Moving from my old school to Harvard-Westlake was a tremendous change for me. I went from attending a small charter school no one had heard of to the nationally recognized institution of Harvard-Westlake.
When I think back to when I moved from my old school to Harvard-Westlake, I only remember how excited I was to be going to a new school. What I don’t remember is how conflicted my parents were at the time. Although I was ecstatic about the change, my parents felt guilty. They had been strong advocates for fixing the public school system in Los Angeles. They had created a program to improve our local public middle school and had even helped found a new charter high school in Santa Monica. So when I wanted to move to private school, they felt like they were abandoning the public school system, like they were admitting defeat and giving up on their goal of fixing it.
And although they have long come to accept that it was the right decision, I think a part of them still feels a little guilty. So when President Commons emailed the parents and faculty last week and urged them to become more involved in the public school system, I felt a newfound wave of appreciation for Harvard-Westlake.
When he asked that they attend the forum for school board candidates, I felt like President Commons was telling the parents that issues with the public school system were our issues as well. Just because the public school board candidates would not be deciding their children’s education, it didn’t mean that the election was unimportant. Although we aren’t a part of the public school system, it doesn’t mean we should completely abandon the public school system.
I was surprised at President Commons’ message because private schools like Harvard-Westlake actually hurt the public school system. According to the L.A. Unified School District state of the budget report, the school district received $6,718 in 2013 per student. However, this meant that the school district also lost that same amount of money every time a student chose to go to a private school instead. As a result, schools like Harvard-Westlake cost the public schools money.
But just because we theoretically deprive the public school system money they would otherwise have, this doesn’t mean that we can’t support them as well. I appreciate that President Commons is making real efforts to have our school look beyond itself and try to help other communities. If more people participate in local school board elections and take an interest in their activities, the public school system will be held accountable to a higher standard. There are other groups on campus that are in line with President Commons’ message. Community Council has had drives to donate school supplies to underfunded schools, and the Bridge to a Brighter Future club tutors public school kids over Skype every week.
I had a great experience at public school before, and I am thankful that I go somewhere that cares about kids outside of our school having that same opportunity.