Choice must exist between public, independent schools – Glass Half Full |

Choice must exist between public, independent schools – Glass Half Full

Last week, I sat on the 9th floor of the Hay Adams Hotel in Washington, D.C., listening to a panel of Capitol Hill advocacy groups talk about the major education bills currently waiting for congressional approval.

The White House, literally, was the backdrop to our speakers. On a beautiful fall day, the doors to the balcony were open, allowing the blare of fairly regular sirens, the drill of jackhammers, and an occasional taxi horn to create city music.

With Boehner’s resignation and a Presidential election looming, the group before me — who readily acknowledged their differing political affiliations — agreed that there is much about education that is up in the air.

Their contention was that support for education could go either way. In the face of leadership departure, there are some who think that nobody in the majority party wants to make a decision that could split the Republicans further.

On the flip side, some believe there is a possibility that Boehner, on his way out, will take a strong stand and push bills to resolution. They all agree that, unless there is resolution by the early winter, any action will be deferred until after the election.

If there is one fact about which there is consensus in this room, it is about how hard it is to be a teacher.

Aside from the actual challenging daily work of providing for the range of abilities and interests of students in any classroom, public school teachers have to restructure their curricula and expectations at the whims of new reforms — and to be evaluated over circumstances way out of their control.

In addition, they agree that there is little in proposed education reform that supports teacher recruitment and training.

As the member of the WestEd Board who represents non-public schools in the four states (NV, CA, UT, AZ) covered by WestEd, I am acutely aware of the privilege I have of participating in such high level educational discussions from tiny Incline Village.

All schools and school systems face challenges, many of them budgetary. Relative to those I hear described by my colleagues in giant school districts and on national and higher education levels, I am reminded of the many strengths in our little town.

There are those who contend independent schools should not exist. I wish I could agree that there is no need for them. As the discussion in this conference room confirmed, it’s all about who controls the money.

I have great respect for my public school counterparts here in Incline. Our local schools are strong, as evidenced by college placement, among other things.

However, as a nation, I believe education — as evidenced through funding allocations — is not the priority that it should be.

A good education costs money. Every school is different. Every child is different. The most significant difference between public and independent schools is that the latter determines its own funding and evaluates its own performance.

I consider that a huge advantage.

Ruth Glass is headmaster at Lake Tahoe School. She can be reached for comment through her blog at

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