The Dalton parent is not supposed to be on the wrong side of a savage inequality. She is supposed to care about savage inequalities; she is supposed to murmur sympathetically about savage inequalities while scanning the news, her gentle concern muffled by the jet-engine roar of her morning blowout. But she isn’t supposed to fall victim to one.
In early October, stern emails began arriving in Best’s inbox. A group of 20 physicians with children at the school wrote that they were “frustrated and confused and better hope to understand the school’s thought processes behind the virtual model it has adopted.” This was not a group with a high tolerance for frustration. “Please tell us what are the criteria for re-opening fully in person,” they wrote. And they dropped heavy artillery: “From our understanding, several of our peer schools are not just surviving but thriving.”
Shortly after the physicians weighed in, more than 70 parents with children at the lower school signed a petition asking for the school to open. “Our children are sad, confused and isolated,” they wrote, as though describing the charges of a Victorian orphanage. They were questioning why “everyone around them gets to go to school when they do not.”
Parents at elite private schools sometimes grumble about taking nothing from public schools yet having to support them via their tax dollars. But the reverse proposition is a more compelling argument. Why should public-school parents—why should anyone—be expected to support private schools? Exeter has 1,100 students and a $1.3 billion endowment. Andover, which has 1,150 students, is on track to take in $400 million in its current capital campaign. And all of this cash, glorious cash, comes pouring into the countinghouse 100 percent tax-free.