Tag Archives: schoolsystems

How the Public School System Failed my Family

In the beginning of the spring my family made our first move in about 8 years. For me moving and changing schools was just how my family worked. I have changed schools and bounced back from mom and dad since the start. I had grown accustomed to the changes and was always good at making friends. My younger brother (the middle child) only moved from one district to another where a list of learning disabilities made my mother decided to keep him in one place. So, we moved and we stayed in one small living complex for 8 years. This meant my youngest brother never had to switch schools from elementary through middle school.

This was probably for the best because he had always struggled academically and even slightly socially. So, when we moved and he only had a year and a half left of middle school, which in our town was spilt into two districts, it meant he would need to move schools. For most kids this is not that big of a deal. We live in a town that only hit city population levels about 10 years ago, and in most cases if you were involved in any social activities or sports it meant no matter which school you went to you would know somebody. This was not the case for my youngest brother. He had dappled in a string of sports, but even then the only friends he had ever made were from the south side of the city, and his new school was on the north side.

As I write this I can begin to see how this all slightly sounds like a movie, but trust me it is very real, and because of this my youngest brother is on the verge of having to repeat the 7th grade.

He was nervous for the move and a new school, which makes sense. My mom drove him on his first day and they went in together and met his principle and his student guide who was meant to bring him around for the first day (we later found out this did not happen). He came home and was tired and barely wanted to talk. We all told him it was just new kid jitters, I was a pro at them, but the entire situation seemed a little bit off from what was considered normal.

After a month nothing got better, and everything got worse. Every week he was missing the bus and because there was nobody to drive him this meat every week he also missed a day of school. We soon found out he had barely made any friends and was eating lunch alone. Then soon he came home crying. He was miserable and he was failing every class.

In his old school he had been doing fine, nothing amazing but fine. Here though he had become an ‘F’ student. This was what things were like in the days before he was put on an IEP or individual education plan. After he had done well for about two years they school decided he had no real reason to keep the IEP. He did fine without the IEP until the school change.

Now, after about 3 moths we had a list of things to bring to the school board to attempt to get him back into his previous school; grades, doctor notes and a plee from my brother himself. They said we could move his school, but transportation was on us, which is hard when your job starts at the same time as your son’s school day.

Now my brother has apparently been skipping class all day long to go sit in the bathroom. What is most surprising about this it that nobody in the school noticed he was gone until the end of the day, and they didn’t call to inform my mother until the following day. Most often schools will choose to “get rid” of the kids who required any form of IEP because this costs the school money. When my brother was removed from the IEP he began to fall apart, and this processes was just accelerated by the move to a new school.

We are now in the extensive processes of trying to figure out if we can manage to get him back and forth to his old school everyday. We are fighting to get him back onto an IEP, but everywhere we turn they tell us that he is fine and if he just applied himself he would be doing that much better. There is the issue of him not even knowing where to start with the piles of homework he is coming home with.

All we want if for somebody in the school system to understand that he may be a special case, and he needs help. Public schools should not shut a child out or turn away his problems by getting rid of him. That is what happened in our case. Not one person wanted to “deal” with him so when they had the chance they moved his school, to one three times the size with a group of kids he had never interacted with before. This is how the public school system failed my family.

Free Lunchers

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There comes this time in your life when everything is almost at this standstill. When you hear news or open a letter that breaks apart everything you had. It feels like your breath is ripped from your lungs and you can’t even imagine moving on from everything that has just happened.

I had one of these moments recently. Being only 18 years old there has never been much financial stress that was directly my responsibility, but now there is. I can no longer find myself in the guidance office begging for someone to waive the fee of a trip my mother can’t afford to send me on, or help me get a used $100 calculator that was required for the math class I had worked so hard to get into.

When teachers look at you in high school and tell you all the work that they give you is to prepare you for college, they are not telling the entire truth. The hours of work they assign over the summer or over a break is not what prepares you in the least bit, what they should be doing is telling you how hard things are about to get.

Teachers should tell you how hard it is to even make it through the college that they all insist you end up at. What they should be warning us “free lunch” kids about is that we are all basically stuck.

In most school systems that kids who find themselves on a free lunch plan are the ones who have parents that fall below what they school thinks is “average” living standards. This also reaps other benefits such as reduced SAT amounts, only a down payment requirement for AP testing, and a slew of other seemingly great things. The only issue is as soon as this group of kids leaves the public schooling system all the benefits that made it possible for them to do much of anything in elementary school and beyond are gone.

When us “free lunchers” begin to apply to college they even allow a waiver on applications, and reduced fees in sending over test scores. Then we get in and they tell us not to worry because financial aid will come through and help make up the difference in what you cannot afford to pay. Everyone tells you from day one as long as you work hard and do the right thing everything will work out. So far I have found this to be overwhelmingly false.

Not only did the extensive forms otherwise known as FAFSA fail me, so did an abundant amount of other things. Now it is important for it to be known that I did not go to the state school that was probably the better option, but a smaller liberal arts college. I knew from the start this would be more money overall, but in my mind I had spent four years in high school proving myself academically, and I should have been able to go where I would be happy.

For an entire year of private education $7,500 seems small, and for many middle class families it is very plausible, this is what I thought. When I sat down to tell my parents everything that had happened my father looked me dead in the eye and told be we would need to split the bill in thirds.

Having divorced parents is an entire other issue. It means more paperwork and hoping your non-custodial doesn’t choose to lie, and claim he pays more then you have ever seen in your entire life.

When my father told me he could pay a third, I believed him. I worked all through school, and my mother picked up extra hours. Just when I thought I was safe and everything was being paid on schedule I received quite the letter.

To sum it up, if the $2,200 balance left on my account wasn’t cleared starting spring classes was not going to happen. That was when I did the math; that was almost an entire third of my bill. My father hadn’t been paying like he was supposed to.

Now it seems harsh that I knew it was my father and not my mother not paying, but in my situation, trust me when I say it was my father.

I still took a deep breath and called him, hoping there was a misunderstanding. There had not been. He told be he hadn’t had the money. It takes a lot not to implode at this point. So, I hung the phone up.

Panic. Sheer panic set in, as my education was so far up in the air it would take a NASA telescope to see it. I told my mother voice shaking, and I knew she wouldn’t be able to help me. She was alone and had just managed to pull of the holidays with all she had that was extra.

This is when I bring back the idea that schools should be helping kids who they float through understand that all of that help fades away. As soon as a diploma lands in your hands there is nobody to run to when you cannot afford something. When FAFSA tells you they can help finance your education, they only mean so far. It almost seems that we go through years of public schooling being told half-truths.

Luckily for me I had someone to turn to when my options were next to nothing. College is never going to be the same for me now, as I now can never count on one of the only people who you should be able to. The next few years will be spent commuting from home to avoid paying room and board.

I am grateful for the year I got to spend on campus, and for the college I am lucky to even be going to. Life throws these kinds of sick curve balls, and it seems the people who are barely standing are the ones who get knocked down. A lot needs to change when it comes to helping those who find themselves just above poverty. The people who are hardworking and just too proud to not take a job and find themselves on government assistance. It’s an issue, one that affects me firsthand.

Overall it seems that an education is mandatory to make it in life, yet without a pretty hardy college fund, it’s difficult to get one.