# Tell me about American schools

I was watching a youtube video (this) and it said Americans don't get to choose what school they go to, but the school is assigned based on where you live. Is that really true?

Some other stuff would be interesting to know as well. Do most US schools have cafeteria? Do those cafeteria make money or cost money? How much does school cost per year (public I mean).

You go to a school near your house if its public school up until highschool. Yes, they have a cafeteria and library inside them. Public school is free. Yes, you have to pay for lunch unless your poor.

If you wish to go to public school, you are usually "zoned" for a certain one. If you go to another school in the area, you usually have to pay a fee, I'm not sure how large. Otherwise, school is free to attend.

I've actually never seen a school without a cafeteria, and I doubt schools would have them if they lost money. Food is made in bulk and cost for lunch can range from US$3 to US$7 depending on what kind of food you get and how much you eat. I knew some football players who could easily spend US$10 everyday on lunch. Astronuc Staff Emeritus Science Advisor An attempt at a national average - US Public Schools: Cost per Pupil from 1920 http://www.publicpurpose.com/gf-edada.htm In reality, the numbers (cost per pupil) vary considerably (by nearly a factor of 2), according to geographical factors. New Hampshire State Department Of Education http://www.ed.state.nh.us/education/data/ReportsandStatistics/FinancialReports/CostPerPupil/CostPerPupil2004-2005/CostPerPupil2004-2005.pdf [Broken] The Cost per Pupil represents, with certain adjustments, current expenditures from all funding sources (local, state and federal) associated with the daily operation of schools. Payments to other school districts and private schools have been subtracted. Revenues from the sales of lunches have also been excluded. Cost per Pupil is calculated by subtracting tuition and transportation from K-12 current operating expenditures, and then dividing by the average daily membership in attendance (ADM-A). The report "State Average Cost Per Pupil and Total Expenditures" identifies which expenditures have been included or excluded. The per pupil amount of all expenditures - operating, tuition, transportation, equipment, construction, interest and non-K-12 expenditures is$11,237.63.

