Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The public school problem

This week, we did the seemingly unthinkable. We signed our child up for kindergarten.

I realize parents do this every year, and for many of us, our hearts wrench at the idea of our babies growing up. But for our family, we had a challenging decision to make. It was whether or not to go public.

You're probably wondering how a family who's underemployed can seriously consider going private. Here's why.

I'll set the test scores and desire to have my family's values reinforced at a greater level than can be done in the public schools aside. Those were serious considerations, but we thought still that private school tuition was unattainable given our limited budget.

But we had to face reality. In Indiana, a cut in property taxes is causing chaos for school districts. Teachers are being cut. Services are being cut. Transportation is being weighed.

And even if we're at status quo for the next school year, we'd be forced to drive over our lunch hour to the schools to either pick up or drop off our child, as kindergarteners are only bussed in one direction. For working/student parents, it's difficult to rearrange schedules on a consistent basis.

In other words, IF we were lucky, I'd be able to do a swing from work to school and back in maybe an hour. Consider the time wasted, the mileage, the gas and the wear on our vehicle.

I don't necessarily believe school should be scheduled at the convenience of the parents, but the realities of this society are that many parents are balancing multiple work and school responsibilities. And the fact that you now have several classes of families making special round-trips to the school each day is an environmental mess.

We finally did the math, and we were surprised. We factored in the cost of daycare and after-school care (only needed on my husband's school days), the impact of the mileage. The full-day kindergarten tuition we thought was vastly unaffordable actually made better financial (and environmental) sense than anything else. And the shorter drive to the school - even without bussing - was a much better decision for our family. In the end, we'll save some stress and have less hours in the car. And that's the best choice for us.

What I'm saying is, if you're making a big decision that you think's already made for you, you might be wrong. What's on the surface unattainable might in reality be the best decision for you.


Corie said...

I'm glad you got it all figured out and found a good solution for you all! I know you were worried about this the last time we scrapped together. And when you do factor in those higher test scores and reinforced values, I don't think you can go wrong with your decision. So pat yourself on the back for putting your little kindergartner's (!) -- and the environment's and your car's and your sanity at lunchtime -- well being in perspective and going the private route. Sounds like you've made a great choice!

Jenn the Greenmom said...

Doesn't it make you crazy how so much of our society is shaped around the assumption that one parent is at home all the time and is fee to just drop everything based on whatever the kid's schedule demands? (which is to say, what the school system demands.)

We were in a similar boat last year with our daughter, and ended up going the same route. (And she's in a school that has chickens and a goat which the children help take care of, and waste free lunches, and it's just amazing.)

Isn't it amazing how huge they get, how quickly? Best of luck!

Robbie said...

Corie, yea, it was a tough decision financially (as you know!) but I'm glad we got things figured out. And of course, there's always the possibility of financial aid, which we hope to find out about this spring.

Jenn, YES! It does make me crazy! I've hated seeing my coworkers for years drop everything because of random days off for no apparent reason. (Is it me, or are there more random days off than when we were kids-and HAD a parent at home?)

I'm not thinking we'll be having chickens or a goat, in the city, but you never know about whether they can do a garden...