The case against private education: Why we put our kids in public school

It’s chaotic, academically less rigorous and far less nurturing. It's also giving my children challenges they need

The case against private education: Why we put our kids in public school(Credit: fernandogarciaesteban via iStock/Salon)
Just over two years ago, my husband and I pulled our children out of private school and sent them into the wilds of public education. Now, as they settle into their third year in our neighborhood schools, we can confidently report the following: 1) Our public schools are more chaotic, more bureaucratically rigid, and far less nurturing and creative than the lovely little private school my children once attended; 2) our children are less academically challenged than they were in private school; 3) despite points 1 and 2, above, we’ll keep them where they are.
We left the private school system because we were stressed, in all kinds of ways.  As soon as we stopped paying two private school tuitions, I was able to quit my second job and we stopped constantly worrying about money. We stopped driving half an hour twice a day, cursing rush hour, to get kids to school.  Our neighborhood schools are minutes away. We were also able to step away from the activities arms race that seems part of the fabric of private school culture and that contains its own vocabulary of essentials for success: Suzuki, Kumon, Parkour, au pair.
Public school means that we, as a family, can relax.
Even so, the transition from private to public school was hard for all of us, parents and children alike. Private school dovetailed nicely with my tendency to coddle. Classes topped out at 16 students. If children struggled academically, teachers were on it, providing extra help and encouragement, before school, after school, at recess. And I liked (OK, loved) the sense that my kids were getting ahead, were receiving a better, faster, stronger education than other kids. In addition to foreign language immersion, they received excellent instruction in art and music. They had PE and worked in the school garden. Through the school’s hard work, every child was extraordinary: bilingual, chess playing, organic gardening savants.
Entering their new schools, my children’s classes of 10 became classes of 30. No one knew their names, no one greeted them each morning with cries of delight and with hugs. Instead, they lined up to enter school, and lined up again to go to class, to lunch, to recess. They got lost in their respective buildings. For the first half of sixth grade, our son Seth (I’ve changed my children’s names to protect their privacy) also seemed to get lost in the system. There was so much emphasis on following directions and so little on thinking. He was finding the work easy but failing classes.
But then the kids found their way. Mary, who loves to be busy, joined a million after-school clubs – robotics, running, calligraphy. Seth, in perfect alignment with his personality, has enthusiastically joined almost nothing. He likes to observe and to provide commentary from the sidelines and has found others of his kind, a happy alliance of wisecracking middle school commentators.
It turns out that our children didn’t need to be one of a handful of precious kids in a classroom. They can handle the bigger classes, the dozens of children from different backgrounds.  They can be OK and even, sometimes, great. We’ve learned that our kids aren’t so extraordinarily fragile that they need to be bubble wrapped by us before they venture into the world.
We’ve also learned that they aren’t necessarily extraordinary at all. Or, to be more precise, that if they want to be perceived as extraordinary in the public school system, they had better be extraordinary. The school will not create extraordinary for them.
We are lucky: The kids will receive a solid educational foundation in our local schools. And they can remain at that foundational level, or they can improve upon it. But it is up to them to take advantage of extra resources or to create those resources themselves. They have to be part of their own educational equation.
Seth will be entering a public high school with an international baccalaureate program, classes in Chinese, and the option to take courses at the local university if he is not sufficiently challenged. But he has to seek these experiences and he has to be qualified. His ability to take advantage of these opportunities is contingent on him, not on our ability to pay for a school that will automatically provide them.
Of course, down the road, we may regret this decision. We have to contend with the possibility that without the extra advantage that private school gives them, our children may no longer be considered super-special, super-educated, super-kids, zooming toward our version of their success.  (“Yes, she’ll be at Yale next year. It just seemed a better fit than Harvard.”)
At least for now, keeping our children in public school, we’ve decided that maybe they don’t need to zoom after all. And we pay them the compliment of believing that they don’t need us, or their school, to be mapping their futures for them. This is better. This is just school. And my kids are just kids who get to handle their tiny piece of the world on their own.
Jessica Gregg is a physician and writer. She lives with her family in Portland, Oregon. 

SAMHSA News: Managing Chronic Pain and Medication Misuse

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SAMHSA News Winter 2015

Learn how health care providers are using new tools to help patients manage chronic pain while limiting long-term health risks and without misusing addicting medications.

Managing Chronic Pain and Medication Misuse

Also in This Issue

The death of Robin Williams shocked the nation and raised awareness about the growing concern of suicide by middle-aged men. But mental health experts are embarking on new strategies to prevent and work more effectively with this population.

Health care workers are using a new SAMHSA online course to learn how to identify substance misuse better among their patients.

Spice and bath salts might look like harmless consumer products, but they have become dangerous drugs of choice — particularly among younger people.

Native American communities are using their heritage and enthusiasm about their culture to promote wellness among youth.
SAMHSA News is now a dynamic, continuously updated publication. Check out the new format today!

Innovations in Ending Family and Youth Homelessness

United States Interagency Council on Homelessness - No on should experience homelessness. No one should be without a safe, stable place to call home.

