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Helaine Olen – Private schools for the ultra-wealthy keep getting more opulent. Is it a problem if the somewhat wealthy feel left behind?

This past weekend the Los Angeles Times published a piece about recent or planned expansions and luxury level upgrades at a number of elite private schools, many located in rather exclusive neighborhoods of the city.

Hancock Park’s Marlborough School, the paper reported, tore down a number of neighborhood homes to “add an Olympic sized aquatics center, fitness facility and expanded athletic field,” while West Hollywood’s Center for Early Education (a school so known for its power-broker parents that it has acquired the less-than-flattering moniker the Center for Early Networking) is now attempting to raise between $50 and $75 million for campus upgrades.

Before you say, “Only in L.A.” and move on, know this is not simply a West Coast phenomenon. In New York City, a combination of ambitious parent fundraising and a city bond program is also inspiring an arms race of new amenities at the city’s independent educational facilities. Consider the prestigious Brearley School. The school bought three tenements, and will be building itself a new lower school, complete with a state-of-the-art science department, auditorium, and gym.

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