Celebrity Welfare Schools
I'm not really a big fan of Andrea Peyser, but occasionally her editorials are informative. In particular, her recent note about private schooling certainly interested me. The Churchill school in Manhattan is an elite private school catering to "bright kids, grades kindergarten through 12, who've been declared learning disabled". The kids there are usually wealthy and upper class -- examples include the offspring of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, fashion designer Dana Buchman, and filmmaker Julian Schnabel (also winner of 2007 Cannes best director award -- congratulations, Julian).
So, nothing wrong with the wealthy sending their kids to a top private school, right? After all, what good is money if you can't use it to help your children?
Except that the parents who send their children here get reimbursed for their $34,000 a year tuition from city tax rolls. The city paid out $57 million last year. Apparently, the right to a free and appropriate education has been taken a left turn somewhere.
Tom Freston, a former head of Viacom who received $60 million in severance, is fighting legally to assert his right to be reimbursed despite never attempting to send his son to another such elite school, "on principle". Oh, how generous of him to defend our rights that way.
Certainly, the disabled have a right to schooling tailored to their needs. And a lawyer, Neal Rosenberg, who gains clients entrance into the school for a living says he's never seen a parent present a disability just to get the Board of Education to foot their bill. I'm willing to believe him. However, what does it say about the system if these wealthy parents, who are fortunate enough that they could fairly easily send their children to school from their own pocket, are instead shifting out some of that money to a lawyer who enables them to get an expensive education at the expense of the general taxpayer, thereby reducing the money the public school system can spend on its own improvements?
Do other districts have these problems?