Open Phones: The Letter

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Acceptance (and rejection) letters for area private schools recently went out. Are you a parent of a kid who got accepted? Is the economic climate affecting your decision? Is there part of you that wishes they hadn't gotten in, thus avoiding a difficult decision? And, if your child didn't get in - any sense of relief? We want to hear from you. Comment below!

Comments [44]

Wendy from New Jersey

My mother, an African-American and a single parent, worked three jobs to send me to private schools. She refused to send me to our local Harlem public school because I would not get an education there.

I went to a private school that encouraged creativity and critical thinking. We were taught to question authority.

Although I qualified for a full scholarship, my mother accepted only a 50% scholarship. She wanted to have a say in my education and felt that if it were completely free, she would have no control. My mother spent about 30% of her income on my education.

I graduated from Yale University,was an English professor for several years at a junior college, wrote and produced a play, published a short story, and as soon as I can get my mother's lifestory, "The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Woman" published, will appear on your show to discuss the book.

Public, private, or homeschooling is not the issue. Just make sure you provide the best education you possibly can for your child. As long as segregated housing in the U.S.leads to segregated schooling, this problem will endure. Elizabeth Warren deals with this very well in her book "The Two-Income Trap."

I thank my mother for putting education first, both in her life and in mine.

Mar. 05 2009 10:30 AM
miky from Rego Park, ny

I think school is a lot like food. When you go to eat at a fast food restaurant, you get a filling portion but with very little nutrition value. When you go to school you do work you past the grade and that’s it.
When you cook a meal at home for your child you consider all the thinks that the child may like or dislike the health part off the meal. The same with school when you take your time as a parent in helping your child to love reading, to respect their teachers, to be considerate, there is a different outcome for the child.

Mar. 04 2009 03:47 PM
Robin Fine from Ridgewood, NJ

Hi - I was raised and educated in public schools in Brooklyn in the 60's and knew that those were the last of the "good old days" in the NY public school system. Subsequently, when my daughter was a 2 we moved to the suburbs and sent our kids to public school. While not ideal, the curriculum is quite wide and despite the emphasis on testing, I would say the overall experience has been good, or certainly, good enough. My daughter will be attending a private college this fall because the state schools are way too big and she (and we) felt that after the large suburban public school experience, an environment where she could really know her professors seemed preferable. We are willing to pay the tuition because despite high local taxes in our town, it was still far cheaper than paying for private school tuition for grades K - 12.

Mar. 04 2009 03:22 PM
elena seibert from NYC


Enjoyed reading your very incisive comments...please tell me what school your daughter went to!

Mar. 04 2009 02:14 PM
robert from Manhattan

I am often very frank with friends and expectant others about the horrors of child rearing. I have since learned never, EVER do this in front of your wife. Woman are the gatekeepers of the joy branding for parenthood.

Mar. 04 2009 11:38 AM
Karen from Bergen County

Our children attend Green Meadow Waldorf School in Rockland County. We are very happy that they still love learning, unlike many of their counterparts in public school. It is true that the children are not pushed to read and calculate in first grade, however,they are engaged in other activities which help them academically, without burning them out. In first grade, they harvested and counted beets at a local farm, and made their own books about "King Subtraction and Queen Addition" and learned to knit (which helps the frontal brain development and aids reading skills). The children are indeed educated as a whole child and not trimmed for test-taking. They learn two languages from first grade, develope great memories, start playing the flute in 2nd gr, and a stringed instrument in third grade and play an instrument thru 12th grade. Our 10th grader LOVES high school and is thoroughly engaged in learning because he wants it for himself. He is interested in math and science, plays violin beautifully and has even sewed his own long-sleeved shirt with cuff and collar. The fact that he still loves to learn is worth the sacrifices we have made through the years!

