School choice for urban hipsters?

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I posted this question on Twitter

Question to young midtown Tulsa hipsters: What are your plans when you have school-age kids? TPS, private, homeschool, or move to burbs?

and got several quick replies; thought I'd post it here, too, in expanded form:

If you're young and have moved into an older core neighborhood in midtown Tulsa, or any of the neighborhoods within a mile or so of downtown, what will you do when your children (if/when you have them) are old enough for school? Will you stay put and send your kids to Tulsa Public Schools or a private school or homeschool them? Or will you move to a suburban school district?

If your answer is TPS, is that contingent on getting your children into magnet programs like Eisenhower or Zarrow or transferring them into a highly regarded neighborhood school, or will you be content with the assigned school for your neighborhood?

Whatever your answer, I'm curious to know your reasons as well.

Back in 1998, I first ran for City Council and got involved in the Midtown Coalition. At the time, I met a number of younger couples who either didn't have children yet or had children who weren't old enough for school. They lived in cute 1200 sq. ft. cottages and bungalows, but they all seemed to move as soon as the first child approached the age of five. I'm wondering how many of the young adults from the current cohort who are attracted to traditional neighborhoods and urban living will stick around when the babies start coming.

Feel free to post a comment below or e-mail me at blog at batesline dot com. This is for an upcoming column on the connection between schools and urban revitalization. If you'd prefer I didn't quote you at all, or if I can quote you but not by name, please mention it when you write, otherwise I'll assume I have permission to quote you by name.

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9 Comments

singleton Author Profile Page said:

I don't have any children, but if I did, I would seriously look at any of your latter three choices "a private school, or homeschool them, or move to a suburban school district?"

The magnet schools may be fine for the upper grades, but to succeed there you need a good foundation, which I do not think can be found in the government / teachers union run school system.

And are the sururban scbool districts any better?

No Name said:

My wife and I are in our late 20's, we have one child, and we live in mid town Tulsa. We work and go to church in Tulsa so we would like to stay in Tulsa.

Our school preferences are below:

1. Private school.
2. Magnet TPS school.
3. Homeschool.
5. Burbs...if we can't afford private, the magnet school is not attractive, and homeschooling is not our bag.


MK said:

I'm in my early 20's and just starting a professional life. Not yet married and no kids in sight. I'd love to stay in midtown Tulsa and it's hard for me to envision myself moving to the suburbs for the schools. So I'd like to enroll my children in a TPS magnet school and, failing that, would try for a charter school. I'd consider private school if neither of those options panned out. I'm personally a product of a combination of a parish Catholic school (not anything like a Monte Cassino) and a rural public high school, and I really believe if my children are committed to their education they will achieve wherever they end up.

Archivist said:

My wife and I live on the edge of Tulsa Public. In fact, we live in the same district where my wife grew up, and attended TPS. We decided before we even had children that they would not be attending TPS, and would be going to a private school.
Now our twins will be starting next year, and yes, we have found a private school we like, met the staff, and while it will represent a financial challenge, we still think the children will be better served.

TPS, in the 10 years I have lived in Tulsa, has shown me nothing that would convince me to change my mind in this matter.

Blake Author Profile Page said:

Michael,

My wife and I live in midtown now and though we only have a 2 year old son and a kid on the way, we've already discussed several times our plans for our kids' education.

While I attended Nathan Hale, my parents moved to Union district to raise my much younger brother and sister. My mom works for TPS and insists that things are better outside of the district. She's right. I think Union is better largely because they don't separate the smart kids from the others every chance they get and more importantly, the parental involvement in the district is more pronounced than in TPS. Some of it is in fact system related and some of it has to do with socio-economic factors, but I believe that if you take the smart kids away and put them in a different school and get rid of the parental involvement you'll have something that looks a whole lot like the majority of Tulsa Public's neighborhood schools.

While I think Tulsa Public Schools is lacking in a number of ways, I believe they will continue to struggle if parents with means who care about their child's education continue to move to the suburbs. My theory is that parents who don't just want to leave it up to the school to educate the child should stay in town and be a part of their child's education as well as a part of bettering the school. If they care enough to pack up their stuff and move, perhaps they care enough to stay and be an active part of the educational process.

While the system is undoubtedly messed up, it's perpetuated by an ongoing exodus of the very people who have the means to make it better.

If all that is left behind in the neighborhood schools of TPS are the children of parents who simply couldn't afford to live somewhere else and who are too busy or disinterested to involve themselves in the education of their child, the effects on our city and the majority of its children will be (has already been) devastating. The magnet schools don't help, either. They simply remove the students who set the bar from their neighborhood schools and group them together, thus lowering the bar for the city as a whole.

We will send our kids to Kendall Whittier Elementary School. We will hope that the social education that they receive in a school so diverse will equip them for life in a way that sharing a classroom with wealthy white kids never could. We will involve ourselves in our kids' education. We'll send them to school, but will work at home to make sure they love learning and we'll hope that other parents do the same.

I know. There's a fine line between naivete and optimism and I'm standing on it.

moogle Author Profile Page said:

The majority of school critism is directed at the school systems when, in fact, the real problem is the steady increase in single-parent (mom) and essentially no-parent students.

A web site with a lot of info and statistics is http://www.csctulsa.org/data.htm. Most of the stuff is PowerPoint, so you either have to have that or download Open Office. If you want blog material, there's plenty of it there.

Take a look at http://www.csctulsa.org/images/CP_2007_Tulsa_County.ppt
slide 28, you can see that children under 18 living in female-headed households in Tulsa county increased from 11% in 1970 to 28% in 2005. You can bet the majority of that increase was in Tulsa. In other words, Tulsa probably went well over 28 percent.

Moving to slide 71, note the increase in Tulsa's "distressed" neighborhoods from 1990 to 2000.