Does Higher Per-Pupil Spending Guarantee Success? The Numbers Say No
For fiscal 2007, as was the case last year, Prince William County will have the lowest cost-per-pupil figure among major school districts in the area, generating debate about whether Northern Virginia's second-largest school district is sufficiently competitive with its neighbors. For next year, Prince William has a projected annual cost per pupil of $10,496, compared with$12,917 in Fairfax, $12,461 in Loudoun,$17,500 in Arlington and $17,968 in Alexandria. Expense, Current, per Pupil in Average Daily Attendance (Dept. of Ed, Indiana) http://mustang.doe.state.in.us/TRENDS/trends1.cfm?var=curr [Broken] Clarke County Public Schools, Virginia http://www.clarke.k12.va.us/Information/Financial/financialdisclosure.pdf [Broken] Just a sample. Last edited by a moderator: Science Advisor Interesting stuff. Thanks guys Astronuc Staff Emeritus Science Advisor As for what school one attends, one normally attends the closest school in the school district in which one resides. However, there may be exceptions since neighborhoods are assigned to particular schools. Also, there are special 'charter' or 'magnate' schools which may specialize in particular subjects or curricula, and one may attend with special approval from the school district. Of course, one can attend a private school if one's parents can pay the tuition. Michigan has a school of choice program. If you wish to go to a different school{then one close to home}, you put in a request. Its pretty much always granted, unless you have a special needs child. Only a few schools have special classrooms/programs. The parents are responsible for the transportation, once they have moved there child out of the local district. you are "supposed" to go to school near where you live, but because of desegragation, i know that in DE they bus student from all over the place to go to different schools so that every school has a certain amount of minorities in them. To me, it is a good idea and everything, but it is a HUGE waste of money to transport all those kids everyday to schools that are 20 mi away rather than send them to the ones closest to their house. Why not spend all that transportation money on improving the schools where a lot of minorities attend? According to the report, spending money does not improve schools. It depends on what district policies your area. Most of the time, you are automatically placed into the school which you live nearest too and schools have specific areas section off, so that students in this neighborhood go to that school, students there go to this school, and so on. some districts have an exception, although its uncommon, that students can freely tranfer and choose which school they want to attend (as long as its in the district) According to the report, spending money does not improve schools. I think it depends more on where the money goes. example: my schools band program is very underfunded and we have to pay thousands of dollars just to have a bus (thats owned by our school district) take us to our performances. the school system needs reform too, just as much as it needs more money. "theres nothing that money cant fix..." yeah.. i think money, when put into certain programs, would help, but not every problem can be solved that way. hehe.. i love how they show the portable classrooms in orange county... I live down here in OC and quite a few of our classrooms are portables. in our district, we had millions of dollars approved to go into new construction for all of the districts schools. the end result? well, some schools got some nice new buildings, my school got a gym (finally, although it is too small and can only accomodate about half of the school at once, which is stupid becaues at things like the international assembly where they show acts held by students from different cultures, we have to do it two times, once for half the school and another time for the other half) but my sisters school was completely missed by this upgrade and their school did not get anything except new benches (what an amazing upgrade) HOLY C*** :surprised : wow at 18 minutes into the video when i saw that kid in front of a computer with a sodering gun, my jaw literally dropped why the **** dont we have facilities like that? where the heck is all that othre cash going to? why cant i take an engineering class? what the **** is wrong with our education system? seeing the quiality of other schools in different countries makes me want to either move to switzerland or swarm to my district office and demand reform Last edited: According to the report, spending money does not improve schools. Money does fix problems. The reason why spending doesn't work on schools at lot of times is because of the way the money is spent. According to the report, spending money does not improve schools. if you look at the way the school was spending that money, why would it? "hey kids i know you guys suck at standard tests, so we're gonna buy you guys an olympic pool and hope it makes your grades go up." money is being spend the wrong way, that is our problem russ_watters Mentor I was watching a youtube video (this) and it said Americans don't get to choose what school they go to, but the school is assigned based on where you live. Is that really true? Where are you from and how does it work there? If you live in a city and the schools are crappy, are you allowed to go to a school out in the suburbs? Does the government have to send a bus to pick you up? It just doesn't make sense to me for it to be any other way than zoning public schools according to geography. russ_watters Mentor IfI've actually never seen a school without a cafeteria, and I doubt schools would have them if they lost money. Food is made in bulk and cost for lunch can range from US$3 to US$7 depending on what kind of food you get and how much you eat. I knew some football players who could easily spend US$10 everyday on lunch.
Schools are public, so there is no such thing as a profit. They charge for lunches to cover their cost and likely do not quite break even.

I finally watched the whole video. I have to say that I disagree with the closing statements of one of the teachers. Competition between schools would definetly improve the quality of education, which is the point the show was trying to make.

russ, then if the prices are so high, they're definetly getting ripped off along with the students.

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It just doesn't make sense to me for it to be any other way than zoning public schools according to geography.

the way i think it works is that they are 'strongly recomended' to choose the school according to geography, but if they do not like their local school, they have other options

American schools are great and dedicated. I knew some parents who had send their kids to a http://www.military-school.org/Choice_of_Military_School/United_States/advertise.asp" [Broken] which is really cool and amazing.

Really remarkable.

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Chi Meson
Homework Helper
Regarding the price of public education.

More money does help. The trouble is, you don't see the results right away. Meanwhile, the costs involved in education go up.

"Throwing money at schools" is a common Rush O'Riley term implying that more money has no effect. Consider the following scenario:
A: "We need $20 per month" B: "Here's$10."
A: "We need $20 a month" B: "We just gave you$10."
A: "We need $20." B: "OK, OK, here's another$4"
A: "That's $14 a month, but we need$20"
B: "We gave you $10, then another$4, and you still want more? Are you never satisfied?"
A: "We need $20 for it to work" B: "Here's another$3, per month. All we do is give you money!"
A: "That makes $17, but we still need$20."
B: "Will $20 a month really solve all your problems? Is$20 a month going to give us perfect quality?"
A: "Well...not 'perfect'..."
B: "We thought so. Here's another $1, and don't ask for more." A: "Now we need$21 a month."

