In 1978, the voters of California approved Proposition 13, slashing property taxes and, consequently, the budgets for the public schools, which are funded by the property taxes. As a result of these cuts, the quality of California public schools sank from a “Number One” ranking among the states to somewhere in the low forties.
That’s why Anna went to a Santa Monica Private School. It was an unusual type of Private School, in that it was comprised of a number of remodeled nondescript, former retail outlets, and was lacking not only in frills, but in the basic amenities even a Public School would be expected to include.
Each year, the school – which I am choosing not to name – mounted a fundraising extravaganza, performed by the students and some parents. Celebrity parents were particularly encouraged to participate, and there were quite a few of them, as the school attracted a show business-family clientele.
My inner voice screamed at me to do something. Though I was not a celebrity, I was graciously permitted to perform the following monologue, which I had written, in the show.
(Please forgive me. I am recalling this from memory, so it may not be verbatim. Here it is, to the best of my recollection.)
Hi. I’m Earl Pomerantz. I’m a Dad.
I’m also a Step-Dad. I had a Stepdaughter before I had a biological daughter. Which is good. I got to practice on somebody else’s kid.
Are there any Stepdads out there? (OFF A MURMURING RESPONSE) Yeah, that’s us. We like to keep a “low profile.” I know there are a lot of Stepdads in the audience, because of the program we received coming in. You see the ads in there that the families take out, saying,
“Becca, You Light Up Our Lives! – Mom and…Len.”
Did you catch the “Stepdad” in there?
Every Stepdad is a “Len.” It doesn’t matter what your name is, you’re a “Len.” I’m a “Len.” I just wanted to introduce myself by my “Stepdad” name.
Okay, I’m changing the subject here. I cannot do that smoothly. I am not a professional.
(A LONG PAUSE. FINALLY…)
Sometimes, I feel a little guilty sending my kid to Private School. (RELIEVING EXHALE) There. It’s out. I don’t know, I just feel kinda funny about it. It’s just…you know… I don’t remember marching for this in the Sixties. The “Private School” sit-in. Did that happen? “Learn, Baby, Learn!” Was that what they were chanting?
Part of my difficulty comes from my perception of Private School. Growing up in Canada, Private School meant…
My idea of Private School was Upper Canada College, which was an odd name for it, because it wasn’t a college, and it was in the lower part of Canada.
The students who went to Upper Canada College wore gray flannel pants and blazers with crests on them, possibly with a cross – I did not look that closely.
And the school they went to was, like, this huge mansion – a massive stone structure with ivy on it, the property surrounded by this high, wrought iron fence, and everywhere you looked – these expansive swaths of… green. A magnificent lawn, so rich and lush and healthy…
Cows came there on weekends just to look at it.
That was my image of Private Schools. And then, I saw…(NAME OF THE PRIVATE SCHOOL MY DAUGHTER WENT TO.)
No mansion. No fence. And no green. Just a bunch of little buildings, hidden away in the industrial part of town. A respected institution of learning, cleverly disguised as a heating a plumbing operation.
If they ever put schools…
In the “Witness Protection Program”…
This would be it.
The school has…nothing. No facilities whatsoever. The kids buy lunch from a truck, and they eat it on a curb. There is nothing there are all. Classrooms and chalk – that’s all they’ve got.
Now here’s the thing. Every year, there’s an event, where they raise…I don’t know, one…two hundred thousand dollars. The number’s on the giant check they bring out – four people have to carry it.
Everyone’s excited by the amount. Why not? It’s a fabulous achievement.
Maybe it’s just me, but I need to double-check. But when you look at that school – when you’re dropping the kids off, or you’re picking them up – did you ever wonder, just for a second…
“Where’s the money?”
Where is it? The teachers aren’t getting it – I’ve seen their cars.
I just don’t get it. Does someone high in the administration have this enormous gambling problem? I’m just saying…. they raise all this money…and there’s nothing there!
They’ve got no cafeteria. A tiny gym you’re not allowed to bounce a ball in. And a library…
With no books.
I have one thought about this. They know we feel weird sending our kids to Private School. So to help us feel less uncomfortable about it, for the money we pay them –
We get nothing.
Call it “Reduced Guilt” Private School. The less they give you, the better you feel. We get nothing for our money – we feel terrific! Sure, our kid’s in Private School. But the Public Schools are better!
They eat inside!
Still, the kids love it here. It’s something different for them. Coming to (NAME OF SCHOOL), they can enjoy the unique sense of deprivation they do not get to experience at home.
When you get down to it, that’s what I like about the school.
Any place that can convince my daughter that it’s great to have nothing is okay with me.
A moment to thank those who were kind enough to respond to my "Whatever Happened To...?" post, and those who did not, but are regular readers. I feel humbled my your interest, and am grateful for your support. At the risk of sounding like I'm pandering, I would like to say that, throughout the years, the commenters, and I mean all of them, have been thoughtful, illuminating, respectful, often funny, and always smart. You're a solid bunch. And I sincerely appreciate you.