'We must never accept homelessness as a part of American life.' 
- Secretary Julián Castro, 
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

March 5, 2015
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro speaks at the National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness where he announces new HUD guidance on providing services for transgender persons in single-sex facilities, as well as a partnership with True Colors Fund to prevent and end LGBTQ youth homelessness. Video Credit: San Diego Housing Commission

Housing First Shows Positive Outcomes for Survivors of Domestic Violence and Their Families

By Kiley Gosselin
Mother with three children The link between domestic violence and homelessness is well-documented. Regardless of whether survivors seek help through homelessness services, housing assistance, or domestic violence programs, research shows a strong correlation between domestic violence and homelessness. A Department of Justice study found that at least one in four women were homeless as a result of domestic violence and a Massachusetts study found that a staggering 92% of homeless women experienced severe physical or sexual assault at some point in their lives. Often, it is not only the victim, but the children of domestic violence victims that suffer as a result of abuse. Domestic violence is a leading cause of family homelessness in the United States.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has made ending family homelessness in Washington a focus of their state efforts starting with the launch of the 
Sound Families Initiative in 2000. The Foundation has helped fund thousands of new housing units for families experiencing homelessness and is investing in approaches that are aligned with the strategies identified by USICH's Family Connection resource, including coordinated entry and rapid re-housing.

In 2009, with the financial backing of the Gates Foundation, the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV) launched a five year pilot program testing the success of a survivor-centered, Housing First approach to preventing homelessness for survivors of domestic violence and their families. The pilot worked with 13 existing programs in 13 urban, rural and tribal areas across the state and the findings demonstrate positive outcomes across all sites.

The Domestic Violence Housing First pilot (DVHF) was structured around four tenets:
  1. Survivor-driven advocacy: At intake, domestic violence advocates focused on addressing the needs identified by the survivor rather than matching available services/programs to the survivor.  Advocates met survivors wherever was safe and convenient for the survivor.
  2. Community engagement: Domestic violence advocates worked to change the way communities responded to domestic violence by providing outreach and education to partners such as landlords, law enforcement and city government on the dynamics of domestic violence and survivors' needs for safety.
  3. Housing stability: Advocates worked directly with survivors on finding or retaining safe housing.  This included working directly with landlords and as liaisons throughout the lease negotiation process.
  4. Flexible financial assistance: Funding for the pilot was flexible, allowing advocates to address survivors'self-identified needs including transportation, child care, school or employment supplies and more direct help such as rental assistance.
The results of the pilot, released last week at a symposium held at the Gates Foundation headquarters in Seattle, are impressive. Of pilot participants, 96% remain stably housed after 18 months. Fully 84% of survivors reported an increase in safety for themselves and their children. And the cost to the participating programs of serving the survivors and their families, once housed, also went down - 76% of survivors received only minimal services from the domestic violence programs at minimal costs to the agency. 

HUD Issues Historic Guidance, Launches First of Its Kind Effort with True Colors Fund to Prevent and End LGBTQ Youth Homelessness

By Diane Kean & Mary Owens

Youth in bus shelter
In each of our cities and towns, every night, there are young people who face the unimaginable risk of exploitation, of abuse, of countless traumas that threaten not only their immediate health and well-being but that can inflict long-term damage. And the up-to 40 percent of youth who experience homelessness who identify as  LGBTQ are at an even greater risk for depression, physical abuse, suicide, and substance use. Tragically, these atrocities aren't confined to the streets; the majority of youth who identify as LGBTQ report harassment, physical abuse, or sexual assault when trying to access homeless shelters and services.  In a recent study, the Urban Institute found many LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness engage in 'survival sex' in order to have a roof over their heads or obtain food to eat, rather than risk potential violence or abuse they might face in a shelter. We must do better for our young people.

Our partners have taken action to make accessing critical services safer and more accommodating to the needs of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. While addressing the 2015 National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness last week, HUD Secretary Julián Castro
announced historic guidance for providing services for transgender persons in single-sex emergency shelters and other facilities.  The guidance was issued under the Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity Rule (Equal Access Rule) to better serve transgender individuals seeking access to homeless services. The Equal Access Rule was issued in 2012 and ensures HUD-funded programs are open to eligible individuals regardless of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Under the Equal Access Rule's new guidance, a single sex shelter must considered a transgender person's own views with respect to personal health and safety. The guidance also issues clarity to providers on how to address privacy and safety concerns within a facility in ways that do not segregate or isolate transgender individuals.

This historic guidance comes on the heels of the launch of the LGBTQ Youth Homelessness Prevention Initiative, an innovative, first-of-its-kind effort to identify successful strategies to ensure that no young person is left without a home because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. A key goal of the initiative is to develop replicable strategies to prevent and end homelessness among LGBTQ youth. These strategies will inform Federal efforts to provide guidance and assistance on preventing and ending LGBTQ youth homelessness to communities throughout the nation. The initiative is sponsored by HUD and the True Colors Fund with support from USICH and other partners and has been in the planning stages since 2013. The pilot initiative is now being implemented in two communities: Harris County, TX and Hamilton County, OH.

