Greater Greater Washington

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Public officials choosing private schools: is it our business?

Several members of the DC Council don't send their kids to public schools. Should voters care, or is it a private matter? These important private choices of public officials do tell us something about the beliefs of our elected leaders, but we shouldn't read too much into them.


Gonzaga College High School, where one of Jack Evans' kids goes. Photo by methTICALman on Flickr.

The Washington Examiner recently pointed out that Councilmembers Vincent Orange and Jack Evans send their kids to private schools.

Councilmember Phil Mendelson and Chairman Kwame Brown both send their kids to a DCPS school, Eaton Elementary, but it's a short walk for Mendelson and a 9-mile drive for Brown, who is "out of boundary." Harry Thomas, Jr. sends one child to private school and two to a public charter school.

Should we care?

As families lock in their school enrollment choices for the coming fall, education writers perennially "investigate" public officials' choices of schools for their children, while public school defenders and detractors have at it. A recurring backlash to these stories asks whether any of this matters.

Is it an existential test of our leaders' faith in public education? Is it a sign of the economic gaps between our leaders, who have choices and money for tuition and transportation, and the people they serve? Or is it a private issue about each child's unique needs?

The question comes up when we elect a president with school-aged children. Perhaps the president's children have special security concerns, and most don't expect the First Family to be "regular people." But we see articles about where lawmakers send their kids, like in Texas and even the U.S. Education Secretary. Here in DC, many expect their councilmembers to reflect their constituents.

The Examiner's listing of the school each councilmember's family chose for their childrenprivate or public, charter or DCPS, out-of-boundary or a neighborhood schoolsuggests an implicit hierarchy of "common man" virtue, with a private school being the most elitist, and a neighborhood school, preferably one with low proficiency rates (the Examiner lists these), being the most virtuous.

Where public officials send their children to school may tell us something about their beliefs, but further investigation often leads people to ask intrusive questions about children's needs and those questions should not be public matters. If CM Thomas has a child who wants more time in a baseball pitching rotation or had a preference for language immersion, is that important for us to know? What if his child were autistic or were being bullied?

Former Mayor Adrian Fenty and former Chancellor Michelle Rhee were each called out for sending their children to out-of-boundary DCPS schools, Lafayette ES and Oyster-Adams Bilingual ES, respectively. Was there any inconsistency between their public policies and private choices? In this case, not at all. In fact, exercising choice within the public school system is probably a good example to set, as long as they did not have any unfair advantages.

If they apply like anyone else and play by the rules, then they have a private duty to find the best school for their children, even while they work publicly to improve all schools for all children. If every parent tried to enroll their children in Lafayette or Oyster, then it would provide a useful signal that those schools may need to be expanded, or that those schools' successful programs be replicated elsewhere.

If you want to be judgmental, the sharpest dividing line is between the public and private sectors. The public sector, which includes out-of-boundary and charter schools, is qualitatively distinct from the private sector. It is subject to stricter regulation and oversight. There is no tuition, and every child, regardless of family income, has the same right to attend, with applicants admitted by random drawing where demand exceeds supply.

Finally, transportation is an important factor in school choice that is rarely discussed in education debates. A neighborhood school is usually a walkable school. The farther parents send their kids, the more time is spent in transit, and more cars and buses crowd the roads.

But commutes to school might not be such a bad thing, even in a city like DC that aspires to good urbanism. The availability of school choice means that the choice of a school and the choice of a neighborhood do not have to be linked. This leaves greater possibilities for racial and social integration.

For example, the chairman of the city council can live east of the Anacostia River and still send his kids to schools in a more affluent part of town. Affluent residents of upper Northwest can send their children to an innovative charter school that is located in a transitional or poor neighborhood in Northeast. A blighted neighborhood can be more a attractive place for homeowners to invest if they have more school options than the one in the neighborhood.

Breaking the link between housing and schooling is one way to reduce segregation in housing, schooling, or both. Now to complete this utopian picture maybe Chairman Brown can leave the SUV at home and show his kids how to ride transit to school.

