Married parents and the public school exit.

No matter how many ways you slice the onion, it’s becoming more and more the case that married parents are exiting or very strategically accessing the public school system.  This poses real medium and long term issues regarding funding and support for public school teachers.

What does exit mean?  It means 30%+ of married parents’ kids are outside the public school system or inside it via de facto segregation tactics like specialized, high-parent-participation “options” or outright effective magnets/charters within a larger public school.  About 15% are in private schools, with a steady increase in private Protestant schools specifically (although the general private school split is 45% Catholic, 40% Protestant, and secular bringing up the rump end at around 15%.  The classical Christian academy is maturing away from co-op models to full-time private schools all over the country.  Another approximately 7% are homeschooling full time, typically longer than a year but less than full K-12.  Another 8-10% are doing various combinations of specialized public school programs, homeschooling using the public school curriculum (public-private partnership, “alternative educational approach”, the various names for this make it hard to break out on its own), and mixed schooling (combining several part-time school options).

Homeschooling is completely normalized now as an option to include in the college prep race among the very parents who dominate married parenthood, the college educated majority.  It’s not part of a “fundie fringe”, it’s something a double digit percentage of married parents do for at least one year between K-12.

Also, kids just never stop costing money now, because all these options have costs in time and money.  Either you’re writing checks, one parent is not working full time or outside the home, or both.  The other side of it is that public schools push fringier and fringier views on the remaining children whose parents can’t optimize them into a special program where that stuff doesn’t come up or is cheerfully waivered out.  Where I live, essentially in our version of the higher-end NYC public magnet schools, an example fringy goal is to teach transgender advocacy to kindergarteners in the “regular” public schools.    It’s already approved, implementation is coming in another school year or so.

So even the very liberal parents who might be fine with this in junior high are making plans to do for-pay K or even K-3, on top of 7k/mo mortgages and 1k/mo property taxes to pay 100k salaries to teachers and 150k salaries to administrators who added this stuff to the curriculum.  Exit isn’t cheap, and it’s not getting cheaper, but it is increasing over time anyway.  This is not a stable equilibrium.

 

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19 thoughts on “Married parents and the public school exit.

  1. I was talking a lot to the younger parents in my family at a funeral last week and they’re married, very middle class/upper middle class/conservative or -ish, and all doing public school. I was the only private school parent and nobody even mentioned homeschooling. Of course, they’re nearly all parents of elementary kids or littler kids. (These were parents living in Western WA, Idaho, and some place in the NE.)

    It felt pretty surprising not to hear anything about homeschooling, because it’s much more prevalent among middle class folk in our part of TX–I’d say it’s almost a rite of passage here. Lots of people at least try it.

    I actually got a certain amount of pushback from the younger female NW in-laws for doing private school, which was kind of surprising.

    Some possible explanations:

    a) Not All Public Schools Are Like That

    or

    b) These young parents can’t afford either private school or homeschooling, so they have to grin and bear it.

    They did seem very happy with their local public school experience, so I’m leaning toward a), but again, they mostly have elementary aged kids, and parents often get disgruntled during the middle school years for a variety of different reasons.

    It also occurs to me that there’s also at least a c) alternative:

    c) Parents who need to use special education services (like one of the moms I was talking to) don’t have a lot of good choices.

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  2. Public school used to be a middle class norm before the middle class started disappearing from the USA since 1980 or so. Public school is now only for the drones. Being public school grad myself the very idea for my kids makes me shiver. Child abuse.

    Homeschooling is fully bimodal – it attracts the dimwit 5% who can’t hack school and the elite 5% who are too advanced for their grade level. So nobody can figure out what it is.

    Private school has always been a great way to cut out the low IQ riffraff. But at what price. And it is still an anti-family institution and thus an inefficient method of education…which is why the very elite oft lean homeschool.

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    • Homeschooling is fully bimodal – it attracts the dimwit 5% who can’t hack school and the elite 5% who are too advanced for their grade level.

      As someone who has been heavily involved in a large homeschool community for the past 8 years, this is demonstrably false. That may have been the way it was back in the day, but that isn’t how it is now. I don’t know how it was way back when because our young adult kids went to PS, but the youngest (10 and 12) have always been homeschooled and the families utilizing it have kids of various intellects. Not everyone (not even most) are clustered at the extremes.

      Private school has always been a great way to cut out the low IQ riffraff.And it is still an anti-family institution and thus an inefficient method of education…which is why the very elite oft lean homeschool.

      Again, regional norms matter. Elites don’t homeschool in large numbers. They usually choose private school so they can engage in other elite activities rather than be hindered in those things by the perpetual need to engage the children. Homeschooling is growing exponentially, but not in the ways you describe. At least not down here.

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      • E: as someone who has been heavily involved in a large homeschool community for the past 8 years, this is demonstrably false. That may have been the way it was back in the day, but that isn’t how it is now.

        Well, I’ve been involved in homeschooling for over 20 years, with kids as young as 3 today, so I’m quite modern. I’ve written curricula, met many dozen of families, and been part of study groups. I know what I’m talking about on the bimodal reality. I’ve seen it all, with a new crop of parents each year, and HS 7 kids today. Not only is what I say true, it’s well documented with test scores where live (most HS students here test each year because they get money if they do).

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        • E, just to be clear: when I say 5% bimodal is by definition a general term because one can divide up your modes however and clearly I’m speaking colloquially. But what makes the low end so narrow is so many special needs kids (e.g. retarded) homeschool (for obvious reasons) and of course flunk the tests and get lumped in.