Moonbear
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
The way it works in most places in the US is that you are assigned a school district based on your residence, and that determines which public schools children will attend. The reason for this is that local property taxes help pay for running the school, and people generally don't like paying high local taxes so that kids from another town can overcrowd their own kids' schools. That is how the free public education works.

However, assuming there is sufficient space in the school, people CAN choose to enroll their child in a different public school if they pay tuition, which basically covers the part of local taxes their kid is using so there's no added tax burden in the district where they are enrolling the kid. While a lot of people talk about this with regard to educational choice, all the times I've heard of someone actually doing this had more to do with convenience for the parents. For example, choosing a school within walking distance of their grandparents' house, who are the people watching the child after school, or keeping the kids in the school they had been attending prior to a move so they will not have to lose all their friends (this is common after a divorce when the kids are already coping with the splitting up of their parents and parents opt to not add to the stress by disrupting their school and friendships). And, yes, some people do this because they just don't like the school in their neighborhood, or decide the district boundaries don't make sense and another school really is closer to their house.

There are exceptions, as hypatia mentioned. Some school districts, in response to community pressure regarding inequality in the schools, have implemented school choice programs and magnet schools so parents can enroll their child in any school in the district and still receive that education free (if one school is much better than all the rest and everyone tries to enroll their kid there, there will be a waiting list and not every kid will really get to choose that school). In those districts, transportation is generally NOT provided to school, because kids cannot all conveniently be picked up in one location in one neighborhood and dropped off together at the same school. Of course, this doesn't fix the problem schools, it just gives some kids a chance to get out of them.

I have never known of a public school that did not have a cafeteria. School lunch programs are government subsidized to keep the cost each student pays inexpensive (or free for those below a certain income level). Some schools also offer a similar program for breakfast, having realized that kids from poor families (and many other kids who rush out too quickly without getting breakfast) are showing up to school hungry and not learning well while their stomach is growling. School-provided lunches are often quite awful (I hated them as a kid, but if you forgot your bag lunch at home, you could get an "I.O.U." to buy a lunch and bring the money in the next day, and it was better than being hungry). So, yes, these lunch programs operate at a loss by the way they are set up, because it is considered more important to make sure all the kids have food and can learn without being hindered by an empty stomach. At least, that's how it worked when I was in school. More recently, I've heard of bizarre arrangements where schools contract with places like McDonalds to provide lunches, and I have no idea how that works. It sounds apalling to me to make fast food the only option for hungry children (or to make it a condoned option at all).