Steven Glazerman is an economist who studies education policy and specializes in teacher labor markets. He has lived in the DC area off and on since 1987 and settled in the U Street neighborhood in 2001. He is a co-founder of Washington Yu Ying public charter school and is a Senior Fellow at Mathematica Policy Research, but any of his views expressed here are his own and do not represent Yu Ying or Mathematica. 

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We should care. They should get the same treatment at their constituents, with no special perks. If the council member supports public schools he or she should send their kids to the public schools in their district. If they think that the schools are bad, they can do what others do and send their kids to a private school.

by SJE on Jun 13, 2011 12:44 pm • linkreport

I am not sure that is true. It isn't just a matter of whether a school is "good" or "bad", but if the school is, in the opinion of the parents, the best fit/option for their child or children. Education is not a one-size-fits-all discussion. Schools are different, kids are different, and learning styles are different.

Yes, in a perfect world, public schools can be all things to all people, but alas, this is not a perfect world.

Recall that when the Fenty's sent their children to Lafayette, there were catcalls because of suspected "string pulling". It was a no-win for those kids unless they attended their in-boundary school.

What do I want in my Councilmember? I want them to have proper oversight to ensure that taxpayer money being spent on education is well spent, to the discretion of Executive branch, which now has authority over that budget line-item. I really do not think it should be a litmus test that a Councilmember (or president) send their children to the local neighborhood public school. Parochial, Independent, Charter, Magnets all come into play. These choices should not be a deciding factor for the suitability for public service.

by Andrew on Jun 13, 2011 12:55 pm • linkreport

it just shows that they dont trust the public schools in DC to give their kids the proper education, they should be some sort of requirement for educating their kids

by Jerome on Jun 13, 2011 12:58 pm • linkreport

I would only see it as an issue if an official is being hypocritical about it. Its not just education that could come into play but also values (i.e. sending your kids a to parochial school) I also fail to see how a law that would require CM's children would light the necessary fires that people seem to think it would o get more action on school reform.

by Canaan on Jun 13, 2011 1:28 pm • linkreport

I will not involve myself in the parental decisions of the politicians I elect. I expect the same in return.

by greent on Jun 13, 2011 1:29 pm • linkreport

Michelle Rhee's kids are in-boundary for Oyster. Her ex-husband, Kevin Huffman, lives on Woodley Place within the Oyster boundary (though he just took a job in Tennessee, they may have already moved)

by Urbanette on Jun 13, 2011 1:32 pm • linkreport

There are a number of reasons to send children to private schools, from special education needs, desire for religious education, even athletic opportunities. A parent with the means who wishes to provide any of those things to their child should not be held politically accountable for their decision, and it does not mean that they do not have a vested interest in the public schools.

Should a council member without school-aged children be held to a different standard?

by Dave Murphy on Jun 13, 2011 1:39 pm • linkreport

It is not our business in itself. It is a sign that DC schools suck. But that's no news. It is also proof that the DC Council is incapable of delivering decent education to its residents. That should get them voted out of office. The fact that that does not happens, shows that DC voters don't care.

by Jasper on Jun 13, 2011 1:42 pm • linkreport

1. We should not care whether elected officials send their kids to private or public school, and I am constantly astounded how often this comes up in local politics. If you want to send your kid to a 30K a year private school, good for you.
MD or VA officials never have to endure this crap, and its made worse by the fact that DCPS is in fact, the absolute worst public school system in the nation. Of course parents don't want to send their kids to public school here and to expect a parent to destroy their kids future by making them a campaign poster is just completly asinine.

2. We SHOULD care whether or not public officals are granted variances and special dispensation that allows them to send their kid to a highly selected "out of boundary" public school.

by freely on Jun 13, 2011 1:47 pm • linkreport

This is more of an access to resources/class issue than not. I do believe the President's kids should attend private school and maybe other high-level administration officials who require Secret Service protection.

I also believe that councilmembers should send their kids to public schools. In a sense, it actually is hyprocritical. It reminds me of the age-old enlistment debate. Sure there are many officials who vote to send our kids into war, just not their own.

