Private school head hits ‘elite’ charters

In defense of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s anti-charter agenda,  Steve Nelson attacks charter schools for enrolling the children of motivated parents and taking money from wealthy donors Nelson is the headmaster of the Calhoun School, an elite private school in New York City.

. . .  the (charter) lottery is rigged in that the pool is comprised only of self-selected families with social capital and high motivation. They claim to operate with more efficiency, but their budgets are augmented by an infusion of capital from billionaire philanthropists and hedge fund managers who know a lot about PR and very little about education.

Charter schools and other “so-called” reforms  reform” will “divide us by creating pockets of relative privilege while leaving the rest of the nation’s children to languish in neglect and poverty,” writes Nelson.

So, all of the nation’s children who don’t attend charters are languishing in neglect and poverty? Or maybe it’s just the public school kids.

The Calhoun School is a “pocket of rather extraordinary privilege on Manhattan’s Upper West Side,” responds Robert Pondiscio on Facebook. Tuition runs from $41,700 in kindergarten to $43,580 in high school and parents are asked to donate more.

Calhoun’s board is full of wealthy financiers, points out Matthew Levey.  The chairman of the board runs a hedge fund, the vice-chair is a partner at a financial firm, the treasurer manages two investment funds, a board member is a portfolio manager and another is a broker.

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  1. More like, they divide kids with motivated parents from kids without. Motivated parents generally see that as a huge plus.

    • I’m going to cynically think that this guy just doesn’t want any competition. If parents desperate to escape district schools where no one has high expectations and behavior problems are rampant have no escape other than to pay for private schools like his, he’s in good shape. However, pesky charter schools will likely cut into his market share.

      • If I were to construct you a Venn diagram with Set A being families likely to apply to Calhoun and Set B being families likely to apply to a high-performing NYC no-excuses charter, you would need a microscope to see the union. They don’t get a lot of kids escaping bad district schools, either. It’s a school for rich kids (80%+ of the kids are paying full freight) whose families want an uber-progressive education and/or didn’t make the cut at the elite NYC privates that are more renowned and more rigorous (and have a much better track record with college placement).

        • Hmmm…so the not-so-stellar graduates of his school might come out looking even worse when compared to charter schools serving poor kids? If that doesn’t indirectly impact his enrollment figures down the road, then the parents sending their kids to his school really aren’t very bright.

        • Stacy in NJ says:

          Tim – As you point out, many of the private schools in NYC aren’t particularly academically competitive. How’s it gonna look when public school kids from charters start out performing those rich kids and start taking their places in Ivy colleges?

    • I don’t think it’s quite as simple as that.

      For instance, the percentage of motivated parents seems to be closely related to the number of openings in area charter schools. The percentage of motivated parents in the Detroit area has shot up from 31% to 51% in just two years tracking perfectly the increase in the number of kids local charter schools could take.

      Kind of makes me wonder what the percentage of motivated parents will be when there are enough openings in charter schools to take the entire population of school age kids in the Detroit area.

  2. If the schools are only as good as their students, then isn’t it logical to ask why we even bother to have schools?

    • Logical but unwelcome inasmuch as the question is one which must never be asked and if asked must be ignored.

      Which is pretty stressful since the temptation is try to flog the heretic back onto the path of righteousness which only draws attention to the question.

  3. Tim – The function of elite schools is primarily signaling. If a student is selected by an elite school that is a useful thing for them to put on their resume. Nobody cares what if anything thay learned at the elite school.

    • Crimson Wife says:

      Unless they get their resume read by someone who thinks high schools don’t belong on a professional resume. My husband (who is himself a graduate of a Catholic prep school) automatically rejects any resume coming across his desk with a high school listed because he assumes the candidate is a pompous @$$.

  4. Shorter version: Stop poaching my donors!

  5. Crimson Wife says:

    Does it shock ANYONE that a school catering to the wealthy is against schools offering students from low-to-moderate incomes a decent education?

    • I don’t see why he gives a damn other then that he supports the district system either as a personal decision or to please his wealthy clientele who, in an earlier age, would have flung golden Louis d’ors from their carriage to the ragamuffins who ran alongside begging.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Most of us cannot afford $40K/year for private school. This guy has a let them eat cake attitude.