Once again, the students at my kids’ school, The Willows Community School, have created whimsical, dazzling class art projects that will be sold at the annual auction to raise money for the school. Using an integrated curriculum, the art projects are closely tied to subjects the kids are studying in class.
Don’t miss photos, events and more! Like Beyond The Brochure onFacebook
Once I realized that private school was in my child’s future, I accepted the fact that tuition just comes with the territory. Yes, I’d be forking out thousands and thousands of dollars per year in tuition. Most LA. private elementary schools raise tuition somewhere between 4-8 percent annually. And that doesn’t cover additional costs like books, possibly uniforms, maybe a bus expense, silent auction items bid upon and won, perhaps a hot lunch every day, and the annual giving donation.
So, the first year I was in sticker shock. These are some monster checks. Still, when I realized what a great education Anna was getting, it eased the pain slightly. I relax. The damage was done, no one died, no one’s starving (yet), and there is peace on earth.
Sometimes there’s luck, and the school doesn’t raise tuition at all for a year. That was nice. That was consistent. I could handle that.
But then the next year’s tuition packet arrived, and there was an increase. It was a small increase, but it was enough to remind me of a brutal, hard and cold fact: prices rarely go down, they almost always keep rising.
There’s a big jump between a Lower School tuition and an Upper School tuition, around a two to three thousand dollar increase. But even if your child has just started, don’t get complacent, since tuition rises every one to two years anyway.
I decided to check the regular increase stats for myself, in the most unscientific way possible, by just looking at one school, a top tier school for girls. Rated as one of the best (if not the best) private schools in L.A., it has always boasted tuition to match its hefty reputation. In fact, back in 2006, the Los Angeles Times even wrote an article about how this school’s tuition had reached the crazy amount of $25,250 per year. This seemed a milestone, an impossible number, a number almost matching tuition at a private Ivy League university.
The Times has stayed strangely silent since that article in 2006. I guess it felt it had enough to report about, with the economy tanking and no one having any money anymore, plus an historic election and all. But if the Times decided to write an update to that 2006 article, it might be shocked to learn this: that school’s annual tuition increased six thousand dollars over the last six years…to $31,200.
Looking at these numbers makes me want to run screaming like a lunatic. Let’s say I want to send my daughter (now in 5th grade at Mirman) to this school, and she’s lucky enough to get accepted. If the tuition keeps rising at its $1000 per year rate, it will be $33,200 by the time she’s in 7th grade. By the time she graduates, tuition would be $38,200 just so she could walk through the front gate; that’s not counting giving and uniforms and all the various and sundry private school costs I’ve previously mentioned.
I’m trying to figure out how a school justifies a 20% tuition increase over a six year period, especially during a recession in which many people’s earnings took a massive dive. I suppose it’s just simple supply and demand: there will always be enough wealthy people to pay full freight, with others fighting it out for financial aid (currently, this one school has 14% of its students receiving financial aid). I suppose that if you can afford thirty grand a year, what’s another grand or so on top of that, anyway?
But, for the rest of us (I get help from my family to pay my share of the tuition), this “race to the top” is unsustainable. Perhaps a parochial school, that still offers a good education and is less money, is in Anna’s future. Maybe other private schools (new and untested, with no college acceptance rates) will emerge. Although, since the tuition bar has already been set so high, where’s the incentive to offer a lower price? The so-called “top tier” schools will all charge the same crazy tuition, and the lower tier schools will always aspire to the same.
In the end, prices never go down. They only go up.
Jenny Heitz has worked as a staff writer for Coast Weekly in Carmel, freelanced in the South Bay, and then switched to advertising copywriting. Jenny is a graduate of Crossroads. Her daughter started 4th grade at Mirman School last year. She previously attended 3rd St. Elementary School. Jenny has been published recently in the Daily News and on Mamapedia, The Well Mom, Sane Moms, Hybrid Mom, The Culture Mom and A Child Grows In Brooklyn. She now writes about gift ideas and products on her blog, Find A Toad.
