Oh the school issue…. now I’ve finally got the low down on how it all works. Of course, when I started, I innocently looked for the area with the best schools to determine where we wanted to live, and was really really happy it all worked out so well. But (and there is always a BUT, isn’t there?) of course, I didn’t try to find out why those schools were so good, and also, what “good” actually means? I’m talking about the normal American public schools, the state schools, accessible to everybody, those schools you didn’t have to pay fees. Or so I thought. Knowing what I know now we might as well have picked a private school. The Los Altos school district has such a good reputation because THE PARENTS PAY FOR THEIR KIDS SCHOOLS. Without that (pretty substantial) financial and (pretty substantial) voluntary work support, these schools would not have any funds for music and PE, the library and many more things you assume schools would just have. Of course, fundraising for school is always a big issue, in any country, and it is nice to get families involved in the whole process. But it seems to be so much more extreme here! Fact is that California is pretty much bankrupt, and there is no money left for anything – and the Californian schools’ performance tables rank right at the bottom compared to the rest of the country (yes, I was surprised too, thinking of how such reputable institutions like Berkeley and Stanford are just around the corner). So every school district pledges a certain amount of money for the school year, and obviously that money comes from donations. And the Los Altos school district happens to pledge the biggest amount (way higher than $2,000,000 for the next year, just to put things in perspective). This sum is displayed outside every single Los Altos school (and makes my stomach turn every time I drive past one). So what happens is that the school suggests a “voluntary” contribution per child per academic year, and then the parents cough up. And if you don’t, you get THE CALL. Which you really don’t want to get. Apparently parents are listed in the school prospectus according to the amount of money they give – so if you find yourself at the bottom of the prospectus, you better watch out. Or move.
Anyway, I’ll never moan about other countries’ school systems again.

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