Mar. 04 2009 11:12 AM
Sheila Moss from Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn

My son is a 2nd grader at the Brooklyn Waldorf School (located in Ft. Greene neighborhood) It is a growing school adding a grade each year- (presently Nursery-3rd). Waldorf schools are guided by the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner which is based on education that reaches the head, heart and hands of children. Every subject is learned through an emotional connection as well as an intellectual one and re-enforced through a physical expression whether it be drawings based on a story they are studying, or knitting and counting, or math games played in the park. The children go to Ft. Greene park twice a day regardless of weather.

The 2nd grade is reading- and reading with depth and feeling. A foundation of a love of literature and language is cultivated from pre-K on in the Waldorf curriculum. A recent study revealed that Waldorf high school students ranked as high as divinity students regarding their ethical reasoning.

The Booklyn Waldorf School has a 3-tier tuition program in order to accommodate
a range of income levels. For more info: check out website as well as read about Waldorf Education by looking up Association of Waldorf Schools in North America (AWNSA)

Mar. 04 2009 11:05 AM
Edward from NJ

Ruth, if a child is being assaulted at school because he wears cultural or religious dress, it is very much the job of the school administration to prevent that.

Mar. 04 2009 11:04 AM
Ari Jacobson from Teaneck, NJ

Sara from Rego Park deserves a free slot at a Waldorf school - please send her a voucher immediately!

Mar. 04 2009 11:03 AM
Stephanie from Brooklyn

More from Stephanie from Brooklyn:

Don't assume that the education is so superior in these schools either. They are good at things like teaching kids to write (in a rigid, proscribed way), and computer related things, compared to NYC public schools, but the teachers are young and some of them are surprisingly shallow in the way they approach subjects. Case in point: The recent election. Covered in this way: Will Obama be true to his campaign promises? And was it wrong that he took some disguised "shots" at Bush in his inauguration sppech. NOT: the history of civil rights; Obama vs.
Bush (or McCain's) policies; erosion of the constitution during the Bush admin.; science under Bush; race in the U.S.; the electoral college; the two party system; torture and the Geneva Convention; etc. You get my point.
And I haven't even approached the topic of how many students are in tutoring (private; parent paid for). Probably at least 50%. These schools are great at putting forth wondering images in the media, community, etc.(i.e. giving donations to charities; having impressive important speakers/writers---I don't know, perhaps like former child soldiers....and don't get me wrong; this is good. Very good). The reality of how they treat/care for children who are not valuable to them in some way is quite another story. I am sorry my daughter didn't go to a small, specialized public high school where she might have been appreciated for the wonderful, sweet, smart, amazing girl she is. The way she's been appreciated at summer camp--she wins awards there for being the "best kid" in her division, etc. The way she's been appreciated in college interviews. Our $24,000 per year wasn't enough to convince this school to treat our daughter as if she's as special as the girls who are chosen EVERY SINGLE YEAR to star in the school play. THINK TWICE. The beautiful renovations are deceiving.

Mar. 04 2009 11:01 AM
Stephanie from Brooklyn

My daughter is graduating from a highly regarded "independent" school in Brooklyn, and I'm sorry that we didn't take her out years ago.
One of the big unspoken truths about these schools is that if you are not a very big financial supporter of the school, if you are not a celebrity, if you are not a teacher/administrator at the school, or otherwise have some cachet that we apparently don't have, your kid is basically not that important to them. (I can imagine your shocked protest here, but hear me out. I have no reason to exaggerate about what goes on in these places). If your child is an academic star (and I even know of situations where kids are/have been very competitive academically, but for some reason never make it to the status of star....and these kids often feel ignored, or passed over when it comes to recognition and/or awards) he/she might be lucky enough to be singled out for special opportunities, over and over again.
The rest of the kids, won't make it into the school play, you won't get chosen to be a mentor for the younger kids, you won't get chosen to light a candle at the candle lighting ceremony, you won't get hired for a coveted summer job in the arts camp, etc. etc. And if you try to talk to anyone about this they will tell you how rejection is an important part of growing up...blah blah blah (apparently not, however for the chosen few who will say things like, "I don't know what I'll do if I don't get into Brown. I've never been rejected from anything." I am an educator and have tried arguing with the school administrators citing research about the importance developmentally, of hobbies, arts, etc. (i.e. choose my daughter for a change). Oh, and it helps to be pretty or good looking, as well. Forget about it if your child is overweight. Don't expect a kid like this to have his/her picture in a brochure, calendar, report, display, etc. I think I've used up my words.

