The Influence of Affluence

January 1, 2020

Critics say that while 504 plans may be legitimate, it is not more likely that students with more affluent parents would have a greater need for the plans. 

Because of this new discovery of 504s being used in a higher dosage at schools in richer districts, they’ve been sometimes ridiculed as being used to give those already with an upper hand due to wealth yet another advantage over those less fortunate than them.

The study from the Times brought the disparities of districts across the country into view. The paper reported that at high schools in districts in the top 1 percent of parent income 5.8 percent of students held a 504, compared to the national average of 2.7 percent.

An analysis by the Mirada of data from local districts and the U.S. Department of Education, showed that individual schools within the San Juan Unified School District and in the Sacramento area follow that trend.

Many parents of those who have 504s have time to look into methods to gain the knowledge and find resources to get their students ahead. These methods include having the help from private college counselors and private therapists who may push for accommodations.

Rio counselor Heather Jensen said that 504 plans may originate from parents who recognize that their child is struggling or not meeting educational expectations and who seek professional help. Lower income families may lack to time, money or knowledge to act in the same way.

“Even having the money to pay for a therapist outside, most therapists will bring up a 504 , so it again comes back to the money,” Jensen said. “The people who don’t have the money to go to doctors and they aren’t focused enough to bring up a plan like this, (for them) it’s more of an in and out interaction.”

Less well-off parents may also want to avoid perceived stigma of a learning disability designation, while better off parents recognize the advantage. 

“These rich parents are sadly like, take the title it’s going to boost you up, but other parents feel like this kind of title is going to stick to you and colleges won’t like it,” said Jensen. “And the richer group don’t ever want the college to know they have a 504, but they want it ahead of time for testing and other things of that nature.”

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