Kindergarten Wars 2: Revenge of the Bureaucracy

Well. Kindergarten application season has drawn to its inevitable, stressful close. For our family, at this time, in this situation, we were privileged enough to have school choices available: Our local public school, a local charter school next door, and a private school a short distance away.

Being completely ignorant of the school application process (I always just went to my local school; I doubt my parents had to do more than sign a sheet that said “Shawn is a kid in this town so he has to go to school here”), I had no idea what we were in for once Kindergarten Application season gave way to Kindergarten Application Results season.

Apart from the stress of the debate in the house over whether or not to even try to send our daughter to private school, or whether it was some kind of disservice to send her to the local public school if we had other options available to us, once we had decided to apply for the private school and a transfer to the local charter school, we had a whole new set of complications to worry about.

For the private school:

Is it X dollars better than the local public school? Than the charter school? How can we even quantify that? Can we double it for when our son is ready for kindergarten? Isn’t that stupid?

Can I see us, as parents, being involved in the lives of the parents who have their kids at this private school? We don’t have a yacht. Not that we’re sure they have a yacht either, but when you grow up poor you carry a stereotype of wealth in your head even when you are no longer poor. Would I be able to get past that image? Would I feel like a fraud? Is feeling like a fraud a good enough reason to not apply?

Since the private school is entirely application based, rather than lottery based, would acceptance or rejection make me change the way I viewed my parenting? Would acceptance be validating? Would rejection be undermining?

Can I be charming during the parent interview? Do I want to try to be charming during the parent interview?

For the local public school:

If you’re interested in a primer on bureaucracy, look no further than the process involved in enrolling in your local school district. I don’t handle stress or bureaucracy well at all, and I am forever grateful to my wife, who navigated the deadly shoals of this endeavor for us. So, it turns out that in order to enroll your child in your local school, you have to prove that you reside in the district. In order to keep people from fraudulently claiming to reside in the district and sending their kids to schools they don’t contribute to, the school district requires a lot of documentation that, they claim, proves that you are a resident.

So, what did they require? The deed to our house, where we’ve been living for years? No. Apparently deeds prove nothing. A utility bill with the home address on it? No. Apparently utility bills don’t prove anything either. No, what the district wanted was a bank statement sent to the house.

A bank statement.

Do me a favor. Go into your bank, and tell them you’d like to change your address. Make one up, or choose a real one other than your own. Now ask them to print something up that looks like a statement with this new address on it. There. You are now eligible to send your kid to whatever a school in the district your made-up address is in.

Now, of course they require some other things, like proof of application for the Homeowner’s Exemption. But there is just no way that a bank statement, obtained in this way, proves whatever the hell they think it proves. And before you say “Oh, but they must require a real, mailed bank statement, and surely it would be hard to fake that,” let me add: THIS IS WHAT THE BUREAUCRAT TOLD US TO DO. We have had our bank statements and other sensitive mail sent to a post office box for years. Nothing comes to the house, because I don’t like my mail getting stolen. I certainly don’t want my bank statements stolen. So, when we noted this to the bureaucrat, she gave us the plan that would satisfy the requirement. The totally stupid plan. The totally stupid, easily corrupted plan. The plan that we followed, because it met the requirement.

For the charter school:

Now, the charter school is part of the local school system. So, it required all of the bureaucratic dancing that the local public school did (though thankfully not in duplicate), but also added the joy of a lottery to the process.

I’ve never won the lottery. I might go buy one of them half-a-billion-dollars lottery tickets later, but I know I won’t win. Faced with what might be a life-changing outcome for my daughter, dealing with a lottery just seems like cruel and unusual punishment for the crime of being a good parent.

But, we’re stuck with a lottery. Yay. It’s like going to Vegas, but with more drinking and fewer strippers.

Toss into the big pot o’ stress the fact that we would hear from, and have to pay a deposit to, the private school before we even knew if our daughter had won the lottery, and I think I can safely conclude that Kindergarten Application Results season might be even worse than Kindergarten Application season.

Excuse me while I go check the mail. Again.

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