Rahm Emmanuel, the Mayor of Chicago and until recently President Obama’s White House Chief of Staff, made news this week when he decided to enroll his three children into the elite, private University of Chicago Lab Schools. This action disturbed many public school advocates who have become used to the candidates that they’ve showered with campaign contributions continually choosing to send their kids to private schools.
Obama also sent his kids to the University of Chicago Lab Schools while he was in Chicago. When he moved to Washington, D.C., Obama enrolled his daughters in the prestigious Sidwell Friends School, the same private school that Bill Clinton sent his daughter Chelsea to. Al Gore, Clinton’s Vice President, sent his kids to an equally prestigious private school, St. Albans, the same school that Gore himself attended, as well as John Kerry and two of George W. Bush’s brothers.
It isn’t only White House level politicians who send their kids to private schools. In 2009, the Heritage Foundation found that 38 percent of the members of the 111th Congress have sent their children to a private school at one time or another. And while it may not surprise many that Republicans are sending their kids to private schools, it may surprise many to find that 40 percent of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Members have sent their children to private school, as well as 35 percent of the Congressional Black Caucus and 31 percent of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. These numbers dwarf the 12 percent of all families who send their kids to private schools according to the 2000 census.
Public school advocates and the teacher’s union may not like that so many politicians turn their back on public schools when it comes to their own children, but they hardly have ground to stand on when so many of the public school teachers are also sending their kids to private schools. According to a Thomas B. Fordham Institute study, more than 1 in 5 public school teachers send their children to private schools. 44 percent of Philadelphia public school teachers send their kids to private schools. In Cincinnati it is 41 percent, Chicago 39 percent, Baltimore 35 percent, and in New York City it is 33 percent.
There’s a reason why politicians and teachers don’t put their kids into the public school system – they know as well as anyone else does what a failure the public school system is in America. While they will argue for and push legislation to increase public funding for schools and limit education freedom for others, they will do what is in the best interest of their children and free their children from the public school prison that so many others are consigned to. When it comes to their children, they are no longer politicians or teachers, they are parents. As Rahm said, “[m]y children get me as a parent, not as the mayor.”