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Do Parents Have a Moral Obligation to Send Their Kids to the Local Public School?

Take the poll and leave your comments.

It’s the end of April when many soon-to-be Kindergarten parents have already made their school choice for this fall.

For many, deciding between public and private school for their child was a big part of the grueling process, and a political one, too. A recent article on www.babble.com by Rhiana Maidenberg has left some Pacifica parents still wondering about their school choice, bringing up questions like:

• Is it a moral obligation as a parent to send your kids to public school?

• Is being a part of the public system really going to fix it?

• Will I sacrifice my child’s education to be the one to make things better at the local public school?

• Will the private school be socially and economically diverse enough to help my child grow to be a well-rounded world citizen?

In the article Maidenberg explains why she’s sending her kids to public school despite the public system’s flaws such as budget cuts, large class sizes, minimal resources to support the influx of English Language Learners, and the standardized testing of the No Child Left Behind mandates, which are intended to narrow the achievement gap but has subjected children to an endless regimen of test-preparation drills instead.

Maidenberg says she’s making the choice “to be a part of the greater system, hoping to see a trend of more families with the time and means to invest in public schools actually doing so — because if we don’t take the time to make quality public education a possibility for all children, who will?”

The moral obligation idea is altruistic and lovely in its concept of personal sacrifice for the collective common good — that we have a moral obligation to educate all children — not just our own. But is supporting a public institution, which for some parents has failed to impress them, at the cost of their children's education beyond the call of duty?

Here at Pacifica, we want to hear from you about this.

We know parents want a quality education for children, and many private and public school parents would both agree that there is a great and pressing need to invest in the public school system.

But why do some parents opt out and choose a private school? Are those parents “immoral” or un-politically correct for not sending their children to the local public school? Is going to a private school instead of the local public school a disservice to the community? Do parents have a moral obligation to send their kids to the local public school?

Please take the poll below and tell us your thoughts in the comments section.

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Erin Macias April 26, 2012 at 12:14 AM
I think every citizen should read Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol. We should have the right to educate our children privately, but each child has the right to a quality public education too. We should not compare public to private and it should not be made into a class issue. We should be looking at international education models to begin reform.
Camden Swita April 26, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Which countries' education systems do you think we should be looking at, Erin?
Erika Rigling April 26, 2012 at 04:53 AM
Check out Finland....
Jessica April 26, 2012 at 05:27 AM
My thoughts when I was searching for a school for my children were exactly the same as stated in the article. I thought it was important for my children to go to their community public school. They spent several years there before I had to make the decision to send them to private school. It is nice to "believe" that we are helping the schools but when there is no money, support staff getting cut, programs getting cut, and no resources available to our children, you realize you are not being the school but your child is missing out. Public schools have very dedicated teachers that love the children and WANT the best for them, but sometimes that isn't enough.
Camden Swita April 26, 2012 at 05:27 AM
Thanks for the link, Erika. This is a really interesting article, so I thought I'd share it with readers: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/Why-Are-Finlands-Schools-Successful.html?c=y&page=1
Erin Macias April 26, 2012 at 06:17 AM
Finland has their priorities straight. England also has a monitoring system that is very efficient and if I had my resources in front of me, someone in DOE tried to adopt it and it was shut down (can't recall the exact scoop on that.) Teachers and lecturers in the UK are randomly reviewed by professional "inspectors" and so are entire schools. Subpar educators and administrators are terminated and replaced with more qualified ones. That would never happen in the US because of the teacher unions. Oddly enough Bush tried to raise the bar with NCLB by requiring highly qualified teachers, but what resulted was high-stakes testing that made it worse. The Finnish also have extended family leave for mothers or fathers with reduced salaries to encourage them to bond with children. In summary, when you make children a top priority, you have a better educational system and a less stressed family environment. Long term you have educated contributing citizens who will repeat the cycle of a happy healthy society. We spend a middle 5 figures per year on each person in jail, but we spend 4 figures per year on a child's education. Education should be a national priority and we should not have to tax ourselves to pay for it. We do have some top-rate dedicated teachers, but we also have some in need of professional development. Education is ever changing; professional development is ongoing and european countries mandate it.
a nonymous April 26, 2012 at 03:56 PM
It is painfully sad but reality that the public schhool system in california is dismal and probably going to get worse. The fact that the school board basically runs the school in each town (elected officials who have a scary free hand to do pretty much anything they want since they answer to NO ONE) is a Major part of the issue too. I feel no moral obligation to send my kids to public school because that is not going to change the problem at all. In fact there would be alot more money for public schools if they were more attractive (all the money paid for private schools just by people i pacifica would be in the hundreds of thousands). But the reality is that the quality of education, smaller classrooms, diversity, and wilingness to change and provide for the individual needs of students makes private schools VERY much worth it. Sad, but true.
Steve A. Hollander April 26, 2012 at 09:25 PM
The writer’s hypothesis is largely flawed. Sending one’s child to a private school in no way impacts the good of the public system. In point of fact, the said parent is still supporting the public system with tax dollars. Also, to take it to an extreme, if all students now enrolled in private schools suddenly tried to enroll in the public system, they would simply be way over capacity. And may I offer a rather blunt but telling example in favor of private education? You need only turn to the social media, Face book, to read the comments and thoughts of the typical public school graduate, whose comments often read like a ransom note, VS those of the “We went to Catholic School in SF” crowd to see the difference. Don’t shoot the messenger; I’m jut making an observation.
Cris April 27, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Education, regardless of who funds it, can often come down to what you can take from it. After a lot of research, we have chosen to send our kids to public school. They spent the first 5 years of school in a charter Montessori school and are now at IBL and Oceana. The schools are good, the teachers are good but the social and cultural diversity they are exposed to is invaluable. What the schools may lack in education is made up for through experiences and education at home. While I am irritated with the way money is spent in public schools, I think that to send my kids to a private, expensive school, would be limiting them to an insular life experience. I think we need to change the derogatory attitude towards education in our culture before we will ever change our education system. Bleh... humans do not tend to be forward thinkers.

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