Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Money and School

Want to know how to determine whether or not your child will be successful? Look in your wallet.

Money is what determines the kind of education your child will get and how far they will go. This is a cynical view, and I try not to be cynical.

This morning, however, after reading a great blog on the Speyer Legacy School, a school designed specifically by three very wealthy and powerful New York women to address the needs of a mere 325 gifted kids, I am feeling cynical. According to the blog, 3,000 children in NYC public schools qualify for gifted education, clamoring for only 300 slots that are slowly being eliminated. The writer points out that the US currently spends two cents of every 100 education dollars on gifted learners. So three "high-powered" parents opened a school with highly-trained teachers and started recruiting, ending up with a K-8 school that costs nearly $29K to attend (and features an award-winning nutrition and health curriculum delivered on the school's organic farm).

Don't get me wrong - this school looks incredible, and who wouldn't want to send their gifted child there?

But who can afford to? People whose children will be exceptional no matter where they are, largely due, in part, to financial resources that allow them to supplement mediocre public school with vacations and other experiences.

Who can't? Those students who need it the very most. The ones who are unidentified gifted students (read: low-SES and minority, typically, and second-language learners). The ones who get held back for not doing work they feel is pointless. The ones who have "behavior problems" because they are frustrated twice-exceptional learners trapped in schools that do not recognize that one can be gifted AND have a learning/behavior challenge.

HoneyFern charges tuition, certainly. It is enough to keep the lights on and the curriculum going. We go on field trips and do experiements, read lots of books and dissect a million different things. If we need something, we get it. However, we are on a shoestring, and although it makes life difficult for the one and only teacher to be spending most of the tuition on supplies and stuff for the school (instead of salary), we make it work because I believe that what HoneyFern (and yes, Speyer) does is how ALL kids should be educated, not just the privileged few who can afford college prices at kindergarten.

Why are we leaving so many gifted kids without adequate education in this country, and why are there so few alternatives for kid who want to learn faster and more? We are dividing students into the "thinks" and the "think-nots"; money gives access to all kinds of opportunities to grow and change and learn, and those without it get nothing but inadequate schooling and a bleak future at the bottom of the economic ladder.

Good on you, Speyer Legacy. It's a step up. But why did you make it so tall?


  1. Speyer has very commitedly addressed and upheld its support and admission of students, regardless of the families' ability to pay tuition in full. Over 1/2 the student body at SLS receives financial assistance; all very significant, whatever the differing $$.
    As it is not uncommon for educators from other schools to communicate,investigate and visit, I'd highly recommend you might also consider doing so.
    Expansion on the mission, Director,Head of School+other faculty and curriiculum would be roundly helpful

    1. I spoke highly of the school in the remainder of the post. I included a website for reference and exploration. This blog was specifically addressing the staggering tuition amount.

      I see that Speyer has increased its tuition to $31K this year, with a sibling discount of only $2K. What is the average tuition assistance amount? And what percentage of the student body is from the lower SESs? How does Speyer recruit lower-income students who need acceleration? Or do they?

      Speyer looks to be an amazing education. My interest is in equality in access, and Speyer's tuition is prohibitive and out of reach for the students who need it most.