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Do Parents Have a Moral Obligation to Send Their Kids to the Local Public School?

Take the poll and leave your comments.

It’s the end of April when many soon-to-be Kindergarten parents have already made their school choice for this fall.

For many, deciding between public and private school for their child was a big part of the grueling process, and a political one, too. A recent article on www.babble.com by Rhiana Maidenberg has left some Coastside parents still wondering about their school choice, bringing up questions like:

• Is it a moral obligation as a parent to send your kids to public school?

• Is being a part of the public system really going to fix it?

• Will I sacrifice my child’s education to be the one to make things better at the local public school?

• Will the private school be socially and economically diverse enough to help my child grow to be a well-rounded world citizen?

In the article Maidenberg explains why she’s sending her kids to public school despite the public system’s flaws such as budget cuts, large class sizes, minimal resources to support the influx of English Language Learners, and the standardized testing of the No Child Left Behind mandates, which are intended to narrow the achievement gap but has subjected children to an endless regimen of test-preparation drills instead.

Maidenberg says she’s making the choice “to be a part of the greater system, hoping to see a trend of more families with the time and means to invest in public schools actually doing so — because if we don’t take the time to make quality public education a possibility for all children, who will?”

The moral obligation idea is altruistic and lovely in its concept of personal sacrifice for the collective common good — that we have a moral obligation to educate all children — not just our own. But is supporting a public institution, which for some parents has failed to impress them, at the cost of their children's education beyond the call of duty?

Here at Half Moon Bay Patch, we want to hear from you about this.

We know parents want a quality education for children, and many private and public school parents would both agree that there is a great and pressing need to invest in the public school system.

But why do some parents opt out and choose a private school? Are those parents “immoral” or un-politically correct for not sending their children to the local public school? Is going to a private school instead of the local public school a disservice to the community? Do parents have a moral obligation to send their kids to the local public school?

Please take the poll below and tell us your thoughts in the comments section.

