Dear Matt Damon –
You don’t know me, although we do have some mutual acquaintances. Those would be families whose children attend(ed) a New York City private school alongside your daughters. I, in fact, am the person who helped them with the application process for those schools.
Because that’s what I do, Matt Damon. I help NYC families find the best fit school for their children. Perhaps, if you’d consulted with me, you wouldn’t have been rejected at one of the most popular private Brooklyn options. Better luck next time, Matt Damon!
Now, Matt Damon, I know what a huge education advocate you are. You’ve just made an entire documentary bashing school choice and its supporters. You told Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post that charters are “draining funds from our public schools” and “we need a public school system that gives every child an equal chance.”
However, when asked when your children would be heading off to their local public school, you earnestly Damonsplained that “progressive education no longer exists in the public system.”
Oh, Matt Damon! If only you’d, once again, come to me! Because, you see, you are not the first NYC parent unhappy with what their local zoned school has to offer, not the only parent looking for something different, a bit more progressive. I have many parents in your same boat. Except, alas, they do not have $45,000 per child to spend on private school tuition.
I know! The audacity of them! Wanting a movie star’s school choice without a movie star’s salary! Some people just don’t know their place. (Then again, many of those families are Black, Hispanic, and new immigrants, and we all know how particularly sensitive you are to the needs of their communities.)
Under those circumstances, I help parents apply to progressive public schools like Manhattan School for Children (only a few blocks from where you once lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan), or Central Park East I and II (though that would have meant travelling uptown to Harlem and, well, I understand, Matt Damon, your limo driver didn’t know the way.)
Except, see, here’s where we hit a little snag, Matt Damon. Those progressive public schools, as well as several others scattered across the five boroughs, are unzoned schools. That means parents have to deliberately apply to attend them, forgoing their zoned school in the process. Unzoned schools tend to skim top-performing kids from their neighborhood schools, boast a more affluent demographic than their immediate surrounding area, raise more PTA money than the schools they share buildings with, and cherry-pick their students. (Details here.)
Now what does that sound like, Matt Damon?
Oh, I know! The same accusations that are lobbed at charter schools, the ones that you say are draining funds from traditional public schools.
And did I also mention that the unzoned schools get many, many more applications than they have available seats? Sure doesn’t sound like that’s a system that gives every child an equal chance, does it, Matt Damon? In fact, it kind of sounds like Russian roulette.
So what are the options for those parents who don’t manage to snag a seat in an unzoned public school but still want a progressive education, Matt Damon? Well, I definitely tell them to take a look at private schools, just like you did. There is plenty of financial aid available, and some schools (not the ones your children attend) even offer sliding scale rates for less-affluent, non-movie stars.
I also tell them to check out progressive charter schools, of which there are quite a few in NYC. You’d like the families that go there, Matt Damon; they value the same progressive principles and high academic standards that you do!
Once parents see what’s available, they are better equipped to make a choice about what’s best for their children, just like you did, Matt Damon.
You wouldn’t want to take that equal chance away from them, now would you?
Please make an appointment to discuss,
This letter first ran here at New York School Talk.
Alina Adams is a New York City mom of 3 school-age children and a New York Times best-selling author of soap-opera tie-ins, figure-skating mysteries and romance novels. She is a contributing writer to TODAY Show Parenting, Mommy Poppins, BlogHer, Red Tricycle, Café Mom, and Kveller. After going through the NYC school application process with her own children and realizing just how convoluted, Draconian and needlessly complex it was, Alina resolved to help make all parents aware of all their school choices—and how to get them—via her books, “Getting Into NYC Kindergarten” and “Getting Into NYC High-School,” as well as her podcast, “NYC School Secrets: Parents Helping Parents.” Read more and listen at: www.NYCSchoolSecrets.com