools can more easily incorporate moral values into their curriculum and hold students responsible when they fall short. That’s very important in my book.
I think it’s also worth mentioning that many students at Punahou and Iolani now receive generous financial aid packages, so the idea that all private school kids are rich or generally privileged is no longer true. Many of them have a lot to overcome, and their great school will be a major player in helping them on that path.
Overall, I think about it in terms of odds; they’re more stacked in your favor at the better private schools, but you can succeed or fail anywhere, at any price.
Having attended both private and public schools, I can say that it all depends upon how much the child applies him/herself. I eventually graduated from a public high school after attending a private one for two years (and a private grade/middle school for five). I went to the same college (University of Oregon) as some of the guys I went to school with at the private school. My sister and brother, who also attended the same public high school as me, ended up at UO and Stanford, respectively. So I guess it doesn’t really matter where you go to high school, as long as you have the grades and extracurriculars to get in where you apply.
I will say that the education you get at a private school outweighs that of a public school because private school courses are mostly college prep. You don’t get time-wasting courses like auto-shop, home economics, or marriage & family in a private school. Education is king. If you can afford it, I say give your kids the right tools to excel!
Hello Cat, both my kids graduated from public schools with honors and I have no regets. It’s what they put into it is what they get out of it.
how do you define “success” and is that the main goal in school? is a successful school one that cranks out doctors and lawyers or is there some other (quantifiable or not) factor to figure in to the equation?
I went to a private school (the big, dark empire, in the minds of most people I meet, I guess…let’s call it Durmstraang). Durmstraang cranked out more than its fair share of MD’s, PhD’s, JD’s and others likely to show up in the business and society pages. we also have a fair number of graduates who are solidly (but less obviously) successful in their own chosen field. from business owners to accountants to HPD to Real Estate brokers to teachers to engineers to, even,an occupational health and safety professional.
Durmstraang certainly prepared us for whichever path we headed towards. because it was private and, therefore, selective in its admissions, our rate limiting steps in the classroom were probably more academically gifted than at a school that did not have selective admission (public). add to that, the fact that we were not restricted by the whims of public financing. we needed a microscope? we got one. we needed a volleyball? it was there. while this might have taken the edge off our streetsmarts, the availability of resources was an important factor in our education experience. And, we weren’t alone in the relative wealth of resources. Hogwarts, up the hill, and that funny little dusty, ramshackle joint with the garish red and black color scheme down by the Ala Wai were certainly very well endowed as well.
last year, my wife and I had to make a decision about schooling for our son. while our district was not the greatest (by that, I mean “it suuuuucks”), we had options. we could try to get an exemption to another district. we could use a relative’s address in a better district. We even played with the idea of selling the house and moving to another district. in the end, though, we went with a somewhat pricey private school. here, we’re assure of academic excellence, the mix of academics and life skills that we’re looking for, and, consistency from start to finish. with California’s financial climate, we considered that what is currently a good school could lose funds a year or two down the road. we figured that the boy’s education wasn’t something we wanted to gamble with.
“You don’t get time-wasting courses like auto-shop, home economics, or marriage & family in a private school.”
I actually know students that have taken “time-wasting” courses such as auto-shop and woods. They have gone on to vocational schools and are now happy and making more money than this one hitting the keys.
A public school educator.
I agree totally.
We’re planning to send our kids to public school. My wife and I are both proud public school gradutes (Castle and Kailua), and I really can’t imagine having a better education at a private school. We took full advantage of AP courses/credit, student government, honor clubs, competitive athletic teams, and excellent teachers (multiple State Teachers of the Year).
As everyone will say, you get what you put in… in other words, the STUDENT has to be motivated and proactive enough to take advantage of the teachers, courses and opportunities available to them. And, at the primary/secondary education level, family support is critical in the success of any child. Of course, the specific school your children attend also plays a role in quality of teachers, administration, infrastructure, extracurricular activities, etc… but that’s a much longer discussion.
Good point about the need to consider public schools on an individual basis. There are surely gems here and there, but, unfortunately, I think many today are still sub-par, even for highly motivated, proactive students.
My brother was an honor student (top 10% of his graduating class) at Kaimuki who played sports, took AP and honors courses, and had a strong desire to succeed and a wonderful work ethic. His transcript looked great, but he nonetheless failed to meet even UH minimums for SAT scores, did not pass any of his AP exams to earn college credit, and also lacked sufficient coursework to apply to many middle-of-the-road out-of-state colleges and universities. Understandably, he was shocked and disappointed to realize how unprepared he was for college, despite his best efforts and high G.P.A. And then, when he enrolled in the UH system, there was all that remedial coursework to take, which amounted to a lot of wasted time and money. I give him a lot of credit for sticking through it!