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Julie Kline April 25, 2012 at 01:25 PM
I think parents have a moral obligation to provide the best education they can to their kids. If that means private or home schooling instead of public, so be it.
Jennifer van der Kleut April 25, 2012 at 02:56 PM
I agree Julie - not to mention, maybe one less kid among the masses leaves more funds for the other kids.
Heidi Cornelison April 25, 2012 at 04:09 PM
I agree with Julie as well. My first responsibility is to my children, not a public institution. And the way things are going right now, it's not just the cost of my child's academic education that is at risk, it is his/her own well being and probably moral character. I am not a religious person, but I do believe in raising my chidren to be a positive presence on the planet and to realize the gift that comes with being in service to others. That said, I also believe in supporting all chidren and all people/life in the community in which I live...and beyond, to the best of my ability. There is a lot of fear around what is happening with schools and our children right now. Sometimes things need to completely fall apart before something good can be built. Perhaps this is what is happening now with our schools. I believe the nature of how we educate our children is going to change, and it will change for the good of all.
Casey Reppas April 25, 2012 at 04:14 PM
I dont have a moral obligation, but a community obligation.To support the community and the child equally equals a well rounded envirnment for all involved.
Spencer Nassar April 25, 2012 at 05:05 PM
I think all citizens have an obligation to support our public education system (making property tax for eduction not ideal, but ok). A choice to not use that resource is up to the parents, and if they opt out, there are more funds per student available to the public system. So... "no" to a moral obligation to put students in public school, "yes" to a moral obligation to support public education, and "no" to vouchers for private education.
Dee April 25, 2012 at 06:16 PM
I've never bought the "moral obligation" for sending children to a struggling local public school especially in a district like Cabrillo that has a lottery-based program like Spanish immersion. What if you don't want your child immersed in Spanish K-5? What if your neighborhood school fails to impress you b/c the bulk of motivated families in your neighborhood go to Spanish immersion or what if you didn't get in on the lottery? If you can afford it, you then choose private school. Most private school parents I know would be at public if schools were doing better and offered more opportunities and advantages other than Spanish immersion. The public schools here are failing to impress people first. It's like a business saying, "We would succeed if our customers would just stop buying our competitors' products." The school district needs to identify what made the "consumers" leave in the first place. It's no doubt that the Coast's elementary schools have been eroded by the lottery based Spanish immersion program, No Child Left Behind Mandates, budget cuts and English Language Learners who need bilingual aides in the classroom. Society has a right to expect some sacrifices in order for the society to flourish. But supporting a failing institution at the cost of your children's education is beyond the call of duty. Less time spent attacking parents and more time spent identifying the real problems in our schools would be a good start.
Dee April 25, 2012 at 06:29 PM
All those people who are sending their kids elsewhere (and indeed, even people without children) are still paying taxes that support the local school. Proving to me that you're making good use of those funds would be a good start before asking me to trust you with my kids. In addition, the California state funding allocation is an attendance measure, not an enrollment test. If your kid enrolls at the public school, then they should go every day, so the school can get paid. But if they don't enroll, it doesn't matter so much. In that case, your "moral obligation" is to vote your approval for various school funding measures, like bonds, debt increases, etc. The problem with this is that many of people don't want to vote in support for those measures. Why? Again, prove to me that you're making good use of those funds.
Jane Lewis April 25, 2012 at 06:42 PM
For those who can afford to send their children to private schools, the benefits include smaller class sizes, but the lack of exposure to people of all cultures and social classes may not prepare one to live in a diverse society. The correlation between education and income predicts that private school parents are better equipped to provide a rich learning experience at home, so students are better prepared for school. The disadvantages of private schools include having teachers who are not required to be certified or licensed. Public school teachers are better paid and have benefits, which raises questions about why someone would be teaching in a private school. Private schools boast better test scores because they can decline to admit students with handicaps. However, while public schools are required to publish their test scores, private schools are not required to do so. The boasting is for the purpose of persuading parents to enroll their children, but may not be based on comparable data. If you enroll your child in public school, that school receives money from the State of California, so removing your child, also removes funds from the school. Morals involve one's personal character, and each parent has a responsibility to learn how the educational system works before making a decision to opt out of public education. Ethics define the decisions we make for the benefit of society, and everyone practices situational ethics. There are no easy answers here.
Mary Ahern April 25, 2012 at 08:40 PM
"un-politically correct"? Did you go to a public or private school?
Christa Bigue (Editor) April 25, 2012 at 11:26 PM
On Half Moon Bay Patch's Facebook page, Jane Mountain says it well: "It's about involvement in your child's life and what is right for the family. One size doesn't fit all whether it's public, private, or home schooling." I agree, that it's important to make a school choice based on your child and what the family values, not to support a political agenda. When it comes to one's civic duty/serving their community, there are many other ways a family can support their community and local schools without having to attend the public school.
Lisa Hinshelwood April 26, 2012 at 03:09 AM
I think that there is no moral obligation. I am a 14 year old student in the public school system,next year, for high school, i will be going to a private school. The truth is I think that if you feel like you can be more challenged or need more of a challenge and can afford it, it is the right choice. As for not being exposed to other cultures and diversity it might be true for some children but I have been exposed to it since kindergarten and will continue to be exposed because of the town we live in. My parents are proud supporters of the public schools, but I asked to go to a private school because i felt i needed more of a challenge.
Catie Chase April 26, 2012 at 04:57 AM
your moral obligation is to your children - your tax obligation is already to the public school (whether you like it or not!) if you are lucky enough to have a good public school, then go for it - otherwise, don't feel obliged in the least! just posted today:http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/25/us/new-jersey-autism-bullying/index.html?c&page=2 happy april autism awareness month
Dee April 26, 2012 at 04:22 PM
The question here is why are our public schools here not good enough that some people chose private school instead? What are our schools doing wrong to not attract these private school people? It seems to me that many public school parents resent the fact that people chose private instead of public because the arguments tend to run like this: 1. The local school is failing. If your kids went here, it wouldn't be failing. 2. The school is your local community. You should support your local community. 3. The school needs more students in attendance and motivated and moneyed parents to increase funding. Putting your children's warm bodies in chairs would help. It's easy to think, "if we just had a different set of families, this school could be great!" But would it? Throwing more money at the system and more bodies in the classroom isn't going to help. Something huge and structural needs to change, and it starts with getting over being so politically correct. We need a better foundation at our elementary schools. The inequity amongst these schools is astounding. The lottery based Spanish immersion is killing neighborhood schools. And why do some schools have HEAL, Amity scholars, and music and others don't? The classrooms need bilingual aides, period. The teachers need help (not parent volunteers) with the English Language Learners. Otherwise the kids who already know English and need more enrichment and a challenging classroom environment become bored and frustrated.
Jeff Warren April 26, 2012 at 05:01 PM
I think we all know that the problem with Coastside public schools lies in the overpopulation of non-English speaking students. The private schools in this area are not struggling with having their students learn English first, they are just on the fast track of educating. This imbalance is what is diluting our resources.
Jane Lewis April 26, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Schools reflect the communities they serve. Below is a link to the School Accountability Report Card for each school in Cabrillo Unified. Economic disadvantages outweigh all other issues in our schools. Elementary schools report more than half of their student populations are from economically disadvantaged homes. Two are well above half at 60% and 70%. When the children get to secondary school, they are not so likely to be enrolled in the free and reduced lunch programs, but their families continue to be at or below the poverty line. The federally funded lunch program is an opt-in program for families, so secondary students are often sensitive about others knowing that they are eligible. See http://www.cabrillo.k12.ca.us/CUSD_topic/SARC.html
Christa Bigue (Editor) April 27, 2012 at 05:26 PM
For those following this thread, neighboring towns Belmont and Pacifica Patch sites have generated a lot of excellent comments as well that you may find interesting to read and/or comment on: http://pacifica.patch.com/articles/do-parents-have-a-moral-obligation-to-send-their-kids-to-the-local-public-school-689aca9f http://belmont-ca.patch.com/articles/do-parents-have-a-moral-obligation-to-send-their-kids-to-the-local-public-school-80c0fabb

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