When I was growing up, children were expected to get good grades in school because it showed they had a love of learning and were dedicated to being a proper part of society; however, that didn’t mean some Lincoln, Nebraska children with smart parents were not paid $200 USD for an “A” grade, $175 for a “B” and so on along a sliding scale in 1980’s dollars.

Getting good grades was an industry in those families because good
grades meant better choices in university attendance and there were
some students who could pull a thousand dollars a semester by acing all
“A” grades on their report cards.

I know some parents today — who are not rich, but who still pay their
kids $750 USD for every “A” earned — and those parents excuse the
payoffs by claiming “the job of their children is to attend school” and
to do well in any job requires an equal exchange of equity for sweat.
Is it proper to inspire a child lacking “a love of learning” by paying
them to do well in school?
Is it smart for parents and cities to monetize schooling in exchange
for good grades and better behavior?

Many cities in the urban core believe there is a big benefit in making
“getting good grades” a business skill that children must learn, and
exploit, early in their lives if they ever hope to break the cycle of
In New York City
— as part of a wider “antipoverty initiative” which will also include
other privately donated cash payments — entire families can benefit by
becoming paid behavior members of society:

New York City students could earn as much as $500 a year
for doing well on standardized tests and showing up for class in a new
program to begin this fall, city officials announced yesterday.
The incentive programs are expected to attract more than 2,500 families
in Harlem; Brownsville and East New York in Brooklyn; and the Morris
Heights and East Tremont sections of the Bronx, she said.

Cash incentives for adults will include $150 a month for keeping a
full-time job and $50 a month for having health insurance. Families
will also receive as much as $50 per month per child for high
attendance rates in school, as well as $25 for attending parent-teacher
Under his plan, fourth-grade students will receive up to $25 for a
perfect score on each of 10 standardized tests throughout the year.
Seventh-grade students will be able to earn twice as much — $50 per
test, for a total of up to $500. Fourth graders will receive $5 just
for taking the test, and seventh graders will get $10.

Smaller cities like Tuscon, Arizona are also getting into the “paying families to play” game in their own privately subsidized programs:

Local high school students will soon be cashing in for
hitting the books. A new pilot program promises to pay them to stay in
school. More than 20,000 Arizona teens dropped out of the class of
To fight the problem, 75 students from low income families at Amphi
High and 100 from Rincon high were picked for the new program.
The students will get $25 a week as an incentive to stay in school.

Are these student payment programs appropriate programs for cities to create?
Are cities coercing proper classroom and schoolyard behavior with bribes?
Have you, or anyone you know, ever paid for — or received — “monetary enhancements” for getting better grades?


  1. “Have you, or anyone you know, ever paid for — or received — “monetary enhancements” for getting better grades?”
    Yes, I have. My family paid me for high marks. Since school completely bored me, it provided a needed incentive for actually studying.
    In today’s world I’d say that compensation for grades – if approached as a straight transaction of work for pay – is a good working model. Forget “the love of learning” and concentrate on “what’s it worth to me”, you’ll reach a broader audience!
    Sad but probably true.

  2. jonolan!
    Thanks for the interesting comment and there was a period, too, when I was paid to get my grades up because I felt my high school experience was a prison from which there was no escape.
    I delivered on the grades, but was never paid — that was sort of a common changing of the goal-posts at the last second in my family — so I just went back to doing time and biding my fury. 😀

  3. jonolan!
    Oh, we had contracts and expectations and all that as well — but they could always be broken and amended by the Powers That Be — but never by those who were expected to perform.
    It was pretty rotten because no deal was solid.
    No promise held any promises.

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