Mar. 04 2009 10:59 AM
Alex from Brooklyn

The problem isn't so much the public school system, but it's the board of ed, and the current mayor and chancellor that have impeded the progress of the education system. My sister and i grew up through the public school system during the 80's and 90's and turned out just fine. We're probably more down-to-earth than many people I've meet that have gone through these exclusive private school systems. However, I will admit that public schools are dying due to the fact that they are strictly teaching test materials while cutting back other programs. Kids do not even learn phonics anymore. How can we have a strong middle class when the public school system is doing everything in its power to thwart the learning process for kids. Also, public schools are better for socialization. They maintain a rugged and endearing at the same time in a city like new york. It builds character for sure. As far as I'm concerned, people over blow the idea of college. I know plenty of people that maybe have been considered borderline degenerates in high school (who barely made it out if they even did) but finally stabilized themselves, went to community college, and ended up getting into very good schools (which many kids in high school would have killed to get into). Nonetheless, I loved college, but my B.A hasn't helped me very much on professional level. Even cuny is over priced these days.

Mar. 04 2009 10:53 AM
jim fouratt from greenwich village nyc

In the long run this may be the best thing to happen to public education. Now parents who feel entitled to quality education and are use to getting what they want will fight the destructive tax cuts that have effectively removed most of the programs that make a child well-rounded and teach a child to think.

Test scores alone do not reflect successful education.

Because the middle class has abandoned public education a new class system has evolved where children whose parents can afford $30,000 a year are track with their peers to be the new elite and those children no matter how smart or how supportive their home environment maybe are relegated to second rate public education.

We see in the Middle East how religious education is an attack on secular values and we see it here in the attacks on woman's right to choose and homosexual rights.

A right to quality education is core value of what build a democratic United States The selfish seduction of politician's tax cuts rants are destroying the basic social compact that held the United States together as a nation

Home schooling is a selfish turn-your-back on all children but your own movement.

I am always amazed how some of our cities loudest voices on progressive values shut up when it comes to reforming or taking back public education and place their own children in private schools. The do become part of the problem and not part of the solution.

I could name names but I will not here.

But this is complicity in unequal education for the city's children

I suggest that parents take back public education and make it work for their children, for all our children. This is how America was built. It s time to put that private tuition money back into the fight for quality public education.

jim fouratt

Mar. 04 2009 10:39 AM
jj from nyc

My wife and I have been in NYC for 5 years - our rent has gone up, up, up every year.

Mar. 04 2009 10:36 AM
Ruth from Washington Heights

The guy who's son had his HAT KNOCKED OFF is raising his kids in a narrowly restrictive religious culture. That is his choice.

He seems to expect the government schools to make that easy for him.
That's not the way it works.

Mar. 04 2009 10:35 AM
Lori Nasrallah from Westchester County

About 6+ months ago I heard on the radio, (maybe WNYC) that a Catholic school which was targeted for closure was working on becoming a public magnet school so it could stay in business and the teachers would even get paid better. That could possible be an option worth looking in to for engaged and active parents with kids in private schools or religious schools.

Mar. 04 2009 10:34 AM
Ruth from Washington Heights

Hold it!
The caller whose kid had his HAT KNOCKED OFF is CHOOSING to raise his children in a narrowly restrictive relgious culture!

So, then he wants the public schools to make his choice easy?
That's not the way it works, buddy.

Mar. 04 2009 10:33 AM
Lynn from Brooklyn

There is no silver bullet, there is no school blueprint that works for every family. Learning is HIGHLY personal, intimate even, and no matter how "great" a school is, it doesn't help your child if your child doesn't fit in that culture. The sad result of this is that you oftentimes don't know until you try a school for awhile. And I ask everyone...consider the most valuable lessons you have learned in your early life, and then consider how many were learned in school...