Don’t miss photos, events and more! Like Beyond The Brochure onFacebook
At 8 a.m. on a bright, sunny morning surrounded by bok choy, lettuce, wildflowers, kale and one very large sunflower, I sat down with my friend, Lauri Kranz, founder of Edible Gardens LAat The Willows Community School to talk about her amazing work building the Willows School garden. I first met Lauri when our kids were in kindergarten at The Willows. She’s a friendly, eco-minded mom of two boys with an eclectic, urban style. One of our most memorable afternoons was spent at Lauri’s house where she hosted a “Pilates and Margaritas” party. She makes a fabulous fresh margarita (or two!). Lauri, who is quickly becoming known for her beautiful yet practical gardens, works with celebrity chefs, families and schools (Willows, Westland and Walther Preschool) to create edible gardens. For this talented garden designer, the focus is on creating gardens that bring people and nature closer together.
Question: How did you become interested in school gardens?
Answer: I’ve always loved gardening. I got very involved in teaching gardening when I started volunteering at The Willows when my son was in DK. I’ve been gardening ever since!
Question: What’s the best thing about gardening with kids at schools?
Answer: There’s nothing better than watching a spark go off when the kids make the connection between the garden and where their food comes from. They learn about how a seed turns into a seedling and then into a plant that is harvested and used to make food. Their excitement about this process inspires me.
Question: Do you think school gardens motivate kids to eat vegetables?
Answer: Absolutely. Even the pickiest eaters will pluck a snow pea from the trellis and eat it. I have parents tell me that their kids, who never eat green vegetables, come home from school are suddenly eating vegetables.
Question: Do you have any recipes you’d like to share?
Answer: Chef Suzanne Goin (Lucques, AOC and The Tavern) has an amazing recipe for green rice. In Suzanne’s garden we are growing loads of herbs and fennel. Here is Suzanne’s delicious recipe for green rice, which uses generous amounts of both.
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup packed parsley leaves
1/4 cup packed mint leaves
2 tablespoons minced chives
1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup finely diced fennel
3/4 cup finely diced red onion
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 dried chili d’arbol
1 1/2 cups white basmati rice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring the chicken stock and 1 1/4 cups water to a boil in a medium pot and turn off the heat.
Place the parsley, mint, chives, and cilantro in a blender. Add 1 cup of the hot stock and pureé the herbs on medium speed (keeping your hand tightly over the lid so it doesn’t explode). Slowly pour in the rest of the stock and purée on high (holding the lid again) for almost 2 minutes, until you have a very smooth, very green broth.
Toast the fennel seeds in a small pan over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until they release their aromas and light golden brown. Pound them using a mortar and pestle.
Quickly rinse out the chicken stock pot and heat it over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the olive oil, diced fennel and onion, ground fennel seeds, chili, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook over medium high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until the onions and fennel are translucent. Add the rice, 1 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper. Stir well to coat the rice with the oil and vegetables. Add the herb stock and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a low simmer. Add the butter, cover, and cook the rice 15-20 minutes, until tender. Turn off the heat and leave the rice covered for 5 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork and taste for seasoning.
Turning Point School’s Admissions Director, Maggie Wright is retiring. She will be replaced by Amy Calvert, currently the Co-Director of Admissions and Placement.
The Willows School has been relying on the expertise of Elizabeth Berkley (she starred in the movie “Showgirls”) to help Middle School girls with life skills like body image. Not surprisingly, some curious dads have been Googling her past film roles. She founded a non-profit, “Ask Elizabeth” to help adolescent girls.
An education consultant with connections at many of the top private elementary schools tells me the number of admissions directors who are requesting her to ask her clients to pick a “first choice” school is way up this year.
Just because an elementary school gets applications from 100 or more preschools doesn’t mean they accept kids from that many schools…”feeder” schools are alive and well at some top private elementary schools.
Heidi Klum and Seal have split, but some Turning Point School parents haven’t forgotten when this former couple’s kids attended the school and Seal would obnoxiously speed to the front of the long carpool line and cut in front of waiting parents in his special Audi (only available in Germany), To avoid an accident, waiting parents would reluctantly allow him to cut in line. Who does that? Now their kids attend a school on Mulholland.
It’s spring, which means private school auctions. Bid to win! Brentwood School will hold their event at the Fairmont Hotel, Santa Monica. The Center For Early Education’s soiree will be at Hollywood & Highland, catered by Wolfgang Puck and The WillowsSchool will host a Moroccan-themed event on its own campus. Oakwood School will host its auction downtown at The Historic Cooper Building with catering by Global Cusine.
Don’t miss photos, events and more! Like Beyond The Brochure on Facebook