Public school ‘lifers’ resent transfers

Competition is intense to get into Chicago’s eight selective-admission public high schools, which choose students based on middle-school grades, test scores, attendance and race. So public-school parents are resentful when high-scoring students transfer from private schools to take advantage of a first-class and free public education. Chicago Business reports:

For parents who have been committed to public schools since their child started first grade, the thought of private-school kids clinching coveted spots in selective-enrollment high schools is infuriating. Yet, private-school parents feel they have every right to go public: After all, they’ve been taxed to support the public schools while also paying expensive tuition.

Last year, only 17 percent of admits in the selective high schools had come from private schools, which doesn’t seem huge, but the numbers are rising.

Meanwhile, some African-American parents of means weigh the issue in reverse terms, debating whether it’s ethical to fill a position in an elite public school when they can well afford private-school tuition.

“I worry that if I take my son out of private school, he’d be acing out another African-American kid who might be from a Cabrini-Green neighborhood or whose parents couldn’t otherwise afford to send him to a private school,” says Les Coney, 47, executive vice-president of Mesirow Financial Inc. “I don’t want to do that.”

It sounds like Chicago needs to turn more ho-hum high schools into selective schools to meet the demand.

Via School Me.

About Joanne


  1. wayne martin says:

    The Latin School of Chicago is mentioned in the article–


    for the 2006-07 academic year: JK: $16,400;
    SK-grade 5: $18,385; grades 6-12: $21,915

    Tuitions like these might be giving some parents who are not truly “rich” reason to think about the public schools.

  2. have found a different dynamic with charter high schools:
    the community and outside experts saw the re-entry of private school students as a confirmation that public education could be competitive … while the sponsoring district saw it at best as paying for students that the district has already escaped the need to pay for and at worst as an affirmation that the charter really was a private school as the district officials believed (or at least asserted).

  3. In response to Joanne’s note that it appears there is demand for more selective admission schools, I’d just offer that they present the same problem of “leaving behind” less academically inclined students that charter schools and private school choice programs are criticized for. If the “best” students (usually with the most committed parents) get the chance to leave the general public schools, the schools left behind also fall further behind academically.

    Perhaps rather than holding the children of committed parents who can’t afford tuition hostage for the chance of improving their local public schools we could institute a “draft” in which students from all families would potentially be required to “serve” by attending local urban lower-income schools?

  4. Elizabeth says:

    What if — this is true for my district — in order to have more parental involvement and therefor (hopefully) better local schools we went back to neighborhood schools with the appropriate resources allocated on a school by school basis for the population being served?

    You will never get people in my community to “serve” in urban lower-income schools. Although it is a great idea!

    My city was ripped apart by busing 36 years ago. Our schools today — in a community that is 70% – 30% white/minority — are a minority-majority district of 64% minority and 36% majority. In addition 60 – 65% (and growing) of the kids are on free and reduced meals. This means not only has white flight continued but middle class flight by those not in choice schools and can afford to leave is continuing — either to private schools or people are moving out of the community.

    No, something needs to be done. Better teachers and much strong principals. Incentives. Churches involved and helping their communities understand the value of education (this is not being done to any extent I can see in my community).

    You know — private school parents coming back into public school or parents with kids in both private and public schools – may be the best thing for public schools. These parents will demand better quality teachers and leaders in each building. They will also demand and expect their students to be treated with respect. Yep, I welcome private school parents in our public schools with open arms. Of course, I am one of those parents with one child in a private high school and a public academic magnet high school. I am one of the lucky ones who works hard each day to help our school district realize it needs to bring up all of its schools, leaders and staff to a much higher level. Ugh…I am also worn out! I don’t know if I can do this for 3 1/3 more years — when my son leaves the public school system.

    Public schools should look to the good private schools and see what works. Pull this into their schools — upgrade their staff (teachers and leaders). Oh the world of difference this will make. Will public schools do this? Some will, most will not. Why because public schools and the people who run them think competition is bad.

    This is the closing comment from the article – Public and private school parents do agree on one issue, however.

    “The biggest thing is that we need more high schools that are acceptable for everyone,” says Ms. Geleerd, the LaSalle Language Academy parent. “That’s the bottom line.”

    Isn’t this what it is all about. Rather than have parents get mad about private school students coming back in the system, what if all these parents (and the students) including those parents who did not get their kids in the chosen schools worked together to improve the remaining high schools? Oh man would this be an awesome thing to see and hold up as a model for this nation’s public schools…

  5. If the “best” students (usually with the most committed parents) get the chance to leave the general public schools, the schools left behind also fall further behind academically.

    One thing that’s never explained in complaints like this is why it should matter if a school is left behind? Will the quality of education suffer if there aren’t smart kids around to soak it up? Will dumb kids get dumber if there aren’t smart kids to osmotically absorb intelligence from?

    This complaint indicates a confusion, or obfuscation, between means and ends.

    The school is the means, the end is education. If the end is served isn’t that the point of system? What’s the relevance of the means to the people who are seeking the ends?

  6. I like the use of the word “lifers” in the title. It’s appropriate. The distribution of limited spots in elite enclaves of “public schools” is rarely, if ever, fair.