After learning that Christy Clark’s Liberal government plans to appeal a B.C. Supreme Court order that the teachers’ working conditions are restored to pre-2002 levels, VSB President, Patti Bacchus, took to Twitter to express her frustration. In doing so, she brought up the fact that Clark’s son attends an elite private school, while her government continues its battle with the province’s public education system.
Is it hypocritical for Clark to send her son to a private school? Would her government be doing better by our public education system if he were in it?
I’m not sure.
Here’s the thing, though. Time and time again, we keep hearing about how private and parochial (government-subsidized religious schools) are better than public schools. Whether it’s coming from Fraser Institute reports, other parents or the schools themselves, a private education is believed by many to “set the stage” for success later on in life. On top of that, parents in the public system are waning and feeling a real loss of control over what is happening with their children’s education. Perhaps a lean towards private schools is a result of this loss of control.
When I was looking for schools for my daughter I attended an open house for a Catholic school. I attended a school much like this one when I was a child and, actually, was quite certain I wanted the same for my kids. Not because I’m super religious but because I believed…I had been warned…that if I wanted the best education for my children I couldn’t trust the public education system. “It’s just broken” was a phrase I heard over and over again; a scary and discouraging statement for a new kindergarten parent to hear. I was beside myself with anxiety over where to send my kids to school.
At the Catholic school, the principal stood in front of a gym full of eager, nervous parents. I have to admit, I was impressed. She spoke about the school’s values, the expectations of parents in terms of monetary contributions and volunteer hours, and the student code of conduct. Lastly, she very clearly and slowly stated, “please do not apply for this school if you are looking for an affordable alternative to a private education. Our school is not that.”
The sheer number of parents in that gym told me that at least half of them were there for the “affordable private education alternative.” Tuitions for private schools in Vancouver run anywhere from $15-25K/year. A parochial school, by comparison, is around $3000-5000…that’s a mighty big savings if you can’t afford the likes of St. Georges or York House or West Point Grey Academy. Of the 25 kindergarten spaces available at the Catholic school I was considering, only 15 were available. The rest were allocated to siblings of current students, low odds for parents hoping to get their child enrolled. It’s no wonder why, if you do get in, it actually does feel elite and privileged.
We were, in fact, offered one of the coveted spaces but declined as we had decided that our local, neighbourhood school was the best choice for our children and family. Do I regret my decision? Most of the time, no. Sometimes…particularly when I tune into the news and hear about the constant dissension between our government, teachers and school boards, I am unsure if I made a wise choice. As a parent, I believe it’s natural to question your decisions. I sometimes wonder if it would have been easier to not have gone through my child’s first year of kindergarten dealing with job action for almost the entire year. I wonder how many children will be in my son’s class when he starts kindergarten next year…how many will have the need for aids (…and how many will actually get them).
Nevertheless, I have faith that, despite the issues, my children will learn. They have caring and devoted teachers, a fantastic principal and a community around them that will encourage and foster their learning.
So…is Christy Clark right to send her child to a private school while B.C.’s public education system flounders? As a mother, she makes the best decision for her child. What I do wonder is if she ever questions hers.
What are your thoughts?