View Full Version : All SF Lost and Confused - Conflicted on Private v. Public

10-28-2010, 12:35 PM
Hi all!

We are knee-deep in the application process for our 4yr old daughter. I entered this process thinking that I was completely ahead of the game, but as October comes to an end, I feel just a little bit lost. We were primarily looking at independent schools. While I think the process is completely outrageous, at least it is one that I understand (though in the context of college and grad school). Then, at a public school information night, a speaker asked the parents to think about the money that they would be spending on tuition and then to think about using that money on a great family vacation or a new house, etc. That really resonated with me. I could be a significant contributor to the fundraising efforts of a public school and still come out ahead. Plus, I started thinking about the costs that aren't included in the $25K/year, like before and after school programs (as dual working parents, this is a necessity) and summer camps. That brings the cost up to potentially $30K to $35K/year!

So, we have started to think more seriously about our public school options. I will say that I find the process completely baffling. This new system seems to work out very well for those families who live in a neighborhood with a good neighborhood school (and for those neighborhood schools that are in high demand, at least the families that don't get into them get a preference for another school of their choice). Our neighborhood school is not one to which I would have ever thought about sending my child. But I don't see a lot of hope of getting her into a different school. I know that people say not to look at test scores, but it is hard not to. I acknowledge that, though this school has been teetering on the edge for years, it is working hard turn itself around. It could be the next [Insert Name] ... in probably 4-5 years. That's a long time to wait. And perhaps it is selfish and short-sighted of me (and I know many will agree that it is), but my priority right now is investing in the future of my child rather than building up an institution that will largely benefit the next generation of students. So independent school isn't totally off the table. In fact, we've now seen at least two school where we honestly think our daughter would positively thrive.

Anyway, I would love to hear from anyone who has a sense of the "all in" costs of sending a child to an independent school. I would also love to hear from anyone else in a neighborhood with an "up-and-coming" school (or even one that is not so "up-and-coming") and their thoughts on rolling the dice with the neighborhood school or trying to get into a school with an established record. I don't know. It is hard for me to reconcile (1) my community values with (2) my need as a mother to put my child first with (3) the desire not to spend a bunch of money on elementary school with (4) the guilt for even thinking about the money if an independent school truly is the best option for my child. This inner debate is stifling. Can you see why I feel a bit overwhelmed and lost???


10-28-2010, 05:37 PM
We totally understand why you're a bit overwhelmed and lost. We are in a similar position. We went into the process thinking that we're going public first and will only consider privates that absolutely blew us away. The more we look at schools, the more our list has flipped and flopped, flipped and flopped.

While private is an option, it is a stretch for us. Our hope was that we would find and get into a great public school with a super involved parent community intent on making the school the best it can be. We could then use some of the money that otherwise would have gone to tuition for music, language or other extracurriculars. No matter what we did, we knew one thing for sure: we were going to put our child's needs first.

But after touring some privates and some publics, we're not sure how we could not try to send our child to a private, as much of a stretch financially as it may be for us. It's not so much the fancy infrastructure many of these private schools have. It's that critical thinking and creative problem solving are a way of life for the students there. Maybe it's the amount of resources they have or a matter of not having to teach to standardized tests so how can one or two hours of enrichment after school be enough?

We've only toured a few public schools so far so perhaps that explains our private bias right now. The process is still relatively early so we'll continue to tour more public schools and stay open-minded. Clarendon is the only one we've seen that has stood out. We're looking forward to seeing Rooftop and Miraloma considering all the great things we've heard about them. We know our chances at the attendance area schools are not good but since it doesn't take any extra effort to add another school to our list of choices, why not put them down.

Who knows... things can still change. No matter what, I'm sure we'll all make the best decision for our kids. We just need to remember that things work out the way they do for a reason; otherwise, we may all drive ourselves crazy. Good luck and keep us posted on how things go. I'll try to do the same.

11-01-2010, 11:59 AM
I asked my friend that sends her kids to private school about this - here was her breakdown:

*22K/year tuition per child
*1K/year contributions to school/child. This is $ for the annual fund but also costs of field trips and events throughout the year
*1K/child in extra's (instrument lessons, club sports, etc)
*18K/ school year in additional childcare combined for 2 kids (she has a caregiver that comes for 3 hours a day after school every day)
*1K/summer for each child for camps/childcare

That's about a whopping ~43K/year

It's funny, I don't know what line of work you are in but I haven't broken it out like that until I saw your post. Obviously, if you take the extra 18K for childcare out it doesn’t feel as bad. I think there are ways around that line item.

Private school will be a stretch for us. Maybe we'll only take driving trips while the kids are in school because we won't be able to afford vacations that require plane tickets - I didn't grow up going to a fancy private school with differentiated instruction and we still only took driving trips or no vacations at all. Kids don't really pay attention to that stuff (imho). Kids really relish the quality time with their family, and maybe it's camping on Mt. Tam or strolling the streets of Paris...but they aren't going to remember the trips, they'll remember the funny thing that happened when you were all together.

I hope this helps, I feel I've just talked myself in circles because I want to provide the private path for our kids and I'm not sure how we are going to swing it either but at some point, I'm willing to close my eyes and jump.

Good luck!