Sunday, May 02, 2004

Paying for education

American Prospect discusses a touchy subject for us: the difficulty paying for a good education for our kids.
    Why are families with children under such powerful, disproportionate, and growing economic strain? The costs of educating children -- once borne by taxpayers generally -- are increasingly the responsibility of individuals. The costs are bringing parents to their knees.

    Talk with any middle-class parent in a metropolitan area and he or she will describe the time, money, and effort devoted to finding a decent school for his or her children. In some cases, the story will be about mastering the system. ("We put Joshua on the wait list for the science-magnet school the day he was born.") In other cases, they're leaving the public-school system, opting for private, parochial, or home schooling. ("My husband and I both went to public schools, but we just couldn't see sending Erin to the [local] junior high.") But private schools and maneuvering go only so far. For most middle-class parents, ensuring that their children get a decent education translates into one thing: buying a home in the shrinking number of districts that have high-quality schools. The definition of a basic education has expanded to include six additional years (and that doesn't even include graduate school). This means that the public portion of a basic education has shrunk from covering 100 percent of K-12 in the early 1970s to two-thirds of years pre-K through college in the early 2000s. Families with children are left alone to bear the additional cost of six years of education.

    The U.S. educational system remains nominally public, holding forth the promise of opportunity for all children. But the reality is quite different. The public-school system is now largely public in name only, as families bankrupt themselves to buy admission to decent public schools by purchasing expensive homes and paying tuition for a third of a basic education.
Certainly this is the dilemma in LA. Buy a home in an affordable area; it's almost guaranteed you would want to send your kid to private school because the local schools suck big time.

NCLB rules threaten to only make the problem even more dire; it would be the public schools in the prohibitivly expensive neighborhoods able to work magic and beat the NCLB bar. Still another example of widening the gap between the rich and the poor.