In this age of private funding ideologies in education, especially as it is pushed by the GOP, I felt it was important to see how a school might work successfully when privately funded. I’ve ragged on charter and private schools quite a bit, mostly because they can keep out the financially/intellectually poor and needy through their admissions procedures. In my wanderings I came across the Milton Hershey School, a privately funded boarding school in Hershey, PA.

Founded by Mr. and Mrs. Hershey in 1909, the school continues to be funded today solely by a trust valued around $7 billion. The Deed of Trust states that potential students must be from a family of low-income, limited resources, and/or social need. The school also provides medical, dental, psychological, and social work services on par with the private sector (i.e. it’s not your typical school nurse’sor guidance counselor’s office). Students live in same-sex houses on the school grounds under the care of “houseparents”: married couples with experience in childcare (I’m assuming an emphasis is put on the married part, no RAs here). The curriculum is evenly divided between job training and college prep and all students have access to extra-curricular activities like band, choir, art, and student government among other things.

The negatives associated with this kind of an organization are few and far between. The student population is already diverse and increasing in its diversity. Houseparents allow for a stability that these socially needy children may not experience at home. School runs year round for grades K-12 and the curriculum is varied and taught by specialists. They receive excellent medical care. And all of this comes at no cost to the families, everything from tuition to supplies are paid for by the trust. It sounds like a chocolatey Hogwarts for poor, non-wizard children whose moms are hooked on meth and dads are in jail. My only question for the admissions department would be, if the students who attend are mainly from Pennsylvania and the East coast, why is the percentage of African American students not higher? I guess, unlike Hogwarts, poor Black kids in Philly don’t give off magical poverty waves when they come of age to let the school know they are eligible for admission. I would be interested to know if the school recruits from public schools or if they just wait for applications to come in.

This sounds great and I’m sure these students receive a wonderful experience. However for every one MHS there are 100 parochial and private schools that only accept the best and brightest and charge accordingly, and 100 public schools with students who could use the services (statistics generalized by the author). Despite the continuing bleak outlook for American education it is good to know that organizations such as the Milton Hershey School seem to be interested in those students that will soon be left behind.

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