Archive for Monday, April 5, 2010

Private schools holding steady as public district faces mounting budget pressure

Academies, church schools anticipate increased enrollment

Playing the part of the wolf, Corpus Christi Catholic School first-grader Andrew Leibold rounds up his sheep as he and other second-graders enact the story of “Peter and the Wolf” in Mary Cornwell’s music class Wednesday at the school. Private schools like Corpus Christi are expecting a rise in enrollment next year as the public school district faces multimillion-dollar budget cuts.

Playing the part of the wolf, Corpus Christi Catholic School first-grader Andrew Leibold rounds up his sheep as he and other second-graders enact the story of “Peter and the Wolf” in Mary Cornwell’s music class Wednesday at the school. Private schools like Corpus Christi are expecting a rise in enrollment next year as the public school district faces multimillion-dollar budget cuts.

April 5, 2010


Private schools weathering budget crisis

The state budget crisis has called for many public schools to cut significant chunks from their annual budgets. Private schools in Lawrence have weathered the financial storm a little better, with some avoiding making any cuts. Enlarge video

As Kansas public school districts grapple with cuts due to the state budget deficit, leaders of Lawrence’s private schools say they are thankful for support and growing enrollment heading into next year.

“Certainly things are tight. We’re being very careful,” said Pat Newton, principal of St. John Catholic School. “The generosity of our parish is overwhelming. Our enrollment is steady, and we’re able to meet our budget.”

The state’s budget crisis has forced the Lawrence public school board to already cut $4.6 million for the fall, which will affect class sizes and cut teaching jobs and some programs. But leaders of Lawrence’s private schools say a mix of financial support and interest in the schools means they won’t be making major cuts.

Newton said last week that the school at 1208 Ky. was still enrolling for the fall, but she expected numbers to meet or exceed this year’s enrollment of 287 preschool through sixth-grade students.

Across town at Corpus Christi Catholic School, 6001 Bob Billings Parkway, school leaders are looking at a 9 percent enrollment increase to put the preschool through sixth-grade school at nearly 250 students.

“We are eager with that, and we’ll be able to add another teacher to our staff, so we’re very excited about that,” said Mary Mattern, Corpus Christi’s principal.

Corpus Christi third-grader Rylie Occhipinto leans into her computer screen as she and surrounding classmates work in Jason Dolan’s technology class.

Corpus Christi third-grader Rylie Occhipinto leans into her computer screen as she and surrounding classmates work in Jason Dolan’s technology class.

At Bishop Seabury Academy, 4120 Clinton Parkway, the seventh- through 12th-grade school expects to have about 20 more students in the fall to push its enrollment to more than 140 students.

“It will be the highest we’ve had in the history of the school,” said Don Schawang, Seabury’s head of school.

And Veritas Christian School, 256 N. Mich., which serves 130 kindergarten through 12th grade, leaders expect a slight enrollment increase, after the school was down about 12 students from last year. Kelli Huslig, the Veritas administrator, said fundraising has been difficult in recent months due to the economy. But she expects staffing levels at the school the same, and the school continues to add activities.

Earlier this year, when Lawrence school board was considering what budget cuts to make, Newton said St. John Catholic School received a number of calls from parents. After board members decided to take closing schools off the table for next school year, Newton said the frequency of calls slowed.

Private school leaders say they continue to offer smaller class sizes, while the public district will have larger classes for next year. Much of the interest in private schools has come from the recent growth in programs and facilities the schools have made, they said. Mattern, Corpus Christi’s principal, said Lawrence has a mix of good options for families among its public and private schools.

“They were looking for the faith-based education and excellence in education. Our preschool brought in a lot,” Mattern said. “We have some transfers from public schools, and we’ve had some people who have moved in.”

Schawang, Seabury’s head of school, said the school is starting to grow into its own with its curriculum as a college preparatory school, which has kept students and parents interested.

“Parents know the value of a strong education, and I think it’s the last thing they will sacrifice,”

Steady or growing enrollment is critical for local private schools. Seabury and Veritas operate on tuition, and the two Catholic parish schools receive support from families and parish members. Families from outside the parish who want their children to attend must pay tuition.

