Rush to the Exits! Suddenly Poor Manhattan Families Yanking Kids Out of Private School

anisha lakhani Rush to the Exits! Suddenly Poor Manhattan Families Yanking Kids Out of Private SchoolAccording to New York Magazine, Manhattan families are pulling their kids out of private schools in a panic about the recession.

An unnamed source "close" to the Trinity School said that 45 families have already announced that their children won’t be returning next year, while parents at both Trinity and Horace Mann are suddenly demanding financial aid. 

“We are committed to our students and families through the year,” Horace Mann official Bernice Hauser told the magazine. “If anyone is in crisis, they are free to speak to someone here.”

On the UrbanBaby message boards today, one user wrote: "about 2 weeks [sic] I heard from a friend that his boss mentioned to him that 30% of dalton families were asking for financial aid for this year. seemed high to me when i hear it, but you never know." Another user said that Dalton has been doling out more financial aid for a while now–not just this year–to increase racial and socioeconomic diversity. 

But what does this news really mean for the notoriously competitive New York private school landscape? Well, we doubt that the real moneyed families are part of the group already dropping out of elite private schools. As society chronicler David Patrick Columbia told us regarding gala and benefit attendance, "The rich are still very rich." But there must be a few middle-class families that have been able to stretch budgets to send their children to Dalton or Spence or Chapin. Until now, that is. These parents should not forget about Vanity Fair editor Aimee Bell‘s Greenwich Village High School, which is accepting applications until January, when it will handpick its inaugural class of 45 ninth graders.

With backing from names like Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter; New School president Bob Kerrey and his wife, television and film writer Sarah Paley; actor John Leguizamo; and Scholastic Inc. president Richard Robinson, the school is able to offer its $34,729 tuition on a sliding scale for the sake of "diversity," with a few lucky parents paying only $1,000.  (Ms. Bell and her co-founder Sara Goodman, great-granddaughter of Bergdorf Goodman founder Edwin Goodman, have not yet revealed what kind of incomes will make a family eligible for a tuition break.)

Then again, if you absolutely must downgrade to a public school, it might not be all bad. As the author of Schooled and former Dalton teacher Anisha Lakhani told us a few months ago, the world of private schooling is not always the best education as that is often where students learn how not to do their own work. (Ms. Lakhani’s novel was inspired by her many years of tutoring privileged children who expected her to do their homework for them.)

"It’s also a story about how certain children on a certain island are getting through schools seemingly magically, but maybe not so," Ms. Lakhani said of her novel. "I never went into teaching thinking that I was going to write a book about this. But slowly I started into the world of tutoring and I found it funny in a grotesque kind of way."