Mar. 04 2009 10:32 AM
Jennifer Bartlett from Brooklyn

Please give the people who answer the phones training on being respectful to people with disabilities. I called, was asked if I was a parent (yes), did I have a child in school (yes), did I apply to private school (no, I chose not to). Then, even though this was the topic, I was told rudely that this wasn't the topic and was hung up on. I'm positive that the person was impatient with my speech impediment. I am a regular listener. I notice you never have disabled callers, guests, or disability issues. Please rethink this system. How about radio for everyone?

Mar. 04 2009 10:30 AM
Bonnie from Brooklyn

Each of our children really wanted to go to Trinity for High School where they each had been accepted, but we decided we really couldn't afford it. One had gotten into Bronx Science and the other into Stuyvesant. In retrospect, even if we could afford it, the public schools were the best options. It is probably the only meritocracy they will ever be a part of. It also took them off the "privileged Kids" track that seems to grow with each year of private school attendance.

Mar. 04 2009 10:28 AM
Kathy from Livingston, NJ

Brian - our daughter graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in 2007. To make this happen, my husband and I have worked in demanding jobs, and then paid her tuition in full using after-tax income. We are still paying off debt incurred during that time. I think that the tax laws need to be 'regionalized'. You may be 'wealthy' if you make $200K and live in Alabama, but you are just middle class in the NYC metro area. I think that all college tuition should be a pre-tax deductible.

Mar. 04 2009 10:27 AM
Susan Burger from Upper West Side

We were very lucky to have our son accepted in a terrific normal public elementary school. I was perhaps the only parent in our nursery school that was thrilled. We actually chose this public school over the G&T schools despite the fact that our son tested high enough to be considered for Hunter. Over the years, I have heard many complaints about private schools, especially among some of his old friends who were not reading. Even though he is taking the math test today, the teachers at his school have ensured that he has received a rich education in art and social studies. I know how bad it was for parents because so many parents would lie to each other about where their children were accepted. Because I was happy about the public school, they confessed to me.

Mar. 04 2009 10:26 AM
Gina from Crown Heights

Six years ago, I chose McGill University, a public university in Montreal with an international student tuition of about 12,000/year, over Fordham University (30,000+ when I applied). Aside from the exceptional education and fabulous affordable city living, graduating debt free was the greatest gift I've ever given myself. Not being bound to college loans now in this economic environment is SUCH a relief. Thanks to me!

Mar. 04 2009 10:25 AM

I grew up in New York, attended public schools, albeit some of the best in the city from K - 12 and wound up at some of the best institutions of higher learning. Currently, I live in Williamsburg and have now watched innumerable parents shell out up to $ 20,000 a year for PRE-SCHOOL! It is one of the local pre-schools and I watch parents in the neighborhood panic over sending their children to public schools and turn to this paid for education without really researching the education their children are receiving at these private schools. It seems to reflect a certain frenzied panic over questions of education and status. In the end I think the children lose out and public schools lose the diversity they ought to have.

Mar. 04 2009 10:25 AM
Sarah from Rockefeller University

having experienced the range of education options: a rural regional public high school, a public university and a private college, i would say it's not the quality of the teachers (which was usually good) but the intellect of your fellow students that makes for a good education.

Mar. 04 2009 10:25 AM
Cynthia from Brooklyn, NY

Wanted to move my son to public school in the fifth grade but found the ny middle schools to be hideous. So stayed in private school until ninth grade. NY public high schools - far better options.

Mar. 04 2009 10:25 AM
robert from park slope

The coming year(s) should be an excellent opportunity for the public schools to rebuild if their budgets are not slashed. The recession will force more engaged parents to enroll their children. More important, rising unemployment should strengthen the talent pool for new teachers. Assuming the UFT won't be overly aggressive in defending substandard performers, the quality of teaching should benefit.

Mar. 04 2009 10:24 AM
oil monkey

We should be questioning if the 'college track' is really what primary education should be geared to for every student. Not everyone needs to go to college (or needs the attendant debt). Not to argue that everyone shouldn't have the opportunity, but a majority of people do not end up working in the field they studied in college anyway, so why bother. Although I was a 'straigh-A' student all through school, college put me into great debt and thus far did little to forward my 'career.' I would've been better served by some sort of apprentice program.

