Are the schools you control good enough for your kids?

As the Chicago Mayoral election heats up, it was only a matter of time before the candidates were questioned about where they send their own children to school. For some reason, much of the public thinks it’s bad that a candidate/politician won’t send their children to the very schools that he/she is in charge of (in a mayoral controlled city). I disagree for many reasons, and have one major caveat.

First, the safety and security of the politician’s children must be taken into consideration. Can a public school provide the additional security that would be needed for these children? If so, who’s paying for it? If public dollars are used to fund the additional security, is the money being taken away from other students? What are the repercussions on the children if major changes are forced on the school (i.e. when Michelle Rhee fired the principal of the school her daughters attend in DC).

Second, there are some very good public schools in any large city, but it’s extremely challenging to gain admission to those schools (i.e. Waiting for Superman). Imagine the uproar if a politician’s children gain enrollment into one of the most competitive magnet/charter schools. Even if the students are admitted fairly via the lottery process, the public and media will question the validity of the process.

Third, if the students are not admitted to one of the better schools, they will be placed in a less-desirable school. The majority of parents (at any income level) want their children to attend a good school. If a parent has the ability to pay for a private education for his/her children and is willing to make that choice or sacrifice, why is that bad?

Caveat, if a politician sends his/her children to private school AND says that the public schools are good, that’s a problem. Actions do speak louder than words and it is not okay to state that the public schools are good enough for other people’s children, but not your own.

Most parents want a safe environment and strong academics for their children and politicians are no exception. Until the public schools are good enough for politician’s children, it is an indication that more reform and improvements are necessary. We cannot lessen the pressure until schools are good enough that people who can afford private school CHOOSE to send their children to public school.

See a related story in today’s Chicago Tribune.


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