Or more recently, the "buy american" debate.

by HogWash on Jun 13, 2011 1:48 pm • linkreport

@urbanette Thanks for catching my mistake about Chancellor Rhee being in-boundary for Oyster-Adams.

by Steven Glazerman on Jun 13, 2011 1:48 pm • linkreport

Since most residents send their kids to public school and not private, it just shows that the elected officials are grossly out of touch with their constituents, who they're supposed to represent.

How can we take any candidate seriously on education when they clearly have no stake in improving the system?

by John M on Jun 13, 2011 1:51 pm • linkreport

Of course parents don't want to send their kids to public school here and to expect a parent to destroy their kids future by making them a campaign poster is just completly asinine.

The distinction here is for those whom WE elect. If you "choose" to run for office, then you should consider at the time, whether said school district will destroy your child's future. Personally, I've yet to meet a parent whose children attend public schools (even those that dont' perform well) and didn't supplement their child's education.

by HogWash on Jun 13, 2011 1:51 pm • linkreport

Couple things:

-As pointed out, Rhee's kids lived with her ex, who was in boundary to Oyster. I don't remember that being a controversy (the controversy was when Rhee fired the principal, which seemed to reflect a divide between the Anglo and Hispanic families)
-People were less angry at Fenty for wanting to send his kids to Lafayette than they were for the fact that he didn't go through the lottery to place them there. Rhee basically admitted that she used her authority to place them there.
-It's not true to say the out of boundary lottery leads to kids being admitted "by random drawing". Schools with high demand tend to limit the spots that get filled by the lottery in the spring. They tend to draw a lot of kids off the waitlist. BUT, unlike the initial lottery, the waitlist is administered by each individual school. There are no controls on whether the slots are being filled in order from the waiting list. Maybe they are going in order, but there is no oversight to ensure it.
-Huh, so Jack Evans is sending his son to Maret just one year after the Jellef field was handed over to Maret for ten years. Surely there was no quid-pro-quo, right?

by TM on Jun 13, 2011 1:57 pm • linkreport

Also, wouldn't you expect a newspaper that covers city politics to be able to get the elected officials' title right? It's Councilmembers, not Councilmen. I know the gender unspecificity must really grate the Examiner, but tough.

by TM on Jun 13, 2011 2:00 pm • linkreport

Mendelson was on the school board. He should be sending his kids to DCPS. I'm not surprised about Orange or Evans who are basically corporate tools.

by Rich on Jun 13, 2011 2:00 pm • linkreport

This is not exclusive to the District.

Council members can work to strengthen DCPS while sending their kids to whichever school works for their family. Non mutually exclusive activities.

If the question is just: is it our business?; then the answer is yes. If the question is: should there me anything done to stop this practice?; no.

by Tim on Jun 13, 2011 2:08 pm • linkreport

@Hogwash,

So let me get this straight. If someone decides to run for a council seat, ostensibly to improve the city as a whole (althoguh the current crop is simply out for theirs), then they should have to forcibly throw their childs future away on principle? They should take the job only if they are willing to give their child a woefully substandard education? Are you joking?

Even with unlimited resources and unlimited decision making authority, it would take the worlds most qualifed schools chancellor a decade or more to remake DCPS, or even bring it up to par with our neighboring jurisdictions. You can't simply change it overnight.

Expecting someone to throw their kids entire pre-college education, and their entire careers by extension, down the toilet to make a point is simply childish and isn't worth merit.