Mar. 04 2009 10:22 AM
lily lim from brooklyn, ny

about 10 yrs ago my father lost his fortune. at that time i was in my final year private college, my 1st sister was finishing high school in a private prep, my 2 other siblings were in private prep K-12.

my 1st sister got accepted to Yale but we could not afford it. so she has to go to the local college who gave her a full ride.

my 2nd sister left her private prep where she was taking horse riding lessons and flying lessons. she enrolled in the local high school.

over the years i realized that my 1st sister never got over Yale. it was always a sore point with her. perhaps more so because she was older when our family fortunes fell.

the 2nd sister joined the local high school cross country, made friends, and it as well adjusted as any and made her way to John Hopkins on a full ride eventually. there were hard times when she was looking into college and the decision was "who can give me a full ride" whereas the friends from her old prep school where more agonizing over "my dad went to yale and he expects me to go but i prefer brown".

i think young kids are more resilient than adults and perhaps we give them too little credit on adjusting.

i think it is also important that parents do not carry this as a "shame"... sometimes I felt that if my father was less apologetic, we would all have an easier time.

Mar. 04 2009 10:21 AM
Hugh from Brookyn

Britain has implemented stringent testing regimes comparable to those established in New York and elsewhere. A new study from Cambridge University is very critical of these standards, noting that they drastically increase anxiety among students and lead to cancellation of art and humanities programs that many students benefit greatly from and which serve to produce well-rounded young people.

Mar. 04 2009 10:20 AM
Michele Liebler from Brooklyn

It is very costly to have kids in two different public schools one in a gifted program and the other missed last year by two points and ended up in local zoned school. I am unemployed and had to spend $3000.00 for afterschool so I could pick up the other child. unfare sibling policy.

Mar. 04 2009 10:19 AM
Stephanie from Astoria

We have a 7 month old and are so dismayed with the options for school, we are moving back to the Midwest. Private school is not at all a possibility and goes against our philosophy of believing in public schools. The Midwest has exceptional public schools and a much more manageable cost of living.

Mar. 04 2009 10:18 AM
psychfather from nassau county

Private schools are not a guarantee of your child getting a good education. There are two dangers which my kids have experienced first hand.

1) Private schools are free to focus on obscure academic areas and teaching styles which can minimize development of other skills. my child could memorize a 4 page report, but was reading 1.5 years below her grade.

2) Your children are in danger of aggressive or emotionally unbalanced children. The private schools my not discipline behavior problem children due to the bottom line. my son had a chunk of his finger by a child, with not so much as an appology from the school.

public schools have accountability, which protects and develops children equally

Mar. 04 2009 10:18 AM
Alexandra from west village, manhattan

We live in one of the best public school districts in the city and would have liked to send our daughter to one of the two schools we're zoned for. But when I went in to register her at P.S. 41 in the second week of a three-month registration process, they already had twice as many kids on their kindergarten list as spaces. Since we didn't know if our daughter would end up in an "overflow" school in another district, and wouldn't know until well after the private school deadline, we opted for private school. I wish the board of ed. would get its act together earlier and/or the private schools would move their deadlines to later so we really could make a choice.

Mar. 04 2009 10:17 AM
raleigh-elizabeth from morningside hts

when i was growing up (i graduated high school in 2000), my single-parent mom pulled me out of public school to put me in private school for fifth grade. she made less than 60,000 the entire time i was in school, and she spent between 20-45,000 a year on me for education. i went to a small girls' school in ohio and then boarding school in andover, ma, (with the help of scholarship loans from the school) and the rest of my family thought she was crazy to spend money this way. but i went to columbia and am now back for a graduate degree - and i'm easily the most happy, successful person in the family. i'm doing what i want and what i'm good at - and i owe that to my mother entirely. i fell between the cracks of a 90-person grade (30 people per class) in public school, where i was always in remedial education classes - and she found places for me where i could actually grow and blossom, however silly that sounds. she believed in me and found places where i could believe in myself.

maybe it's not always financially reasonable, but it seems to me that if you're a parent, and your kid needs something else and you can find a way to provide it, no matter how crazy it is, do it. you could make a huge difference in your kids' lives - it did in mine, and i'm eternally grateful (thanks mom).

