I’ve written a lot about my choice of school for my daughter. I think I write about it with a certain amount of conviction; we value language education and diversity and chose our daughter’s school in accordance with those values.
I worry sometimes, actually, that I sound a bit smug when I talk about my daughter’s school. Oh look at us, we’re upper-middle class white parents sending our daughter to a school where our white daughter is (very much) the minority, where 92% of the student population qualifies for free or reduced-priced lunches, where the district runs a free after school program to ensure the economically disadvantaged families have access to the services they need.
The truth is, if I do sound smug, it’s because I’m trying desperately to convince myself that we’ve made the right decision, that we’re doing what is best for our daughter in sending her to that school. Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder if we’ve made a significant mistake, and that our daughter is suffering for it.
The truth is, not a lot of parents in our position chose to send their kids to a school like the one our daughter goes to. I’ve always known that, but a few recent encounters really cemented for me that we are the outliers, and had me questioning our choice.
I wrote in October about the Kindergarten information nights I attended as a parent representative for our school. I talked to quite a few parents who are enrolling children in San Francisco Unified School District next fall, and I realized pretty quickly that our school was not what they were looking for. What they were looking for were high API scores and how much money the school raised. Evidently there are elementary schools in San Francisco that raise over $300,000 a year! I honestly had no idea. Just like I had no idea that parents actually used that kind of information (how much a school fundraises) to choose where to (try to) send their child.
$300,000 a year of fundraising is an absurdly high amount for a school like the one my daughter goes to. It could never raise even a fraction of that total. 85% of the families qualify for free lunch. That means they are living off of less than $31,000 a year (for a family of four) in what is right now considered to be the most expensive city in the country. Another 7% qualify for reduced-price lunch. It is not the kind of school that pays for its arts program or remodel with fundraising.
I have endured many a sleepless night wondering if we made the right choice sending our daughter to a “social justice” school. Will she be challenged enough? Will she have ample opportunities to pursue art, music and sports? Will she be getting the kind of high-caliber education needed to excel in high school and beyond?
If you had asked me a month ago if we’d made the right choice, I wouldn’t have known how to answer. Now, after the election, I have a renewed conviction that we are doing the right thing, and a renewed appreciation for the cultural and economic diversity of my daughter’s school. Sure, she may get a better “education” at a school that raises $300K a year, but she probably wouldn’t have friends who look different from her, and she probable wouldn’t graduate with a such a deep understanding of, and appreciation for, other cultures.
Also, she wouldn’t speak fluent Spanish. 😉
I can’t say I still don’t worry that my daughter won’t miss out on some of the bells and whistles the more “well off” schools have to offer, but I can say that I’m proud of our choice to buck upper-middle class white convention and send our daughter to a racially, culturally and economically diverse school. If Trump’s election has taught me anything, it’s that we all need more exposure to, and understanding of, people who are different from us. If there is one thing I can be sure my daughter will get at her school, it’s that.