          It’s the upper mode that is odd though…as you point out, most parents don’t homeschool; it takes unusual motives and options to trigger it. So oft the upper mode it’s parents with very high income and obsessive ed focus. But again, this is a general observation as we really can’t mine data on it well because so many HS where I live are “off grid” and thus unknown. My primary point is how rapidly the middle of the herd is disappearing into the modes in my limited 20 yr HS. One even sees this in sports; the records keep getting smashed (upper mode) as it’s more competitive these days but less kids are coming out in the low middle. At least where I live. I would note the religious types often throw off the modes because they can be fairly normal and ideology trumps the normal motives.

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        • It’s the “can’t hack school” thing that leaves me skeptical. Unless you mean “can’t hack school” in some way other than academically. Because school (at least the public variety) is rarely intellectually challenging in any meaningful way.

          And I say this as parent who put three kids of varying academic levels through the public system.

          Most kids, even the “low IQ riffraff” which I find slightly mean, can learn and adapt enough to be successful enough in public school.

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    • “Private school has always been a great way to cut out the low IQ riffraff. But at what price. And it is still an anti-family institution and thus an inefficient method of education…”

      Not at all. We’ve been at the same several hundred kid PK-12 private school for the last decade or so, and it’s functioned as a sort of extension of our family, and has rooted us in our community. (We live a mile and a half from school.)

      Of course, different schools are different.

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  3. You’re dead on here. I know families (and I mean several) who have their kids being educated via three or four different venues, depending on their child’s individual needs, what those particular outlets specialize or provide exceptional education in, combined with what they can afford.

    Some of it seems chaotic, but from what I can tell it works pretty well with HS kids who can drive themselves and/or transport younger siblings.

    The down side? Some of the options can be costly, but are often offset by others that are free, like FLVS for specific subjects.

    I think the evolution is good in some ways (competition and alternatives to the horror that is becoming of even the so-called “good” public schools). It’s also bad in others, such as a chipping away at the cohesiveness of communities where the only tether holding fragile community relationships together has been severed (PS moms being involved and volunteering).

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  4. Elspeth said,

    “I know families (and I mean several) who have their kids being educated via three or four different venues, depending on their child’s individual needs, what those particular outlets specialize or provide exceptional education in, combined with what they can afford.”

    Ay yay yay!

    I understand how it might be the best choice for an individual family, but it sounds very taxing and hard to manage.

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      • I suppose it is somewhat normal for middle class families (even middle class public school families) to get educational input from a variety of different sources. We do All the Things during the summer (so our summer number would be way higher than 3-4). I suppose our school year list for academic inputs is something like this:

        –school
        –music lessons (music is kinda academic, right?)
        –a community music group when I can talk Big Girl into going and we don’t have a conflict
        –religious education at one of our parishes

        Throw in non-school athletic stuff, and the number gets higher.

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    • It’s not that unusual. It becomes less daunting when the same general group of families are doing the same things (in our area the peer group is pretty consistent), and there are a lot of private Christian schools here with programs designed specifically to allow homeschooling families to take classes for credit at their schools.

      So for instance, our schools ridiculously good American history class has about 20 extra kids who don;t come there for anything else showing up twice a week specifically for that class. And using another school for math at a later period that day. And using FLVS for one or two other subjects.

      They’re still not running around more than 3 days a week, unless it’s for extracurricular like sports or music. The down side is that it can be expensive, but if you have the money then it can work well.

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  5. The charter school we work with is so prevalent that when I talk about it in the community, everyone’s like, “Oh I know so and so who goes there”. You can do anything from homeschool to almost-public-school there. And the test scores are better than any of the local PS districts. It’s not rocket science why it’s so popular. They do have a SpEd group, and a lot of kids on the spectrum in regular classes. As they get more popular (and more $$ from the state) they add more stuff. We have proper sports teams now, the opportunity to learn to sail (!), a solid musical theater program, etc. Other than the opportunity cost (high) I can’t figure out why anyone would do PS if they knew this was an option. There are crappy Charter schools in our town (so many charter schools) but we go to the “academic” one. (there’s even a charter continuation school!)

    But opportunity cost – oy. Even with the “almost PS” option, your elem kid is only at school 2 days/wk, MS kid 3 days/wk, and my HS kids 4 days/wk. (We did Elem/MS as homeschool + electives, so 6 hours max/wk).

    FWIW – charter in Cali is popular because CA requires a certified teacher oversee your homeschooled child and that work samples etc get turned in. The charter school facilitates all of that and keeps you legal. Also, they’re free here, so it’s “only” opportunity cost. They’re sucking so many students out of PS that I read an article about six months ago where the PS said, “Oh. Best step up our game”.

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  6. Most of the parents here moved to this area for the highly rated public schools. No transgender shenanigans yet, and I hope that it stays that way. I will probably be using the gifted program in the school system at some point because I want to have more children and we are already paying a ridiculous amount in tuition.

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    • All that stuff is state-level curriculum, it doesn’t matter whether the district is highly rated or not, they’re all supposed to dump that stuff into the vanilla PS curriculum.
      The private schools we’d consider here offer serious sibling and 3+ kid family discounts, so that’s nice.

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      • Either the state hasn’t told them to do it or they are noncompliant, but it hasn’t happened thus far. Of course you never know when a transgendered student will show up at the school to force the the issue, but hopefully I will be able to use the public schools if I need to. They are some of the best public schools in the country.

        The private Christian schools that I like didn’t offer the 3 plus kid discount, unfortunately. We did get a full scholarship offer from a very good private nonsectarian school so that might also be an option.

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        • Statewide means just that, our state. Many states are not blue, and yes, if we didn’t have tons of family attachments (there are parks and streets named after various relations), I would love to go back home where all this stuff isn’t pushed by state legislators.

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