Mar. 04 2009 10:17 AM
Wendy from Brooklyn

This issue doesn't just start at pre-school. People with kids in daycare pay as much as private school, and don't have a public school option. Where I live in Brooklyn, full-time daycare (and I'm talking the ground floor of a brownstown, not a pre-school) runs on average $9/hr (this is MUCH cheaper than a nanny, which runs $12-$15/HR). If you work full-time, you need daycare from 8-6pm. At $9/hr for 50 hours / week, this is $450/wk, or $21,600/year!!! This is more than I paid for 4 years of college at a state university, but is the CHEAPEST option available.

Mar. 04 2009 10:16 AM
Jane from Brooklyn

Your phone person was very rude to me because I have a disability. Anyway, I think there are many excellent New York public schools. There is a point where this involves elitism versus actual education.

Mar. 04 2009 10:16 AM
Charles Hymowitz

The question is Yeshiva or not in my household. I have one kid in private high school, another graduating from eight grade to high school from a yeshiva, a third in sixth grade (Yeshiva too) and a two and a half year old (also in Yeshiva nursery).

I think that the nursery is waste (although he does learn Jewish material) but the others are important and significant. My son failed to get in to one of the top selective City High schools and in some ways, I was happy even though I can't afford the private high school that he will be going.

In the end, the religious training, atmosphere and morality matters to me (and considering that I ran away from my Yeshiva training for many years) it is quite surprising.

Mar. 04 2009 10:16 AM

i was fortunate enough to attend the best private school in our state.

my sister was sent to the corresponding best girls school in the state and hated it -- after a year she returned to public school (not a great one/30% immigrant etc.).

both made the right choices.

Mar. 04 2009 10:16 AM
Linus from Brooklyn

Many years ago, I started off at our local Upper West Side public school (P.S. 163). The area was in a bit of a decline, and the school was in trouble. Midway through I was accepted to Calhoun, one of the fancy choices at the time.

We really couldn't afford it - I was the oldest of four - and after a lot of back and forth, I stayed in public school. After an incident at 163, I transferred to P.S. 75. I went on to the local junior high, I.S. 44 - and from there to Stuyvesant, and from there to Harvard.


Mar. 04 2009 10:15 AM
Hugh from Brookyn

WNYC carried a story yesterday about the performance of NYC's schools, particularly removal of NYC schools from the SURR list (Schools Under Registration Review).

The claims are actually very misleading. Public schools in the city are in much worse shape that Bloomberg or Klein will admit. At least one study (published by the Manhattan Institute) reveals this.

For one thing, the State Board of Regents guidelines for addition to the SURR list are not applied as written. They are drastically relaxed, thus reducing the number of schools that fail to meet standards.

Consider also the policing of public schools, as covered repeatedly by Nat Hentoff (formerly of the Village Voice). Police presence and license in many schools is taking disturbing turns.

Mar. 04 2009 10:15 AM
Jacob from Brooklyn

I'm not a parent, but in response to the first caller who said that she wanted her kids to go to private school to be better prepared for college. I went to a small private school in Brooklyn and then a to large state university. I was very unprepared for the difference in the amount of attention that teachers pay to students and totally overwhelmed by the size of the classes and just sheer number of students. I got a very good education in private school, but socially, I wish I had gone to public school.

Mar. 04 2009 10:15 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

Our local middle school here is awful, and we couldn't afford another year at one of the more expensive private schools in Poughkeepsie, so we are now homeschooling.

Mar. 04 2009 10:13 AM
hjs from 11211

housing prices in manhattan went up 11% last year is NYC really in a recession?

Mar. 04 2009 10:13 AM

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