Wednesday, February 1, 2012

In Chester, Pa., Money Has Run Out for Public School Education; In New York City the Problem is Private School Tuition is at the $40,000 a Year Level

Two Americas, Separate and Unequal

About a week ago we posted on the problems in the public school district of Chester, Pennsylvania, where the schools has essentially run out of money and the teachers are willing to work for free to keep education going.   But no one should take away from that story that it is only the low income parts of the nation that are suffering from economic hardship.  In New York City the very wealthy are facing difficulties with private schools.

Michael Appleton for The New York Times
The Dalton School costs $36,970
a year and offers Zen Dance.

Indeed, this year’s tuition at Columbia Grammar and Preparatory ($38,340 for 12th grade) and Horace Mann($37,275 for the upper school) is higher than Harvard’s ($36,305). Those 41 schools (out of 61 New York City private schools in the national association) provided enough data to enable a 10-year analysis. (Over all, inflation caused prices in general to rise 27 percent over the past decade.)

The median 12th-grade tuition for the current school year was $36,970, up from $21,100 in 2001-2, according to the national association’s survey. Nationally, that figure rose to $24,240 from $14,583 a decade ago.

With schools already setting tuition rates for the 2012-13 school year — Brearley’s is $38,200 — parents at Horace Mann, Columbia Grammar and Trinity are braced to find out whether they will join families at Riverdale Country School in the $40,000-a-year club. (Riverdale actually charges $40,450 for 12th grade.) In fact, it appears to be a question not of “if,” but “when.”

Of course, for that amount of money one get’s a pretty nice facility

Léman Manhattan Preparatory Schoolhas a gym whose floor is cleaned twice a day. The Trinity School has three theaters, six art studios, two tennis courts, a pool and a diving pool. Poly Prep Country Day School raised $2 million to open a learning center this year that has six full-time employees offering one-on-one help with subjects as varied as note-taking and test-taking.

And the truth of the matter is, the cost is not the big issue with these schools.  There are plenty of parents ready to pony up the costs. 

For many parents, the sticker prices have ceased to shock. Instead, there are gripes about the grueling entry process and many of the ancillary costs that now seem nonnegotiable — private tutors, spring training in Florida for sports, unpaid internships at top research institutes to bolster college résumés. Amanda Uhry, who founded Manhattan Private School Advisors in 2001, said that in her entire career, no one had ever asked about the cost of the schools to which their children planned to apply.

The problem is getting in, so much so that a lot of folks have to employ counselors to get their prodigy accepted.

Far from being deterred by the sticker prices, more families seem to be hiring consultants — at an additional cost — in hopes of getting a leg up.

One consulting firm, Manhattan Private School Advisors, said it worked with 1,431 families this school year, up from 605 three years ago. The company’s fee has gone up, too: It was $21,500 this year and $18,500 three years ago.

Now at this point everyone may be expected a rant about how unfair it is that rich people have these great schools.  No such rant is coming.  One of the reasons a person wants to be rich is to provide a great educational opportunity for their children, and they are certainly entitled to do so if they have the money to spend.  The high quality private schools are not the problem.

The problem is that while society should accept a disparity between the educational opportunity afford ed the wealthy and the rest of the populace, that disparity is too great.  A decent and caring society does not allow the gap between opportunity for the rich and the poor to get so large.  A decent and caring society would see that there are enough resources in the Chester, Pa schools and the others like them so that those students too would have a shot at the American dream.

That decent and caring society is not America in 2012.

1 comment:

  1. As usual, TDPE, you most elequently stated what I can not. Indeed, a decent and caring society wouldn't allow, much less applaud, much of what is now social darwinism in our social discourse. If we can't even speak to each other in a decent and caring manner, well, I guess we are hopeless.