Affluent foreign-born choose public schools

A story in yesterday’s New York Times used 2010 census data to show that a majority of foreign-born residents of New York City who make more than $150,000 send their children to the city’s public schools. The following paragraphs from the story sum things up pretty well:

In New York, the affluent typically send their children to private schools. But not the foreign-born affluent. In a divergence, a large majority of wealthy foreign-born New Yorkers are sending their children to public schools, according to an analysis of census data. . .

In interviews, affluent foreign-born New Yorkers said that like all conscientious parents, they weighed various criteria in choosing schools, including quality, cost and location. But many said they were also swayed by the greater ethnic and economic diversity of the public schools. Some said that as immigrants, they had learned to navigate different cultures — a skill they wanted to imbue in their children.

Many of those interviewed made two other points: That in a global economy, going to school at an early age with children from varying ethnic, religious and social groups is an invaluable experience; and that the diversity and less structured setting (as compared to private schools) of the public schools helps develop resiliency and self-sufficiency in their children.

While the Lowell public schools face many challenges, they also are capable of providing students with an excellent education. Perhaps the entire school system and the community as a whole should embrace and highlight the diversity of the public schools as an asset in the global economy. Paul Tsongas once said “if you can make it on the Lowell City Council you can make it anywhere in politics.” Maybe there’s a public school corollary – if you can excel in the Lowell public schools, you can excel anywhere. Certainly the many Lowell High distinguished alumni are evidence of that. We shouldn’t neglect the benefits of our diverse school system as a training ground for leaders in today’s global economy.