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More bang for the buck – Public vs. private schools

Posted: August 19, 2013 10:40 p.m.
Updated: August 19, 2013 10:40 p.m.

According to its website, Oaks Christian of Westlake Village’s full-year tuition is $28,662.

Tuition at Alemany of Mission Hills is about $9,000.

Public schools cost nothing.

Yet there’s a thinking that a better ticket to playing sports in college and beyond is through private schools.

Is it true?

There’s the old saying that if you’re good enough, no matter where you play, they will find you.

Even those at private schools will say that.

But there are advantages and disadvantages to playing sports at both.

And in the Santa Clarita Valley, there’s been no bigger battle waged than from the public schools decrying that the private schools are taking area students for athletic gain.

Alemany Principal, city of Santa Clarita City Councilman since 1998 and father of Valencia High graduates Frank Ferry said those are misconceptions about his school.

He said his school does offer things that public schools don’t, yet his school stresses academics first.

“Will you be seen maybe more if you’re a gifted athlete? Do you want to compete against the best in their eyes week after week after week? But I’m very clear, you’re one injury away. Some might lose passion for the sport. Find an interest in something else as well,” Ferry said. “Even at Alemany, where there’s this perception that you have to be a great athlete, very few move on to play in college. Parents push so hard. It’s unrealistic for them to think they’re going to play NCAA Division I.”

For many people, the private schools offer the opportunity to play in more high profile games, which attracts more media attention, which attracts more professional and private scouts.

However, every single Foothill League program in the Santa Clarita Valley has sent an athlete to play for an NCAA Division I (Football Bowl Subdivision) school, has had an athlete selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, and has sent a softball player to an NCAA Division I school.

The Signal reported in July that 124 athletes who graduated from the Foothill League schools in 2013 will be playing intercollegiate sports at the four-year level.

“No, I don’t think so,” said Valencia head coach Larry Muir on if kids have an advantage of playing sports at private schools.

And from time to time, he’ll even get kids from private schools.

Other coaches from the Santa Clarita valley were adamantly in agreement, including Canyon High athletic director and former boys head basketball coach Chad Phillips.

“No. I’m blunt about that answer. There’s not a big difference there,” Phillips said of playing at public or private schools. “I could see the amount of exposure (private school) kids get and they might flock to them. But we are so enclosed in this valley with great competition. And this valley, related to education, I’m highly trained in what I do as a teacher. I would hope you put faith in my ability to educate your son or daughter.”

Many private schools do offer smaller classrooms, though.

Other advantages, Ferry points out, is the broad section of sports they offer — which include wrestling and water polo, sports not offered at Foothill League schools.

The pressure to fundraise might not be as much at private schools either.

As The Signal has learned from coaches around the SCV, parents in some sports are asked, not required to, bring in as much as $1,000 to a program (which The Signal has also learned is vital for local high school programs to operate).

However, private schools can charge kids to play sports, where public schools, by law, are not allowed to.

Thus, the local public schools fundraise, ask for donations or a combination of the two.

The Santa Clarita Valley has two private high schools that offer CIF sports — Santa Clarita Christian and Trinity Classical Academy.

Trinity’s tuition for high school students is $11,770 and SCCS’s is $7,850.

Both schools will admit they aren’t on par with the Oaks Christians and Alemanys of this world.

But Wally Caddow, the co-founder and managing director of Trinity, said he’d like for his school to eventually be on par with those private schools athletically.

But not at the expense of academics.

“I think the real draw (to our school) is our academics,” he said. “We always tell people, a number of people over the summer were coming from other football teams (to look at our school). I tell them, you have to understand this is an academic institution. When they come to our information meeting, our ideals for the athletic department we talk about are integrity, camaraderie and victory.”

A lot of that camaraderie comes from the small numbers of athletes on each team at the schools, as well as SCCS, which offers athletes a better opportunity for playing time.

That’s not across the board at private schools, though.

“It’s about playing time,” Muir said on why some kids return to public schools from private schools. “They won’t say it, but at the end of the day it’s playing time. They’ll go somewhere and think it’s one thing and their kid’s not playing. ‘If I’m spending all that money, why is my kid not playing?’”

The price is a deterrent to some, but many who are paying the money associate a prestige with going to the school.

That’s another reason why private schools draw in so many people, and the success of the sports programs only serve to market those schools more.

Yet public school critics say some private schools offer athletes better pricing through “scholarships.”

Ferry said that is not so.

“There’s a fallacy out there,” Ferry said about the perception. “Financial assistance is a program that will take students’ parents’ income, run their social security numbers, income tax forms of moms and dad. Based on that need the (grant and aid assessment report) comes back and tuition is (on financial factors).”

Caddow said his school would never offer aid based on athletic ability.

“We will never do that. We will never offer athletic scholarships,” Caddow said. “It’s detrimental to our culture. The only way we help families is with needs based tuition. We’ve been approached many times — ‘My kid’s a star at his school. Can you help him with tuition?’ We love athletics. My wife and I were both athletes. We will never let the tail wag the dog. We will never compromise what we’re doing.”

So what direction is more bang for the buck?

It’s really in the eye of the beholder.

There are arguments for both.


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