Malibu Surfside News

Malibu Surfside News - MALIBU'S COMMUNITY FORUM INTERNET EDITION - Malibu local news and Malibu Feature Stories

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Most Parents Want the School that Is Best for Their Children

• The Public School versus Private School Debate Is Really about School A versus School B

BY JULIE Fulmer WALLACH

The national system of formal education began at the end of the nineteenth century when education reformers argued that a free public education could create good citizens, unite society, and prevent crime and poverty. At the same time, private, non-denominational and religious schools flourished. Education, once reserved for the wealthy, became available to children of every socio-economic status.
According to U.S. Department of Education statistics, 11.4% of students nationwide attend private schools. Public and home schooling make up the difference. In Malibu, parents have mixed views on public and private schools; it is common for parents to switch between the two during their children’s academic careers.
Although local school officials, both in the public and private sector were contacted regarding their thoughts on the subject, Malibu parents were the only group that responded to the Malibu Surfside News about perceived differences and criteria in choosing between public or private school.
Roohi Stack, a parent with two children enrolled in Malibu public schools shared, “The reasons we decided to go to Malibu High [from Point Dume Elementary] are the distance and academics. I didn’t want to commute 90 minutes away and be so far from the kids. Additionally, it would be a long and tiring day for all of us if we were commuting to a private school. There would be no point living in Malibu and I would probably move.”
Stack said, “The matriculations from MHS have been excellent. The school sends kids to the top 20 universities every year and 50% of the graduating class goes to UCs, which are highly competitive schools. The honors math program, I know kids going to private schools and they don’t have an honors math program. And the music program…my daughter is in orchestra and she plays violin every day.”
A parent who wished to remain anonymous shared the reasons in sending her children to a private school in Thousand Oaks. Her children had attended elementary school in Malibu, but her decision to send them to private for middle and high school had to do with classroom ratio; more athletic opportunities at a younger age; early exposure to discover their passions; and, the academic opportunities to discover their passions.
Regarding academic curriculum, she said, “From an elementary school academic standpoint, private school has proven to be at least one grade ahead many areas of curriculum. For example, one of my children is working on fractions and word problems in the third grade.”
She and her husband “don’t like feeling so vulnerable to the state of California’s inability to manage their funds,” adding “the district is and always will be driven by the needs of Santa Monica and they just want our Malibu tax dollars. Malibu’s needs have always been secondary…Webster and Pt. Dume [Elementary] are run and funded more like mini-private schools,” adding, “As far as I can tell, MHS has done a wonderful job maintaining high academic standards.”
A report conducted by the US Education Department in 2006 compared federal math and reading test scores between public and private school students. The results were comparable, with each sector showing mediocre scores in both subjects.
A parent whose children both attended Webster Elementary School said, “We know MHS is a top public school but realize that as a public school, it needs to address the needs of all children. In public school, there are children who don’t want to be there or are a distraction. Oftentimes, this is where the teachers need to spend their time, trying to keep everyone on track. Some people question why private instead of public when our public school is so good. When it comes to college, the question of private versus public doesn’t seem to be as divisive. So why should it be any different for middle school and high school? In this competitive, global environment we feel a good education is a critical component to success.”
Malibu High School’s matriculation list for this year’s graduating class includes various Universities of California and California State Universities; Baylor University; University of Chicago; Columbia University; Cornell University; New York University; University of Virginia; and Washington University in St. Louis. Other local, private and liberal arts schools are mentioned and can be found on the Malibu High School website.
Viewpoint School’s class of 2010 college acceptance list includes all of the above-mentioned schools and Caltech; Yale University; Stanford University; and Emory University in addition to others that can be reviewed on Viewpoint School’s website.
Some parents have chosen to pull their children from public schools in the wake of recent budget cuts. A parent who wished to remain anonymous said, “I don’t trust the school system to handle my money, especially now. I pay taxes for public schools but it’s mismanaged. Even though I shell out all of this money [in taxes], I would rather pay for private school and know where my tuition is going.”
The National Center for Education Statistics compiled data to help answer how public and private schools differ. Nationwide, 63 percent of public and 37 percent of private schools employed staff with academic specialist or coaching assignments. Seventy-three percent of public elementary schools had staff with academic specialist or coaching assignments compared to private elementary, at 37 percent.
Ethnic composition of students enrolled in public schools was 58 percent non-Hispanic, White, 20 percent Hispanic (regardless of ethnicity), 16 percent non-Hispanic, Black, 4 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, and 1 percent American Indian/Alaska Native.
Among private schools, ethnic composition was 74 percent non-Hispanic White, 10 percent non-Hispanic Black, 9 percent Hispanic (regardless of race), 6 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, and 1 percent American Indian/Alaska Native.
As of the 2007-08 academic year, average class size was 20 students in public school and 18 students in private.
A parent who wished to remain anonymous shared her thoughts about enrolling her children in Malibu’s public school. “If I lived in a different community where the teachers, parents, and administrators were not invested in my child’s education, or if my child’s life were in danger by attending public school, then I would have to consider private schooling or a different educational option. None of this exists here in Malibu.”
Major deciding factors in choosing public or private school include the needs of the student, finances, class size, and commuting time to and from school. Views might be different if there was a kindergarten-twelfth grade private school within the Malibu city limits.
Whatever the choice, data show that one is not necessarily superior.

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