Now, that's just the public schools. Parents can also choose to send their kids to private or parochial schools. Those are not subsidized by taxes, so tuition is set according to the individual schools, and the schools can choose which students they will admit. Depending on whether those schools have other sources of subsidies, and the "market value" of the education, tuition at those can range from very inexpensive (such as in the case of a not-for-profit church-subsidized school for their parishioners...the parents don't pay the full cost of the education because a lot of that comes from church donations) to extremely expensive (such as in the case of a highly competitive, private school with no subsidies, where tuition can be more than $20,000 per year). What each of those schools offer is highly variable, and one needs to take that into account as they choose a school. As for the comment about increased spending not improving schools, that depends. One has to look at why students at a particular school are not doing well. In some cases, no, money doesn't motivate kids to show up for school, pay attention in class, do their homework, or make their parents more concerned and active in their education, and this is the problem in some failing school districts...lack of emphasis on education by their parents and peers moreso than lack of available resources at the school. On the other hand, if part of the problem is that a school is still teaching from textbooks purchased in 1970 and pages are torn, missing, or students have to share books in class so can't take them home to study, money to purchase enough new textbooks for all the students would help. (Yes, in public schools, your textbooks are all provided for free, essentially on loan to you for the academic year, whereas in private schools, parents may need to buy the textbooks for their kids.) Likewise, if equipment in the classrooms is in such disrepair that it can't be used, that also can be fixed with money. If there are too few teachers in a school so that class sizes are overly large, or the school can't separate out kids into different classes for different learning speeds, then additional money to hire more teachers can help. And, of course, yes, the money has to be given and spent with a plan toward improving education and not just making the school look prettier. If kids don't have enough decent textbooks, and the school decides to spend the money they are given on new furniture for the teacher's lounge and to repaint the hallways, then that money isn't going to help when misspent. And, yes, there are schools that fail because the administrators mismanage the budget. But, there is no single answer across the board, and yes, it probably averages out that more money doesn't change anything, but only because some schools improve with more money, others don't, and others waste it on the wrong things while letting the education slip further. Edit: And yes, Chi's scenario holds true too. If you need$10,000 to buy new textbooks for all the kids in a class and you are given only $5000, you still can't buy enough textbooks for all the kids, and nothing improves because they still are sharing books and can't take them home to study, etc. Worse, sometimes these funds come with time limits. If you haven't spent it by the end of the year, you lose it. Administrators are then faced with a choice...do they spend it to buy half the books and hope another$5000 will show up next year to buy the other half, or do they spend it on something not quite as important, but that fits within that budget? What happens if they spend the $5000 on half the books, and next year only receive$2500 toward new books, so after two years, only have 3/4 of the books they need for their students? By the third year, they get given $1000, the publisher has come out with a new, more expensive edition of the text, the old edition is no longer available, and they now have$1000 that can't be spent on any books that will help with anything, plus all the previously purchased books are sitting in storage unable to be introduced to the classroom because there aren't enough to go around yet, so the administrator spends the \$1000 on maintenance instead, and gets criticized for wasting the money on something other than the books it was intended for. So, yes, there are cases when the "wasted" money is because the school isn't given everything they need when they need it, so end up using it for things further down the needs list rather than for the highest priority things on the list.

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Where are you from and how does it work there? If you live in a city and the schools are crappy, are you allowed to go to a school out in the suburbs? Does the government have to send a bus to pick you up?

It just doesn't make sense to me for it to be any other way than zoning public schools according to geography.

Here you apply to a school and see if it will accept you. When leaving grade 6 and going into grade 7, I had a choice between 3 or 4 different middle schools (within reasonable busing distance). When leaving middle school and going to high school, I had a choice of 3 main high schools within busing distance.
The choices I had for schools were all catholic schools since catholic schools give preference to kids from catholic schools, and public (athiest) schools give preference to students from other athiest schools. We also have a system of Muslim schools, but they're not as common since we don't have that many Muslims in Edmonton.
Edmonton usually has public and catholic schools within a block of one another. St Lucy (catholic) is across the street from Dunluce elementary (public). Archbishop O'Leary (catholic) is about 3 blocks from Queen Elizabeth (public). Sir John Thompson (catholic) and Wellington (public) are also about 3 blocks away.

Some of the schools have major differences between the way they work. For example, the 3 high schools I could choose from were not even similar. Archbishop O'Leary high school uses a semester system, has a wide range of courses, and they're taught in a conventional way with teachers lecturing a class full of students; school is about 1600 students. Archbishop MacDonald uses a full yearr system and is one of the few schools with IB classes (beyond honors). Archbishop MacDonald does not teach "dumb" classes, only the matriculation, honors, and IB classes; total school size is about 400. St Joseph high school had a system of self learning where you would read instructions from work books and complete assigned homework before writing a test to verify that you did learn the stuff you claimed to have learned. St Joseph allows people to learn at their own rate (fast or slow) with minimal teacher instruction and is a popular choice among students who can't go to school during regular hours due to disabilities or work schedule (not all kids can rely on parents); student school size is huge, probably 2000 at least.

