No Child Left Behind?

kristen2
Photo: istockphoto

Four years of Baby Einstein had paid off for Michele and David Bender's daughter, Lily. The Soho couple's 4-year-old had scored a coveted place at the Little Red Schoolhouse back in 2007 and was set to begin life rubbing shoulders with all the right wealthy bohemian children. And then! In June, things got even better. Lily was so clever, it turned out, that she had been accepted into another great school, a public school for gifted and talented children. Michele and David were relieved. Not only had they produced a genius, but if Lily went to public elementary school now, it would be that much easier for her parents to pay her Harvard tuition when she was inevitably accepted (early admission!) down the line. (You see, Michele and David had been not quite as smart as Lily when they were younger—they had become, respectively, a freelance writer for Redbook and an artist.) They called up the Little Red Schoolhouse to give their regrets, expecting fully that they would lose the $2,500 deposit. "It might even be hard for us to get the other payment of $7,500 back," David said to his friends. Pshaw, they replied (because in our imagination they are Canadian). But David did not know what bastards the Little Red Schoolhouse people were. Not yet.

Quoth the Times:

He was shocked when a school official immediately informed him the school would hold him accountable for all of it — the whole tuition, a commitment he had made when he signed the contract back in February.


David and Michelle were consumed with angst and tore their hair and probably said some regrettable things to school officials. But a contract is a contract, and like Fannie Mae and Sallie Mae and all those other sweetly named money eaters, the school did not budge. Schools, the Times tells us today, "do not relish searching for replacement students just when half their application pool is heading for the beach." So, ultimately, the Benders ended up paying $20,000 to a school their child was not going to. Michelle wrote a check for the last installment last week, the Times says, and as she did so, tears rolled down her cheeks.

But is that where the story ends? Are Michelle and David the only victims? How else might this small act have reverberated across New York City?

Flash forward ten years: Lily is walking down the street toward her Soho apartment, which has appreciated in value and is now worth $900,000,000,000. She is the youngest-ever head of surgery at a prestigious hospital, and in her mind she is curing cancer when, suddenly, the heel of her $4,000 shoe catches on something. It's a person. A bum, of indeterminate gender. Lily looks down into its grubby face. "Who are you?" she asks, puzzled. "I'm the person that didn't get into the Little Red Schoolhouse," the bum says. "I was the next in line after you. You ruined my life. I was going to cure cancer." Then the bum dies. Lily goes into a deep depression. Cancer remains uncured.

The end.

A School That Cost $20,000 Not to Go To [NYT]