“I think really when you send your child to school, you’re really becoming part of the new community, and it takes the leadership of the parish, the faculty and staff,” said Kathy Severa, a Corpus Christi parent. “And it takes all of the other parents to make to make that community.”


Alexander Neighbors 8 years, 1 month ago

how do one of these private schools cost to attend ?

Alexander Neighbors 8 years, 1 month ago

I meant to say how much on average do one of these private schools cost to attend.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 1 month ago

One more time:

Be bold and close down the admin building instead of closing educational buildings. We need schools for education. USD 497 can live without their Taj Majal to transact business.

The admin building is STILL a building to close.

Administrative Services Expenditures

Close down the admin building, reduce the numbers at Administrative Services Expenditures and move the admin into an existing USD 497 structure such as the current virtual school location.

SELL the admin building, APPLY those funds to the cost of the new sports facilities and the admin building goes back on the property tax list all of which is a plus for WE USD 497 taxpayers.

Let's get this project underway instead of waiting aka procrastinating. Taxpayers do not need a fancy looking admin building. Sell it!

Put this building back on the personal property tax dollar list ASAP!

volunteer 8 years, 1 month ago

Yes, but the public schools have to educate everyone: the blind, those in wheelchairs, the emotionally disturbed, the kids who plain don't want to learn, those with parents who don't give a crap, etc.

However, I agree that the central office of most school districts spends way too much money on itself.

Evan Ridenour 8 years, 1 month ago

Seabury used to be around $10,000 a year when you figured in all of the costs, I am unsure of how expensive it is now but I am sure it is much more.

Paul R Getto 8 years, 1 month ago

Privates do a good job and their teachers are often willing to work for less pay and fewer benefits. They also do well academically, but are allowed to discriminate to control their student population. When special education students are allowed to enroll, the private schools usually ask the closest public school to assist with services. This is good, since everyone needs a chance to succeed. Private schools have never enrolled much more than about 10% of the total population, so public schools will always be important to the general population. The public schools should not see private schools as competition. Parents make a choice to do this and sometimes sacrifice to get their child's tuition paid. Good luck to everyone and remember the bottom line is a good education for all.

canusayduh 8 years, 1 month ago

Bishop Seabury was just over $10,000 when we went there 4 years ago. But then there are all the fund raisers, auctions and the like. But the trade off is worth it! The smaller class sizes. They type of curriculum. The opportunities. Advanced studies. They don't cookie cutter the student, like USD 497 does (at least in jr. high). It was a great experience.

dinglesmith 8 years, 1 month ago

"Catholic schools do not have a set amount for practicing Catholics. You pay the church a tithing which is 10% of your income, a suggested amount. I do not know of anyone who actually gives 10% but most who make around $100k give 5% according to people I know who have kids going to school at Corpus. I do not know what the fee for a non-Catholic student is but I know the number exists and it is not cheap."

Which of course is a blatant violation of tax law and should be stopped. Private school tuition - religious or otherwise - is not tax deductible. When members make a donation in lieu of the tuition they are charging everyone else, they are receiving something of value for their contribution. That makes it not tax deductible. If these were Islamic schools rather than Catholic schools, we would be screaming bloody murder. Either make private school tuition tax deductible for everyone or no one.

Julie Jacob 8 years, 1 month ago

We've already applied for Bishop Seabury for daughter in Fall of 2011. I wish they would open up a 6th grade tho!

lasherpa 8 years, 1 month ago

It only takes about 10 minutes touring Bishop Seabury to pick up the different aura surrounding it. The Headmaster is energized and the teachers...actually love teaching. If the public schools could figure out a way to tap into 1/10 of the resourcefulness as Bishop does we would not be in this mess.

hail2oldku 8 years, 1 month ago

Actually, no contribution is necessary to attend either Corpus or St. John's. All one has to do is be a member of the parish. Members are expected to make donations, and even asked to make pledges as to what that level of donation is going to be, but no one is turned away because they are unable or unwilling to fulfill that pledge.

