Sunday, September 30, 2007

In Tom Freston's Case, Private School+ Public Money = A Big Mess

The former CEO of Viacom, Tom Freston, has a son with learning disabilities. Because of this, his son attends an elite special-needs private school in Manhattan called Stephen Gaynor. Of course, New York City private school tuition can cost more than the average American family rakes in per year, but with Freston's multimillionaire status, tens of thousands of dollars don't really matter! Right? Apparently not.

Freston has brought a lawsuit against the NYC Department of Education, claiming that it is their job to pay for his son's schooling, regardless of the fact that Stephen Gaynor is most definitely not a public school and the Department of Ed is only supposed to pay private school tuition for a student with learning disabilities if it is found that public schools would not provide a sufficient education for said student. Or that the DOE told Freston that a public school called the Lower Laboratory School for Gifted Education would be adequate for his son to attend. Or that Freston's son has never attended public school. Or that I could name 101 other things the money the DOE has spent so far on this child's private school education could be spent on. Things that would benefit the public school students of this city.

Parents with special needs children who live nowhere near any good public special needs schools and need money to send them to private facilities so that they can get the best education possible. I would like to put in Tom Freston's presence one of NYC's many public school students who try to learn five days a week in a place where textbooks, desks, science labs, and teachers who care are scarce, and see if he could look this student in the eye and say he feels that he honestly deserves the city's money.

The sad part is, he probably could. Freston made a choice when he decided to send his child to a pricey private school, and that choice should not have to come at the expense of suffering public school students.

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