Many many choices.

Here you apply to a school and see if it will accept you. When leaving grade 6 and going into grade 7, I had a choice between 3 or 4 different middle schools (within reasonable busing distance). When leaving middle school and going to high school, I had a choice of 3 main high schools within busing distance.
The choices I had for schools were all catholic schools since catholic schools give preference to kids from catholic schools, and public (athiest) schools give preference to students from other athiest schools. We also have a system of Muslim schools, but they're not as common since we don't have that many Muslims in Edmonton.
Edmonton usually has public and catholic schools within a block of one another. St Lucy (catholic) is across the street from Dunluce elementary (public). Archbishop O'Leary (catholic) is about 3 blocks from Queen Elizabeth (public). Sir John Thompson (catholic) and Wellington (public) are also about 3 blocks away.

Some of the schools have major differences between the way they work. For example, the 3 high schools I could choose from were not even similar. Archbishop O'Leary high school uses a semester system, has a wide range of courses, and they're taught in a conventional way with teachers lecturing a class full of students; school is about 1600 students. Archbishop MacDonald uses a full yearr system and is one of the few schools with IB classes (beyond honors). Archbishop MacDonald does not teach "dumb" classes, only the matriculation, honors, and IB classes; total school size is about 400. St Joseph high school had a system of self learning where you would read instructions from work books and complete assigned homework before writing a test to verify that you did learn the stuff you claimed to have learned. St Joseph allows people to learn at their own rate (fast or slow) with minimal teacher instruction and is a popular choice among students who can't go to school during regular hours due to disabilities or work schedule (not all kids can rely on parents); student school size is huge, probably 2000 at least.

Many many choices.

I'm not from edmonton but I have a lot of friends that went to OSA and a lot of them bused across the city to go there. I didn't have any choice of school to go to...there was only 1 that about 15 miles away so pretty close. I hated that place though, K-12 130 kids and dirt freaking poor with no good teachers and crappy classes. I could have gone to another school in a different town but no schoolbus would have came to get me (it was 35 miles away).

JasonRox
Homework Helper
Gold Member
Here you apply to a school and see if it will accept you. When leaving grade 6 and going into grade 7, I had a choice between 3 or 4 different middle schools (within reasonable busing distance). When leaving middle school and going to high school, I had a choice of 3 main high schools within busing distance.
The choices I had for schools were all catholic schools since catholic schools give preference to kids from catholic schools, and public (athiest) schools give preference to students from other athiest schools. We also have a system of Muslim schools, but they're not as common since we don't have that many Muslims in Edmonton.
Edmonton usually has public and catholic schools within a block of one another. St Lucy (catholic) is across the street from Dunluce elementary (public). Archbishop O'Leary (catholic) is about 3 blocks from Queen Elizabeth (public). Sir John Thompson (catholic) and Wellington (public) are also about 3 blocks away.

Some of the schools have major differences between the way they work. For example, the 3 high schools I could choose from were not even similar. Archbishop O'Leary high school uses a semester system, has a wide range of courses, and they're taught in a conventional way with teachers lecturing a class full of students; school is about 1600 students. Archbishop MacDonald uses a full yearr system and is one of the few schools with IB classes (beyond honors). Archbishop MacDonald does not teach "dumb" classes, only the matriculation, honors, and IB classes; total school size is about 400. St Joseph high school had a system of self learning where you would read instructions from work books and complete assigned homework before writing a test to verify that you did learn the stuff you claimed to have learned. St Joseph allows people to learn at their own rate (fast or slow) with minimal teacher instruction and is a popular choice among students who can't go to school during regular hours due to disabilities or work schedule (not all kids can rely on parents); student school size is huge, probably 2000 at least.

Many many choices.

I'm from Ontario, and we can choose to go to any school we want, literally.

We have like 5 high schools in our city, so we can choose from any of them. If we didn't like them, we can choose outside our city which there are many. I had students at my school from out of town. I'd say 1 in every 30 are from out of town.