I found a very intriguing article in Today's Wall Street Journal about how parents are Opting Out of Private School in favor of their local public schools. The article profiles several families around the country, and cites some of the reasoning behind opting out - dramatic jumps in tuition, better chances of getting into elite colleges, and improved scholastics were all reasons cited. However, while in some cases public school is a better option for many, for us in the Orthodox community it is not an option at all. Those of us who are devoutly religious, (and while I speak primarily about Orthodox Jews, this applies to committed Jews of all stripes, as well as Catholics, Protestants, and Muslims who send their children to Parochial schools as well) are not shunning the public schools in our areas, but rather opting-in to provide our children with an immersive experience that teaches them our religious values and morals.
Yes we could theoretically send our kids to a Public School during the daytime, and then to a daily after school Hebrew program, but it doesn't even come close. Sure they will learn the same Math and Science, followed by the same Torah and Talmud, but the subject matter isn't all that permeates the Yeshiva experience. In public school Middot and Chesed (good manners and kindness) aren't necessarily on the curriculum. In a Parochial school, they aren't on the curriculum, they are part and parcel of it. (Before you flame me, I want to point out that I am not naive enough to believe that curriculum alone will produce 'good apples' and that no kid ever came out of a parochial school a terrorist, liar, murder or a jerk).
For religious people like me, religion isn't part of our lives, it is our lives. Everything we do has a divine purpose, and religion and belief are woven into the fabric of our daily existence. If you don't agree with me think about how many times you invoke G-d's name on a daily basis? 'Thank G-d, G-d Forbid, G-d Bless You, and their equivalents in your favorite religious vernacular are commonplace in our lives. Atheists and non-believers might scoff at the idea - what does G-d have to do with it? Of course, the correct answer is everything. And that is why those of us, who understand life in this manner, can't fathom sending our children anywhere else. Because for us, no matter whether they go to Harvard or Hometown Community College, our goal isn't to create an ivy leaguer, but first and foremost to create a proper Jew, and a good person.
So while many others follow this trend and benefit from my tax dollars, I will slave away to ensure that my child gets a proper Jewish Education - both in school and out.
So far, it's been worth every penny.