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Why Public Schools Attract Foreigners

Public schools in this country are routinely criticized for their lackluster performance on tests of international competition. But if they are as bad as critics claim, then why do parents of so many foreign students spend thousands of dollars to enroll them here ("U.S. Schools Draw More Chinese," The Wall Street Journal, December 18)?

The number of Chinese K-12 students alone skyrocketed 290 percent to 34,578 from 8,857 five years ago, according to the Student Exchange and Visitor Program. This increase includes Chinese students in both public and private schools. Parents willingly pay the hefty fee that public-school districts are allowed to charge nonresident foreign students in many states. For example, the Chino Valley Unified School District in Southern California charges $15,500 apiece.

Chinese parents, who are known for their reverence for education, see public schools in a totally different light than American critics. That's because they're more open-minded. Their confidence is reflected in the 60,815 foreign students in U.S. high schools and the 6,074 in elementary. But it's the Chinese who dominate, with half of the total. 

I'm not an apologist for the failure of too many public schools. But I don't think it's fair to condemn the entire system. Maybe foreign parents are telling us something that we should be listening to.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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