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With all the bad budget news regarding San Diego city schools, many parents may fantasize about moving. They might dream about moving out of the neighborhood school and going to a charter, parochial or private school. They might dream about moving out of the neighborhood altogether and going to another school district or even another state.
My own moving-away fantasies got a jump start in August, when I was recruited to apply for a job in another state. Of course, one of our top considerations was the children’s education. Where would the kids go to school? What would those schools be like, academically and socially? And what would be those schools’ budget situations?
After months of research and family discussions, I’m ready to share that we have decided to stay in San Diego and to keep our children in San Diego city schools. Here is why:
Budget. Yes, I freak out regularly about the sorry state of public education funding in California. But guess what? Things are pretty bad in about four dozen other states, including the one we were thinking about moving to.
Cost of Living. In most states, the “good schools” are in expensive neighborhoods. San Diego Unified has pockets of excellence, not only in some neighborhood schools, but also in various magnet programs across the city. Driving my kids to San Diego Unified magnet programs gives us access to educational choices. These options are vital to keeping us in the neighborhood that we love, but that unfortunately sits within the boundaries of an under-funded school district.
Educational Quality, Big Picture. In researching other school districts, I looked at test scores, graduation rates, per-pupil spending and school board composition. But those “big-picture” things told me nothing about the quality of the specific teachers my children might end up with if we moved to another school district.
Educational Quality, Small Picture. My kids love their schools; they love their teachers. It doesn’t matter to them that the school district is on the brink of insolvency (except when their mother ruins family dinner ranting about it). They don’t care that their schools are “failing” according to No Child Left Behind’s ever-rising standards; each child is doing well academically and socially. They don’t see all that is lacking in their educational experience; they are enjoying the experience they’re getting.
In the end, it was the advice of another mom on the soccer field sidelines that turned out to be the most helpful: “If your kids are doing okay, then don’t worry about all that other stuff.”
I dream that one day I will no longer need to “worry about all that other stuff.” But for now, I’m shifting my fantasy from moving away, to moving California’s lawmakers to properly fund public education.
Our state’s continued failure to fund public education will end the California dream. I just hope the current fiscal nightmare is one from which it’s not too late to awaken.
Bey-Ling Sha lives in San Carlos.
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