NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Middle-Class Parents Opting For Private Schools

March 1, 1996

A growing number of middle-and upper-middle class parents living in the suburbs are abandoning the public school system. While they are dissatisfied with class sizes and their children's test scores, they also worry about inadequate teaching and the growing focus on students with special needs -- not to mention drug use and violence.

Surprisingly, many of the public schools are far from the nation's worst, and, in some cases, even highly rated, according to experts.

Until about 15 years ago, the typical private school applicant came from a wealthy family in which at least one parent had attended a private school.

But that is changing rapidly:

  • Nationally, nearly 11 percent of children now attend private or parochial schools.
  • Independent private schools around Boston report enrollment is increasing 6 to 8 percent a year -- even more at private high schools.
  • In Florida private school enrollment has grown nearly 20 percent in the past three years.
  • Some private schools in Oregon and Washington now have waiting lists of three years or more.

Although more than 70 percent of parents with children in public schools rate their schools "good" or "excellent," nearly 6 in 10 say they would send their children to private schools if they could afford to do so.

Parents rank private schools higher in 11 or 13 categories -- including preparing students for college, safety and discipline. Public schools only get higher marks in serving students with special needs and teaching children to deal with people of diverse backgrounds.

Source: Jonathan Kaufman, "Suburban Parents Shun Many Public Schools, Even the Good Ones," Wall Street Journal, Friday, March 1, 1996.


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