Bezos education investment is no sure thing

Amazon.com was most recently in the news when it revealed its plan to open two new corporate outposts.  Far less attention was paid to Jeff Bezos’s decision to invest $2 billion for a new network of tuition-free Montessori schools for low-income children (“Montessori, long a favorite for wealthy families, struggles to expand its reach,” The Washington Post, Nov. 5).

I wish him well in his new venture.  But I think he is going to find it hard to enroll the kind of children he wants.  I say that because culture plays a greater role in parental choice than he knows.  Low-income black parents tend to favor a more structured learning environment than what Montessori offers.  That’s why so many black students are enrolled in no-excuse charter schools.

Montessori schools have long appealed to wealthy parents.  It’s hard to know why, but the evidence is there.  A 2016 study published in the Journal of Montessori Research found six in ten public Montessori schools had a lower proportion of students of color than their surrounding districts, and two-thirds had fewer poor children.

If Bezos is to succeed, he needs to reach out to low-income black parents far more vigorously than Montessori schools have in the past.  Two billion dollars is a good start, but how it is spent will largely determine its success.

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