My Personal Experience With School Choice
Posted on January 25 2017
When I met my wife, my future daughter was in a private school. Zion Lutheran to be exact. I wasn't a big fan of private schools but my wife told me all the benefits and superior learning that she would be getting from there. Of course this all came from the school itself. As a private school, they have to sell themselves in order to justify parents paying out of pocket for education that is free from the local district. I kept an open mind about the school.
My first big problem with the school came when it was time to renew her for the next year. It seems every year tuition rises. That's fine however, for as long as we were there, nothing changed (supplies, infrastructure, services) to justify the ever increasing of tuition. Beyond that, the school was always doing fund raisers and had an annual sausage supper that helped raise money.
I began to wonder where all this money went. The school was closely aligned to the church (which is directly connected to the school). I had hoped the money wasn't being funneled into the church because that would not benefit the school nor my child's education. That would take money away from their education. I sent an email to the school board requesting to see their taxes from years passed. I was denied access because private schools do not legally have to provide that information to the public. But why would they deny my request unless they had something to hide? Where some of the staff being paid ridiculous amounts of money? Was their spending not aligned with my child's education in mind? Who knows at this point.
It was at this point I began to question the legitimacy of this institution. Beyond being a drain on my pocket, my daughter was picking social behaviors that showed a certain amount of ugliness. She gossiped about her classmates and made fun of all the heavier set kids. She was starting to form social cliques that excluded others. I had seen this behavior from the parents as well. The over whelming majority of her classmates were also white. There was actually very little diversity in the school as a whole and this began to trouble me. How can I expect her to relate and connect with other human beings if she is not around a diversified environment?
I also began researching private schools and their structure. I learned that you do not have to have a teaching degree in order to teach in private schools. You can be some regular person off the street with no prior experience. They have no accountability measures put into place. And the ones that do are set by a board that seeks to advance their own interests. They have no standardized means of testing to ensure they are growing or to compare them with local schools. Their tax information is private. To me, this school began to seem like a system set up to provide the lowest quality education while maximizing profits. Little did I know, I was paying for sub par education. The "you get what you pay for" was just an illusion.
It was then my wife and I began to look for another school. I wanted her to go to a public school but my wife insisted we look at charter schools. I agreed to attend a couple information secessions from Gateway College Prep and also Meridian. I was blown away by both of them. Their methodologies for teaching really intrigued me. I was in public school my entire life but I was put into academically gifted programs which separated me from many of my classmates. These charters schools taught high level and critically thinking as the norm.
My daughter got into Gateway and we were so excited. But it wasn't the easiest transition. My daughter was far behind in her studies even though she made straight A's at her prior school. She had problems doing the level of math and reading the other kids were at. This upset me because Zion touted their students performed well above the majority. Another falsehood.
Today, my daughter loves her new school. She has so many new friends from different backgrounds and she has lost much of her ugliness she got from the culture of her private school. She more accepting and nice to her peers. She shows compassion to the people who are different and don't fit into social groups. She has excelled in her classes and has begun to ask questions about everything. Her thirst for knowledge has grown substantially. I look back and wonder why we ever allowed and paid for such a place as Zion.
School choice is a joke. Having the option to choose private schools (unless your child has certain learning or behavioral situations public schools cannot address) is a waste of public tax dollars. It doesn't provide a better education and produces children with limited social skills due to the diversity in those classrooms. Public charter school has so far been a great alternative. But don't believe that myth that if you pay for something, it's inherently better. Don't fall for the guise of choice equals freedom in this situation. Choice gives you the ability to allow private institutions to take your money without providing a product that's any better than the status quo.