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

The recent controversy over school closures brought out a lot of issues about public schools in San Bruno. Some parents said they would rather send their kids to private schools. Is that right?

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 story on parenting site Babble.com has left some Peninsula 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 schools?
  • 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 a private school be socially and economically diverse enough to help my child grow to be a well-rounded world citizen?

In the post, the author explained 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.

The author said 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 San Bruno 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?

This issue is especially relevant because of the  in the San Bruno Park School District.

Let us know what you think.

Bill Baker April 27, 2012 at 09:10 PM
A moral obligation to send your child to a local public school? Are you kidding me? What if we rephrase the question to read: "Do parents have a moral obligation to send their child to a local private school if they have the money or if a voucher system was implemented?" In either case, the answer is no. Parents have a moral obligation to do that which is best for their child depending upon the specific circumstances. In some cases private schools are better than public schools and in some cases public schools are better than private schools.
Mark Taylor April 27, 2012 at 09:14 PM
No, there is no moral obligation just a matter of choice. You are free to choose public or private education for your children.
Chris Kiely April 27, 2012 at 09:21 PM
No. People (including parents) have a moral obligation to support public schools. If they do that, then where they send their own child is their own, personal choice. Frankly, I have more concern with the attitude that "my neighborhood school is all I care about". Folks who think that way basically seem to want a publicly funded private school for their own kids.
Paul Linden April 27, 2012 at 10:16 PM
There is a certain level of moral obligation, but only up to a point. Every parent's first obligation is to provide the best chance for their children's future. My wife and I have graduate degrees with professional careers and we understand the importance of education. We are also very supportive our local school, Rollingwood. Despite it not having the best test scores, we decided to give it a chance. We couldn't be happier with the teachers and the love of learning that has been inspired in all the kids in the school, and we love the diversity of the student body. Our fourth grader has a 4.0 GPA and our first grader is reading at least second grade level books. There are three pillars important in education; the kid's abilities, the school, and the parents. Most important is how much parents are involved, which can make a below average student into a good student, or a good student into a great one. When it comes to the school itself, schools have different demographics and looking at how they educate all their students is only way of comparing them. People put too much emphasis on the top line test scores. [continued[
Paul Linden April 27, 2012 at 10:17 PM
[continued] Simply put, if our children are going to succeed academically, it won't matter which San Bruno school they go to - all the schools are good - but putting something back into the local community has ramifications beyond the academic. What we felt was less of an obligation than a wish to support, to the best of our ability, a vital part of the local community. Incidentally, we are also planning on sending our kids to Parkside and Capuchino when that time comes. Knowing some of the staff and alumni of the two schools, we hope that along with the support we provide to our children as parents, the schools will provide our children with the tools to succeed. However, if we had the slightest hint that Rollingwood (or Parkside or Capuchino in the future) was failing our children, we would have no hesitation in moving them to a different school.
Rosalinda Oropeza Randall April 27, 2012 at 11:04 PM
Moral obligation; no. My two sons attended San Bruno public schools for the majority of their school years, and would have attended Capuchino if they hadn't been accepted into a private high school. I agree with much of what SanBrunoParent states. It depends on the child and the degree of parent involvement in the school and their child's life.
Bill Baker April 28, 2012 at 12:32 AM
I agree.
cjtrailer April 28, 2012 at 07:49 PM
This could be the dumbest question put to the community I've ever seen. At a time when I feel the federal government is intervering and nosing into our personal lives, to pose this question as a moral question is nuts! By the way, we ALL support public education through our taxes, whether our kids attend them or not (if we even have kids). While there are plenty of issues that can/are based on morality, this is NOT one of them. I attended private schools through most of my early grade-school years, but when my family moved to San Bruno (1954) there was no room in the local private school. I attended a local public school and was sinking academically; I had undiagnosed ADD which wasn't something identified in those years because it wasn't on the "radar" then. My parents sacrificed part of the family's budget to send to a private school in South San Francisco (Roger Williams) where I was blessed to be matched with a particularly gifted teacher who believed in me more than I did myself; if not for her, I'm convinced I would never have made it through high school, let alone college and graduate school. Following graduation from that school, I attended Capuchino and later San Francisco State (both public schools) and received a good education. So, I benefitted from both public and private school systems and therefore don't favor either, but it was never a moral question.
