Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The (thankfully) non-resident price for full-day preschool: $19,500


Although we're considering a return to the Midwest, I'm definitely not a fan of suburban living. All those cookie cutter homes and cookie cutter kids, oversized SUV's and unused backyards; it makes me woozy. As much as I bitch and moan about living in Gotham, it actually has a lot to recommend it, kid-wise. Unbeatable museums, a park the size of a small state, non-cringe-inducing children's theater; the list goes on. But there is one thing that the suburbs have that kick NYC's overpriced ass: Decent public schools.

The other day a neighbor and I were chatting about baby-rearing ("It's awful, isn't it?") when she asked me if I knew about the pre-school on the second floor. To clarify: I live in a 46-story building in the heart of Hell's Kitchen. It's government subsidized housing for artists - which is the only way we could afford to live in Manhattan - and getting is quite the coup. It has a five star gym, a parking garage, medical facilities for the elderly, the aforementioned pre-school, and a kick ass bakery right downstairs. I was on the waiting list for almost seven years. The pre-school isn't technically for residents - it's fully accredited and open to everyone - but I always assumed that Will would end up there. And that it would be, you know, free.

We all know where this is going, right?

See here's the thing - in this city, decent public schools are in short supply. Take, for instance, the school in my 'hood. Note the constant police presence and large, looming metal detectors. Note the talk about "baby daddies" and nonstop barrage of profanity. Note the fact that this is where my sweet baby boy might end up unless A) we hit it big and pay for private school, or B) he gets his daddy's brains and finagles himself into a gifted and talented program so we can transfer out of our district. Here's the thing: In order to get into a decent high school you have to get into a decent middle school, and in order to get into a decent middle school you have to get into a decent grade school, and in order to get into a decent grade school you have to go to the "right" pre-school, which is why we just submitted paperwork on our 2 1/2 month old so that he can attend - wrap your heads around this, kids - pre-pre-school. What's even crazier? It doesn't start until August of 2009, and Will got the last slot.

Think I'm exaggerating the nuts? This, from last week's New York Magazine:

Kindergarten Crop

It’s time for the city’s baby boomlet to go to kindergarten, and there’s not enough room.

It’s kindergarten-acceptance time, and the city’s ever-growing post-toddler population—the number of New Yorkers under 5 has increased more than 25 percent since 2000—promises massive, historic overcrowding in the city’s public schools. But parents who don’t like the sound of that, and would do anything to finagle their kids into the privileged “gifted” schools, are even more frantic than usual. The Department of Education has instituted new rules for gifted programs. In this year’s new, uniform process, only the super-testers—those kids who place in the 95th percentile or above—make the cut. (There was more flexibility in the past, and children who scored above the 90th percentile could pretty much count on a spot.) The new process also sends notifications in late March, well after private schools—where space is even tighter—require deposits from accepted kids’ parents.

“We got tons of calls from people whose kids didn’t get in anywhere,” says Amanda Uhry of Manhattan Private School Advisors, who ushers clients through the onerous admissions process at the so-called independent schools, which mailed kindergarten acceptances last month. “Parents were devastated.” Even top preschools that in previous years had no trouble getting their kids into kindergartens have seen some get shut out, she says, thanks to a larger-than-usual candidate pool. Little Red School House saw a 20 percent rise in applications from last year; Trevor Day School 15 percent; Hunter College Elementary School 24 percent; Marymount School 20 percent; and Brooklyn Friends a whopping 74 percent. Deborah Ashe, Trevor Day’s admissions director, has fielded lots of calls from preschool directors asking about children who’ve been wait-listed and even talking up kids who are now making the rounds once more after getting in nowhere. “It’s been an much more competitive year,” she says.

Patrick Sullivan, a member of the mayor’s Panel for Educational Policy who voted against the G&T changes, says the new requirements have caused “a lot of stress.” Parents won’t find out if their children are G&T bound for several weeks. “I’m in limbo,” says Laurie Frey, an Upper West Side parent whose three elder kids are in the gifted program but is waiting for word on her youngest. “In the past, it wasn’t so burdensome. But now the wait just goes on and on.”

9 comments:

X said...

You don't WANT to go to any school where the admissions director will say, "...an much more competitive year." That's just grammatical pretension is what that is.

Missy said...

That is so crazy I can not wrap my head around it.

Now in defense of the Midwest....
if you look you can find charming neighborhoods with character (for a reasonable price too I might add!), trees, and backyards that get used. I actually know more people without SUVs than I do with. It is all about who you know or rather who you choose to hang out with, and where you go. Children's theatre, well here in t-town we have the performing arts for children series every school year which has a vaired and often quite good selection of children's theatre productions. WU children's theatre tour that goes around to the grade schools is pretty good, and I believe in Lawrence Ric Averill has a touring children's theatre troupe that goes all over to perform. TCT and HHT have a lot of offerings as well you know. You can send two children to private elementary school here for less than the cost of pre-school there. And of course WE are in the midwest and if that doesn't sell you on it then I don't know what will. Not that we are trying to influence any decisions. Nope not us. We would never stoop to such a thing!

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Wow.

Um...you know, Colorado is a GREAT state. We still teach about evolution in school out here. Dunno if that's the case in that thar midwestern state....

Hee!

Valerie said...

What's a little intelligent design among friends!

I'm not your mommy said...

Let me start by sayign Hello. I was sorry you coudl not mak eit to the reunion I was really hoping to see you. Do yo still have an obsession with things being stuck in your teeth? Not to make my first contact with you negative, but like Missy, I also have to defend the midwest. You draw us as a cliche two dementional image, but it's not like what we all know from our years stuck in little T-town. K.C. is great, we have beautiful homes, Awsome music and art, some great school districts, and even if you feel you have to send your kiddo to private school the price is reasonable. We are not a "Leave it to Beaver" town that rolls up the sidewalks at 6;00 each night. New York on the other hand ... sounds just like what all the t.v. shows say it is, expensive, crime ridden and crowed. What a cliche. Gald to know that's what makes you happy, I'm sure you'd go crazy here :)

Missy said...

I love the expression on Will's face in that picture. Kind of a Billy Idol Rebel Yell Smile going on there, and he looks as if he is about to put his fist up in the air.

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Val's comment totally wins!

Samantha said...

I was interested to read your blog. As a parent you may be interested in being part of a university study I'm involved with. It’s about how infants and children develop. It wouldn’t take much of your time, and it’s a great way to contribute to knowledge by reporting on your own experiences. For more details go to the following address after copying it into your browser window,
www.watch4milestones.org
Best wishes, Samantha

filthEdesign said...

i know you wrote this weeks ago, but i wanted to put a plug in for lawrence!

we accidentally landed in the best public district possible - hillcrest elementary is john's school. it's the ESL (english as a second language) school for the lawrence school district. john's best friend is from germany...his other close friends are from columbia, mexico and japan. there are 39 languages and 42 countries represented at his school - it's a total gift...

the cost of living/home prices are much higher than topeka or even KC, but the environment, the emphasis on education, the small town feel of the downtown strip yet access to most things (except a skating rink...have to go to t-town or KC for that...but there are always sacrifices eh :)