KU_cynic 8 years, 1 month ago


At a tithing school, students of parish families are not denied admission if their families do not tithe up to a minimum amount. The ability of a child to attend the school is a benefit from being a registered parishioner -- period. (Try and see if that spirit lets you get choice tickets to KU basketball games.) Families are expected to support the church and school generously and persistently according to their means so that the church can fulfill its missions, of which education is an important one.

Treating child care and education as transactions (as you propose) -- instead of relationships -- is one of the reasons this country is in such a mess.

Paul R Getto 8 years, 1 month ago

H.M: "Of course these people pay property taxes which sends your child to school." === Good point, and we shouldn't pick on those who make this choice for their children. Many people make choices to privatize parts of their lives and still pay taxes to support general programs. Nothing wrong with that; it's called freedom of choice.

avoice 8 years, 1 month ago

There are many psychological aspects of sending your children to private school that work in the background to boost the success of these schools:

  1. You are directly paying for the education, not through some nebulous tax, but a check every month from you, personally, to the school, directly. Not only does this make you feel more responsible for your end, but it also makes the administrators and teachers at the school feel personally responsible to you, the parent. Rather than feeling that parents are the "enemy," private school staff know that parents and their children are the patrons, i.e.-customers.

  2. Your children know that they have to maintain a standard of academic and social responsibility in order to keep their privilege of attending the school. It's true that private schools can turn people away. To focus on whether or not a "special needs" child would be turned away is political spin. The truth is that some special needs kids, such as autistic or Asperger's kids, actually do better in the smaller, more personalized classes and in the social environment where students are encouraged to treat everyone equally vs. the bullying mentality at the public schools. Who gets turned away from private schools? Kids who aren't serious about their educations. That is as it should be. Personal responsibility breeds academic success.

  3. As mentioned before, administrators and staff at private schools view their relationship with the students and their parents differently than do public school employees. At the public school, the State is the employer, the students are the "product," and the parents are not really in the picture except to occasionally help with PTO events and to otherwise be a burden to the possible accomplishment of creating the product (indoctrinated, er, educated students). In the private school, however, the school employees, students and parents are all a team working toward a goal, not of creating a "product," but of providing a service to students. Yes, the student is the ultimate customer receiving the product, which is the education. The parents are the investors who provide the funding to help the students get what they came for. And the staff are the people who sell their professional services to the students and their parents. The relationships are much more direct, and more like a free market business situation. No wonder teachers and administrators at private schools are more content, even if they make less money. Their "customers," the students, are glad to be there and desirous to gain knowledge from the professionals who are glad to provide a much-needed service.

JennyB123 8 years, 1 month ago

Please note that Raintree Montessori participates in the Circle of Inclusion and provides full services to disabled children.

On a separate note, as a private school family, one of the most important issues for us was "No Child Left Behind" and its associated standardized testing. After learning more about the true value of these tests (none) and their effect on real teaching (crushing) we felt we would be doing our children a disservice by sending them to public schools. Alfie Kohn has some wonderful books on this subject. This has required us to make serious sacrifices, due to the cost. Even with sacrifices, I realize this is simply not possible for many families. There are so many great people in the Lawrence Public Schools, and many talented teachers. It is unfortunate that they are saddled with a system designed by politicians which does not serve children.

Paul R Getto 8 years, 1 month ago

Avoice: Good points. JennyB123: Given that most of the curriculum, standards and the essentials of the testing programs are subject to significant input from practicing teachers and administrators, I would argue the public system is not 'designed' significantly by politicians. Politics is not a dirty word and, as you know, there is politics in private school systems as well. At its heart, politics is the often painful practice of distributing resources which never completely meet the needs==we are certainly seeing that now in Kansas and elsewhere. BTW: I am an A. Kohn fan and have heard him several times. We are test crazy, partially due to NCLB. With luck, that will change as ESEA is reauthorized.

Jeremy DeBoard 8 years, 1 month ago

Something I've always wondered. Do those who send their children to private schools still pay local school district taxes and/or mill levies?

Paul R Getto 8 years, 1 month ago

jadkansas (anonymous) says… "Something I've always wondered. Do those who send their children to private schools still pay local school district taxes and/or mill levies?" === Sure they do. People who send their kids to private schools also have a vested interest in the success of the public schools. Another example: If one lived in a gated community by choice with a private 'police force' the person who made this choice would also pay a share of taxes that supports the local police who patrol outside the gates. In other words, it's not an a la carte society.

