Public Versus Private School

March 13, 2006

A recent column on MSN.com touched a hot-button issue here in Berkeley: With so many schools to choose from, which is better — public or private school? While the column walks through various scenerios, the writer clearly favors private school, offering it as an option each and every time anything goes wrong in a public classroom. Are parents so quick to abandon their private schools?

Now, I am a product of both: I attended a parochial school from kindergarten to 8th grade and then graduated from a public high school. But, I have decided to place my son in private school from pre-K to 8th grade for its Spanish-English “dual immersion” program.

In a “dual immersion” setting, Spanish is the predominant language of the classroom and each year one hour of English instruction is added until the children learn their subjects, equally, in both languages. Being a Latino family with no parents nearby, it was important to us that we preserve our language and heritage.

While I am thrilled that my 2.5-year-old son got accepted into the school — the only other Spanish preschool in the area has a four-year-waiting list and the only public elementary school with Spanish-English dual-immersion is just as fiercely competitive — I do feel guilty as I’ve been reminded by several Berkeley moms that they are “committed to our public schools.” “You should consider our public schools. We have some GREAT public schools, Elisa,” one mom told me some time ago.

My husband feels no guilt — is this a “woman’s plague” or what? — because we aren’t taking any money from the public schools. Plus, I, too, am committed to public education as I may very well place my son in public school if my dream escuela doesn’t pan out. But I am so grateful for school choice.

So fellow mommies, what are you looking for in a school? Take my poll to find out!