The Scripps National Spelling Bee has officially gone corporate.
With the headlines from the "largest ever college admissions scandal" starting to fade, a new type of "Pay to Play" in the field of education is hitting the news: The Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Contestants for the spelling bee used to need to have won a regional championship in order to qualify for the "main event". Now, the spelling bee has changed to a new model: pony up the cash, and we'll let you compete even if can't spell c-r-o-n-y-i-s-m.
In fact, 2018's winner, 14-year-old Karthik Nemmani, was part of a group of kids who lost at regionals but whose parents agreed to pay an entry fee of $750 - on top of paying for their family’s travel and lodging.
The price to play moved from $750 last year to $1500 this year. According to the Wall Street Journal, this year’s spelling bee is the second that includes a pay-to-play option for kids who misspelled a word at the regional spelling bee and didn’t qualify for the finals. More than half of the 562 entrants paid to get into the Spelling Bee this year.
Now, any wealthy family can have their child enter into the competition, regardless of their skill level. The child will obviously need to be a serious competitor in order to enter, but taking out the hierarchy of winning a regional competition is something that has struck a nerve with some parents and educators, including Helaine Olen at the Washington Post, who wrote:
...suggesting that parents pull out their wallets and pay up isn’t exactly an equitable way to solve this sort of problem either. All that does is create yet another unfairness. It allows the parents with means the opportunity to buy their child’s way out of a dilemma, while leaving others who are less well-off out of luck. Surely the Scripps National Spelling Bee — and the rest of us — can do better than that.