JennyB123 8 years, 1 month ago

Mr. Getto, I agree, politicians and politics are not necessarily bad things. Also, you are right, resources are limited, in any organization, and allocating them can be tricky. While NCLB may be in part reflective of the contributions of educators, it does not serve educators or students. It has become a tool of politicians, and with that tool, our school system is being damaged. So, while politicians are not inherently bad, they are doing bad things with NCLB. I have been watching the new administration with regards to NCLB and I am not encouraged.

This is all so sad for me, because I went to public school, and I wanted to send my children there as well. Overall, a public school education is more in line with the experience I wanted my children to have. I wanted them to go to school with their neighbors, play on the same sports teams, walk to school with their friends, and share the same experiences with other families in our neighborhood, like my husband and I did.

Paul R Getto 8 years, 1 month ago

"NCLB may be in part reflective of the contributions of educators, it does not serve educators or students. It has become a tool of politicians, and with that tool, our school system is being damaged. So, while politicians are not inherently bad, they are doing bad things with NCLB. I have been watching the new administration with regards to NCLB and I am not encouraged." === Once again, I agree with most of what you are saying. Accountability is important, but NCLB is poorly designed, intended to make public school 'failures' based on a one-shot arbitrary number, and not serving schools well. It is, however, the current federal law and Kansas chooses not to reject the hundreds of millions of dollars in Title I money it brings with it. The plans to reauthorize have some good features; we will see what the next cycle brings. President Bush II sold the nation a bill of goods on NCLB and never delivered the promised money needed to really close the achievement gap. I admire you for your commitment to your kids and wish you well as you help them get a good education. Painting any system, public or private, with too broad a brush is, IMHO, a mistake. There are many magical things happening in public schools, just like the private schools.

geekyhost 8 years, 1 month ago

When corrected for demographic differences, private schools are not an advantage over public schools. Private school students do better, but that's because they draw better students - those with parents rich enough to afford tuition and passionate enough about education to put their kids in an alternative school. And private schools can kick students out when they aren't performing up to expectations.

The other thing to keep in mind when calculating expense is that Lawrence public schools provide special some ed services for students at private schools, too. It's not an apples-to-apples comparison.

That said, if I had the money, I'd absolutely be sending my kids to a private school in this budget climate. Who knows how many students they'll cram into classes or what services they'll cut this year?

BTW - my source says we spend $6,118 per pupil, not $10,000. The state base is just over $4000 per pupil. Where is this higher number coming from?

jackson5 8 years, 1 month ago

Geekyhost - the higher number is Base State Aid ($4012) + Local Option (31% of state aid) + extra weightings for at-risk students, new facilities, special education, transportation >2.5miles and so on.

windex 8 years, 1 month ago

I could be wrong but jackson5's formula sure sounds like it would add up to $6,118 and not over 10K. I think Geekyhost is right. Public education is a bargain.

Paul R Getto 8 years, 1 month ago

Geeky: Good point on academics. Both systems, public and private, have their place, but clearly for society to succeed we need strong public schools to deal with the 90% who attend there. You are right; corrected for the distortions created by pre-selecting students in a private school, the overall academic achievement is roughly the same. As some have pointed out, the parent commitment and involvement makes a huge difference in some of the private schools. Public schools who have an engaged public and a higher than average income also have a generally good climate and good academic scores. We don't need to argue about the relative merits of the two systems; we need to make sure both of them serve their clients well and prepare students for life beyond school.

geekyhost 8 years, 1 month ago

Agreed. Private schools are very useful, and they certainly do have their place. But they're not competition. They're alternatives. We hold public schools to standards we wouldn't apply to private schools. I wouldn't want to apply them to private schools. If I were sending my child to a school based on faith, for example, I wouldn't want negative peer influence from non-adherents. But you better believe I DO want a public school to let everyone of every faith in that door - and I want the lessons built around evidence and science, not faith.

And thanks for the figures, Did_I_say_that.

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