And moving to slide 77, compare the percentage of TPS students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches with the percentages for the suburbs.

The Tulsa aristocracy has constanly maintained that the answer to all this decline is to "revitalize" downtown. Downtown has been getting "revitalized" for at least 30 years now, and Tulsa's population is declining as people move out. I suspect the problem is worse than the population count indicates because higher wage earners are replaced to some degree by lower wage earners.

Personally, I think Tulsa has gone past the point of no return. It is destined to be a city on a constant downward spiral of persistently high crime rates and declining public schools. The aristocracy stood for too long, like Casey at the bat, convinced that we're just too cool to be bothered with problems like crime, chronic welfare recipients, and section 8 housing, convinced that a better use for the city budget is buy yet another expensive building or finance another expensive real estate project. All the while, higher wage earners kept moving out.

And no, I don't think charter schools are the answer either. That's like trying to put out a house fire by pissing on it. The root of Tulsa's decline -- as well as the decline of TPS -- is the failure to do anything about the social cancer of single mothers and section 8 housing. Our current Congress HAS decided to do something about that; they voted a major increase in the money to further encourage riding the welfare gravy train, effectively eliminating the 1996 welfare reforms done by Gingrich and Clinton (one of the better combinations to inhabit D. C.). Strange, Tom Coburn didn't say anything about that even though it is a far greater expense than the earmarks.

For what it's worth, my son attended Carver, a pretty good school actually ... at least during his time there. I was quite impressed by the level of work required. He now attends Washington. No comment.

And a final recommendation: I think the new ballpark would be a great place to build one of those low water dams that some people seem to think have magical properties.

moogle Author Profile Page said:

If you don't mind a little augmentation ...

Given the degree to which charter schools are near and dear to your heart, I am assuming that this is all in preparation for an article on how they will magically draw people back into Tulsa. (Did you catch that note of snotty scepticism there?)

The big fly in the charter school ointment is, as I previously wrote, single mothers. Charter schools can't pick and choose from the cream of the crop. And through the benefaction of housing vouchers and federal requirements for section 8 housing, the children of those single mothers are spread throughout the city. No longer is there a good part of town and a bad part of town; and if you are in the good part of town, the schools are A1 ichiban. So, tough tamales, the charter schools have to take these kids too -- which might explain why charter schools in general have proven to be hit and miss on making any improvement.

What I think would be of more benefit is to work with the TPS (assuming they want to work with anyone ... yes ... I know) to see if there might be a constructive way to deal with the students the welfare state dumps on it so that higher wage earners are fine with sending their kids to TPS.

Many years ago when I engaged in the futile endeaver of trying to learn German in college, I learned that Deutschland (and I assume other European countries) runs a two-path education system: One which leads to college and a professional career path; and one which leads to a technical/manual arts career path.

We here in the USA are so indoctrinated in "equality", and academic politics have evolved so that our public education system runs everyone through a liberal arts, pre-college curriculum. Heck, they don't even have auto mechanics and shop classes in high school any more.

I would like to see public education take a good look at the two-path system. It's true that it requires, at some point, a decision or judgement be made about which path a student will follow -- a decision which could place limitations on that student's future.

We in America like to get all emotional about the American Dream, and how the sky is the limit, so that any decision that might take away the sky must automatically be bad. In response to that, I would point to the vast number of students who are crashing and burning under the current liberal arts system. I suggest that a technical/manual arts educational path where a student can achieve a reasonable degree of proficiency is preferrable to crashing and burning on the liberal arts path to the sky.

Now, If you can come up with a way to fix the real, underlying problem and convince American society that it's a really bad idea to financially reward and encourage single women to make babies, and that it's a bad idea to gleefully spread section 8 housing throughout the city, then for your next mission, should you decide to accept it, we will send you to bring peace and harmony to the middle east.

If you want to appreciate my remark on the futility of learning German, Google an essay by Mark Twain on the subject. While reading it, you might think he is overdoing it to be funny. I can assure you he is not. It's all true. Every word of it.

Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful replies.

Amanda said:

I live in Brady Heights and have a 3rd, 4th and 6th graders. The first year I had then all enrolled at Emerson Elementary, the neighborhood school because I also thought I could make a difference I could help at the school. After a year of diaster including poor education and my children's lives being threated (a third grade girl told told my 5th grade son she would slit his throat with a pair of scissors) I had to throw in the towel when it came to my children's future. I have 1 child at Mayo 1 child at Thoreau and another still (unfortunatly) attending Emerson. We will be paying for a private school if he doesn't "win the lottery" to attend Thoreau at the end of his 5th grade year.

I am still active at Emerson (PTA treasurer this year) and will continue to offer my help hoping that maybe one day the tide will change. And as noble as that charge is I have an obligation to my children above all and while I understand the desire to stay invloved and make a difference it simply isn't realistic when you are subjecting your kids to less that adequate education.

On a personal note, While I enjoy the two magent schools that two of my children attend, I have a huge issue with "selective" magnet schools regardless of the grade level that get to pick their students and then boost of their acdemic achievement. If you picked A,B students why are you surprised when you end up with A,B student's? I give more weight to the schools that get all kinds and end up with a postive. I also question whether kids with actual "learning" disabilities are truly being left behind when schools like Carver and Booker T are allowed by law to select arround them. Carver has a less than 2% IEP (Individual Education Plan) ratio when it comes to their school.

One final thought in regards to Section 8 that everyone is commenting on. The problem is not the women or their babies. The problem is that there is currently NO work or school requirement to obtain it. If you want to make productive parents and members of society they must pull what weight you are able. I have no problem helping to support a mother who is working two jobs and still can't pay everything but an entirely other opinion when she gets to sit at home every day and watch soap operas.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 14, 2009 7:13 AM.

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