The City Paper published an article last week entitled Urban Studies. The article highlights the risk that parents take in choosing to go the a Philadelphia public school in the current climate. Specifically, budget cuts and declining enrollment are forcing the district to close schools and change catchment boundaries. The result–parents that gamble by buying a house in a desirable catchment or choose to invest in their catchment school and forgo the lottery or private school application process could end up out of luck–their intended destination becomes overburdened with students from other schools being diverted in or worse, the school is simply taken away.
Don’t think that the problem of having a school yanked out from under you is limited to public schools either. Private schools are not immune. Faced with declining enrollments, last week the Archdocese of Philadelphia announced that it was closing 44 elementary schools in the region (Inquirer story).
If you hadn’t noticed before last week’s news cycle that the education landscape in this city is in the midst of a sea change, how do you like the wake up call?
On her blog Raising Philadelphia, Inquirer reporter Miriam Hill wrote quite an amusing piece on her struggle deciding between public and private. Entitled Don’t Make Me Love You, Private School, it is a fake open letter to an unnamed private school. I believe that it will resonate with many of you going through this process. It starts with,
Dear Unnamed Private School,
Please stop making me love you. Really, I’m kind of committed to pubic school. It’s free, and I’m really hoping to say “I Do” to public when my son gets to first grade, so private, could you, like, stop looking so hot?
She does make an interesting point about the ‘marketing’ efforts of private (high) versus public (nonexistent). A parent interested in public school often has to make a concerted effort to get to know their local public school, where the private schools will inundate you with emails, brochures, open houses, and all sorts of other marketing fluff.
There has long been a rift between the city, school district, and charter schools. It looks like some financial incentives from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are encouraging these folks to start to work together now. The Inquirer reports
The [School Reform] commission will vote Wednesday on a resolution outlining the broad goals of the compact to demonstrate the city’s commitment to “grow or replicate high-performing charter and district schools, and to improve or close low-performing charter and district schools that are not serving students well.”
In an article on her blog, Miriam Hill of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes that despite the official rules dictating that the School District of Philadelphia’s Volunteer Transfer Program (VTP) works like a lottery, the process itself is somewhat arbitrary and haphazard, putting the power to accept students in the hands of individual schools. The result, of course, is that the families who most need the process are the least likely to be able to benefit from it. Not really a surprise, but certainly a shame. Of course, the most traditionally desirable schools rarely, if ever, accept VTP students, so the problem is not impacting too many folks. If you are thinking about applying to VTP, be sure to read our guide and if nothing else, cast a wide net.