Parents have always known they are taking a risk when they put down a deposit at a private school while waiting to hear whether they've been accepted at their preferred public schools. But I didn't know until recently that they can be risking as much as a year's tuition — which can total as much as $20,000 or more. A story in the Times today describes a family who has been paying all year for a seat at the Little Red Schoolhouse that their daughter doesn't occupy, because she got into a citywide gifted program in June. By the time they notified Little Red, they had passed the deadline to pull out without having to pay the full year's tuition. Today on Urban Baby, users are vilifying the family for waiting so long to let LREI know, but earlier this week, readers there were worrying about the same thing happening to them.
Whether private schools would actually plan around the public school schedule if the DOE had a regular schedule is up for speculation, but a spokeswoman for an independent schools organization made a great point when she said in the Times, "Unfortunately, it’s impossible to collaborate on the timing with the public schools when the dates change every year." Of course, the DOE's changing schedules are problematic for lots of families, not just those considering private school.
I do question how familiar Susan Dominus, the story's author, is with the public schools in the Bloomberg-Klein era. She writes, "It would have been nice, from [the parents'] point of view, if Little Red, which ultimately forgave about $6,000 of the $26,000 tuition, ran itself a little bit less like a competitive business; but it would also have helped if New York’s public school system reliably ran itself more like one." Has she not heard that schools are businesses and their principals are all CEOs?