I know that college is not for everyone, but I believe that, at the least, public schools should prepare students to have it as an option, especially if you are driven and one of the top students. To simply pass kids through and give them a false sense of accomplishment is an injustice. But like you said, there is a much longer discussion that could be had on this topic, and I wouldn’t even know where to begin with that.
Gone both ways with this one. The results taught me a lesson. It is more about the student than any single thing else. Some kids you can’t deny, surviving public school or suffering the snobbery of private schools they will excel regardless. Other kids the exact opposite is true. The kids in between, public school until 9th or 10th grade is good, just make sure you find the good public school and move into the correct district. Then switch to private school and prepare to be poor for a few years. Bank the tuition you saved and it is not an issue.
Frankly I think the real choice is where you choose to live first, then whether to have kids second. If you have kids don’t try to force your kids to be something they are not, love them like they are, respect them, and if they don’t want to go to private school listen. You will be glad you did. the things we resent the most about our parents are always about the things we were forced to do no matter how it turns out.
As one who was educated 1-12 in catholic schools, I found some social skills lacking when I went off to college. I was no better off than friends who had attended public school. I’d say the door opens to all. My grandaughter went thru public school and was highly recruited for college, where she has been fairly successfull so far.
From what I’ve heard from teachers and parents, public schools are a lot different than they were before NCLB, which already was a lot different than when I attended.
From what I’ve heard, NCLB has resulted in a focus on those below standard, at the expense of the better than average kids. And this is on top of the prior decision to eliminate homogeneous grouping.
First off, I went to public school my whole life. The bulk of the rest of my family went to private schools. I have never regretted going to public, in fact, I had quite a good time in school and I have been able to achieve all my dreams while saving my parents some cash.
Private school is very good if you have the disposable funds, but it is not ‘necessary’ for a child’s success (success as society currently defines it). I think a focus on better parenting is probably a more worthy pursuit at this time. Private school, with its high price tag and no guarantee of success, is becoming more of an insurance policy of sorts for parents.
However, even the mentality of going to public school and then being somehow disadvantaged as a result has crept into the heads of some public school graduates. I have had friends tell me “if only I went to private school, I would be successful right now.” What a bunch of hogwash! I say “If only you didn’t have that self destructive “o woe is me” mentality, you would be a success right now!” You may as well stand in the welfare line right now and do nothing about it if you think success should be based on what someone gives you. Public school, and I would say more so my parents, taught me to just “go get it”. Especially today, the tools are all there for kids. The world is flat, the playing field level. They just need the drive and resilience.
Education is currently (IMHO) outdated with its focus on readying kids for ‘jobs’ as drones in a cubicle, (as well as its lack of financial education- but thats another story). Manufacturing jobs are going elsewhere, and even many service jobs are moving overseas. In this climate, even higher education may very well be in a large bubble. $100K+ and 6 years for an MBA that may not land you a job?
Before it was “go to school for 6 years (or even just 4) pay $100K and you will get a good job. Our government altruistically subsidized student loans for years at low interest rates. (I paid 1.2% for my loan) thats almost free money. This government intervention, and resulting huge influx of cheap cash into the education market allows colleges to keep upping their tuition to stratospheric levels. After all, the money is almost free from uncle sam. College tuition has thus trumped real inflation by a wide margin. But the return on that money has been arguably declining for years now, and with growth slowing in the US for the past 40 years, it will probably decline further. This bubble may well creep into K-12 private schools over time and start to hit tuition rates or entrance requirements.
I think the education system will need to change to match this new paradigm of creativity. Private schools are not hampered by a bloated DOE, and thus will most likely be nimble enough to match this change in curriculum faster (in theory). However, there is much that can be done at home to give a child advantage, as well as in public school with the right independent teachers.
Either way you slice it, I think ‘Creativity’ and ‘Entrepreneurship’ will become far more important for gaining competitive advantage in the US as the years roll on. And creativity and entrepreneurship are things that will never be exclusive to private school. You can foster these talents at home after your kids chores are done.
Just my .02¥
I’m a public school product. My two girls went to both public and private. I agree with the statement that you “get out what you put in.” But there are obvious differences between schools, much of it based on geographic location. I feel students of public schools may need more parent oversight and involvement.
I dropped out of school
thatz y I kan onlee rite wurdz like this
The public or private high school educator sees the child approximately one hour a day, five days a week.
How much time does the parent spend with the child?
Some individuals put all the responsibility of the child’s education on the teacher.
Sorry, but from the looks of it, someone else has a bigger role. And if the parents don’t put the time in and work together with all parties involved, then the cost is irrelevant.