With the pilot programs in Texas and Ohio, and guidance for homeless services, the Obama Administration is furthering its commitment to ensure equality and equal access to services for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. USICH proudly supports these efforts and continues to work towards ending LGBTQ youth homelessness. We hope this guidance will inspire and move everyone towards greater acceptance and urgency in meeting the unique needs of young people experiencing or at-risk of homelessness.

News from Our Partners

National League of Cities to Host Forum on Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness
Join NLC, The Home Depot Foundation, HUD, VA, and USICH for a multifaceted exchange on ending Veteran homelessness in communities across America. Hear examples from cities across the country making this goal a reality, and learn about resources available to ensure all veterans and their families have safe, stable housing. Learn more.
President Obama Releases FY 2016 Budget
The Presidents 2016 Budget makes investments to end chronic homelessness in 2017 and to make significant progress in ending homelessness across all populations. 

HUD Posts New ESG FAQs
HUD has published a new set of seven Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for ESG. The new set, along with other ESG FAQs, can be found by visiting the ESG FAQs page on the HUD Exchange.

HUD Releases a Policy Brief on Coordinated Entry
Last week, HUD released a Coordinated Entry Policy Brief, describing the agency's views of the characteristics of an effective coordinated entry process. This brief does not establish requirements for CoCs, but rather is meant to inform local efforts to further develop CoCs' coordinated entry processes.

VA Announces $300 Million in Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Grants
VA has announced $300 million through the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) grant program. The program assists very low-income Veteran families experiencing or at-risk of homelessness. The grants are available to current grantees seeking renewals. Read more here.

HUD and VA Expand HUD-VASH Program to Support Native American Communities
HUD and VA have announced a $4 million investment that will expand the HUD-VASH program to support Native American Veterans experiencing homelessness by providing them with secure housing and connecting them with clinical services and case management. This effort will expand opportunity for approximately 650 Veterans experiencing or at-risk of homelessness. Learn more.

Healthcare and Housing (H2) Initiative: First Round of Sites Selected for Homeless and Healthcare Systems Integration; HUD Still Accepting New Requests
Requests for the H2 TA opportunity are still being considered. HUD will continue to review incoming requests on a rolling basis. A second round of sites will be selected by March 2015. Click here for more information.

HUD Reports Continued High Levels of "Worst Case Housing Needs"
HUD has released its Worst Case Housing Needs: 2015 Report to Congress, as part of a long-term series of reports measuring the scale of critical housing problems facing very low-income un-assisted renters. The report indicates that the number of very poor families struggling to pay their monthly rent and who may also be living in substandard housing declined between 2011 and 2013, but persist at high levels. Read more here.

HUD Announces Housing Trust Fund Interim Rule and HUD Exchange Resource Page
HUD has published a Housing Trust Fund (HTF) Interim Rule which provides the guidelines for States to implement the HTF. Learn more.


Housing First Shows Positive Outcomes for Survivors of Domestic Violence
Preventing and Ending LGBTQ Youth Homelessness
News from Our Partners
Data Drives Results

355 mayors, 7 governors, and 112 county and city officials have committed to end homelessness among Veterans in their communities by the end of 2015.
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In our shared mission to end homelessness, we know that data drives results. It drives the strategies and implementation of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, a framework for action for partners at every level of government and the private and nonprofit sectors. It drives tools and practices of the Zero: 2016 effort to help 71 communities do whatever it takes to end Veteran homelessness this year and chronic homelessness by the end of 2016. And it drives the day-to-day efforts of people across the country working tirelessly to assist each and every person experiencing homelessness in their communities to achieve their goals of permanent housing. Data is at the very core of creating a housing system built for zero and achieving an end to homelessness.
Today, Zero: 2016 communities are confirming and committing to one of the most integral pieces of data in their efforts to end homelessness - their Veteran and chronic homelessness Take Down Targets. These Take Down Targets represent the total number of Veterans experiencing homelessness who will need to be connected to permanent housing in order to end Veteran homelessness by the end of this year, and the total number of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness who need to be connected to permanent housing in order to end chronic homelessness in these communities by the end of 2016.
A community's Take Down Targets are determined by combining data from the Point in Time Count (PIT) and/or local by-name registries with multipliers derived from community and national data, which account for additional people who may become homeless and who may have not been counted during the PIT. Many Zero: 2016 communities are further refining these Take Down Targets using supplementary local data, historical trends and by-name information. As communities increasingly integrate a Common Assessment Tool (CAT) into day-to-day street outreach, local Take Down Targets will give way to actionable, real time, continuously updated by-name lists.
Read more.
Upcoming Events

Webinar: Stabilizing Vulnerable Families in Housing: Connecting Children's Bureau & HUD's FY2016 Budget Requests

March 9, 2015; 1:00 - 2:30 PM EST

Webinar: Rapid Re-Housing Spotlight Communities - Mercer, NJ and Los Angeles, CA

March 10, 2015; 2:00 - 3:00 PM EST

National Health Care for the Homeless Council's East Coast Regional Training
March 26 - 27, 2015
Check Out More Upcoming Events


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