Back in 2015, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said he had started a school to teach his five kids, eventually expanding it as a non-profit school for some children of SpaceX employees. He said at the time that his kids’ school wasn’t “doing things I thought should be done,” so he hired away his kids’ teacher to help found the Ad Astra School. It did away with formal grade structures and put a focus on problem solving, per Musk’s direction, and he paid for all the costs involved.
Now, he’s given an initial donation to a new online, for-profit school in Los Angeles, according to an investigation by The Daily Beast. According to business filings uncovered by The Daily Beast, the Astra Nova School, which plans to open in September was incorporated by Musk associate Jared Birchall.
Astra Nova’s principal, Joshua Dahn, told The Daily Beast that Musk is not involved in managing the new venture, but confirmed his primordial role. “Elon helped with an initial donation and some basic administrative assistance to get Astra Nova started,” he wrote. “But Elon has no financial interest in the school and no kids at the school.”
Distance learning has become a new reality for a lot of parents during the coronavirus pandemic. Astra Nova is inviting “academically serious, creative, and kind students between the ages of 8 and 14” to apply, by watching this video and responding via video by July 10th. But according to The Daily Beast, tuition for the school will cost $7,500 per week for one day of online lessons, likely putting it out of reach for all but the wealthiest families. And education advocates aren’t in love with the idea, TDB found. Dean of the University of Kentucky College of Education Julian Vasquez Heilig said he wishes Musk had tried to partner with existing online education programs.
“I don’t bemoan Elon Musk doing this kind of work,” added Vasquez Heilig. “I just wish he would have chosen instead to partner with Oakland or Alum Rock, a school district that serves low income students in Silicon Valley. There are a lot of equity concerns in the STEM field and he [had] a real opportunity to make what he was doing a public good, rather than a private good only certain people can access.”
Musk and his associates haven’t commented on his involvement with the school. Go check out The Daily Beast’s full report about Astra Nova.