SB Parent April 28, 2012 at 09:12 PM
With the constant threat of school closures, some parents are choosing private school just so they don't have to worry about their children having to move schools if your nieghborhood school is closed. In private school you pay your tuition and it doesn't matter where you live.
SBParent April 29, 2012 at 02:28 PM
I don't believe parents have a moral obligation to support public schools as much as they have a moral obligation to support their children in whichever education choice best fits them. Every parent will make their own choice for their own reasons. I did check test scores around San Bruno and other local areas before enrolling, but I also realize that test scores do not tell the whole story and have a lot to do with socio-economics and demographics which are out of my control. I personally preferred to send my children to my local public school, Rollingwood, and I couldn't be happier. My children have been raised to know I place a high importance on education, I am an involved parent, and both of my children are "A" students at Rollingwood. All of their teachers have been excellent and innovative, so when my kids have ever had a little difficulty with a particular subject, I know I can easily talk to the teacher and get my child a little extra help. I also like that public schools provide a wonderful social experience with other children in our neighborhood. I like that my kids have many friends near our home, and yet, they have many other friends at all the other schools due to their involvement in sports and other activities. I believe social skills are just as important as academic skills, so I hope this large, diverse social network (of kids I am familiar with) will serve them well when they get to larger schools like Parkside and Cap.
Bill Baker April 29, 2012 at 05:39 PM
The Millbrae Patch discussion on this topic also has some very interesting posts: http://millbrae.patch.com//articles/do-parents-have-a-moral-obligation-to-send-their-kids-to-public-schools
Edwin S April 30, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Of course they do not; they have a moral obligation to put their children in a school that will give them a quality education. This is not the question we should be posing to the public, rather the question should be “why did you choose to transfer your child out of the San Bruno School District?”. The School District itself should be interviewing each and every family that does so, in a manner that would produce an honest answer, and then the School Board should set goals based on that information to reverse the trend. Wouldn’t it be outrageous if the Board had as one of its goals to have POSITIVE transfers INTO the district from others! Wow, what a idea that would be (yes, being a little sarcastic here).
Edwin S April 30, 2012 at 03:36 PM
At the last Board meeting there was someone who recommended that the topic of school closure be off the table for a few years (I'd have to watch the broadcast again for more details). I believe they presented this idea at the end of the meeting when most people had left. They said it would help with passing of a bond - and suggested the Board vote on that item ..... the Board just ignored his/her idea.
Chris Kiely May 03, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Edwin: the Board used to interview parents about transfering out. When we did that, we reduced the outflow, and had the net negative (including old transfers) down to 95 kids in 05-06. They now encourage people to leave, and don't want anyone coming in. The net negative is now over 215. We could use those extra 120 kids.
Heidi Beck May 03, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Chris, but with the district being Basic Aid now, isn't it to the district's advantage to have fewer kids? One pie divided among fewer students ... It was different under revenue limit when the money was based on attendance -- then the district wanted more students because each one brought in dollars.
Chris Kiely May 03, 2012 at 07:09 PM
If we were Woodside or Portola Valley, and had been Basic Aid for decades, and were millions of dollars to the plus, maybe. If those 120 kids were here, we'd be revenue limit, and getting more $$ from the State than we have now. Plus, we wouldn't be subject to the "fair share" provisions that are taking away class-size reduction , GATE, etc. In addition, right now, the State is only funding 80% of the real revenue limit. When it gets back to as little as 85%, we aren't Basic Aid anymore.
Heidi Beck May 04, 2012 at 05:08 AM
Chris, if this doesn't prove California needs to reform the way it funds public education ...

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