As I said above, if you decide to send yoru kdis to public school, but have to pull strings to get them to the school of your choice, then fine...you deserve all the ridicule heaped on you. Otherwise, its none of anyone elses business.

by freely on Jun 13, 2011 2:08 pm • linkreport

I think if you choose to be a public servant, you shouldn't be scared of having your kids educated with the public, e.g. in a public school. I think if all the councilmembers' children attended their in-boundary schools, the Council would extra hard to make sure that those schools, at least, were up to par. I think the President's children should be in public school as well. If I recall, Jimmy Carter's daughter went to public school when he was President. Anything else smacks of elitism. I don't even like the term "First Family", sounds to much like Royal Family. They're a family like any other American family. If the Secret Service could figure out how to protect Carter's kid, they can figure out how to protect anyone else's.

by alan page on Jun 13, 2011 2:20 pm • linkreport

@ freely
I smell something dirty here. Why in hell would you assume that sending a kid to DCPS is akin to destroying their future? Perhaps you are new to town and are repeating stereotypes (I don't think this is it), or perhaps you are just an uninformed rabble rouser who has never been to a DC Public School as a student or a parent. Let me set the record straight for you. I went to DCPS for 13 years, K-12, and surely my parents were not destroying my life nor were my classmates having their lives destroyed by parental malice.
Sure, a private school is probably marginally safer, likely has smaller classes, and maybe you even feel good because they call you and ask for a donation twice a year. As posters above have said, good for you if you have the resources to desire to go to private school. Do I necessarily agree with it strictly because it isn't public school, not at all. But to suppose that all of us that chose to go to public school for one reason or another are damned to our terrible education is a crock.
I guess my entire pre-college education, university, and career has been ruined by my parents selfish desire to send me to public school. But alas, I graduated from a pretty excellent university and currently have a pretty excellent career in front of me. Maybe if I had gone to Sidwell or GDS I'd already be the president or something. Oh well.

by DCPS on Jun 13, 2011 2:27 pm • linkreport

I think it's fair to ding politicians for keeping their kids out of public schools (whether DCPS or charter); but I think it's ridiculous to ding them for sending their kid to an out-of-boundary school. That's the rule, not the exception in DC--and there's absolutely nothing wrong with it.

by oboe on Jun 13, 2011 2:30 pm • linkreport

then they should have to forcibly throw their childs future away on principle?

If sending a child to DCPS means "throwing his or her future away," the city government has utterly failed at one of its basic goals, and its leaders should be on the hook for that.

So, yes. Just like the Metro board members who do not actually ride Metro, DC Councilmembers should be stakeholders in the services provided to their constituents.

by andrew on Jun 13, 2011 2:31 pm • linkreport

Also, the vast majority of DC residents do not have the option of sending their children to private schools. Not sure how that comparison can even be made with a straight face.

by andrew on Jun 13, 2011 2:32 pm • linkreport

@Alan Page,

So I guess people who work for NHTSA should be mandated to have their kids drive the most dangerous accident prone vehicles made on the planet then? I mean, jeez...it would be hypocritical for the person charged with keeping all vehicles safe to allow their kid to drive a safe car.

Or all employees of the FDA should be forced to feed meat from the worst performing , ecoli filled slaughterhouses in the nation to their kids because well, you know anyone who dared get a job with the FDA is just being a hypocrite otherwise.

I could go on all day, but I think the sheer hilarity of your request has been proven.

by freely on Jun 13, 2011 2:33 pm • linkreport

It is not our business in itself. It is a sign that DC schools suck.

Not sure how the controversy that DC politicians are accused of pulling strings to get their kids into the most desirable DCPS schools is "a sign that DC schools suck." Surely it's a sign that the quality of DCPS schools is quite variable, no?

by oboe on Jun 13, 2011 2:34 pm • linkreport

"the city government has utterly failed at one of its basic goals, and its leaders should be on the hook for that"

In the even you haven't noticed, DCPS is already the worst system in America.

Not sure what weird world you live in where you punish the person and their child for a system they had zero imput into making.

Why should someone be punished for a system that was destroyed decades before they even took the job?

by freely on Jun 13, 2011 2:36 pm • linkreport

@alan page

While Amy Carter attended DCPS she was educated during non-school hours elsewhere. That was a sham pulled by the Carter Administration to the incredible detriment of all involved.

by Anon on Jun 13, 2011 2:43 pm • linkreport

To my mind the only issue is possible abuse of power. If an official decides to send his/her children to a private school or wins the out-of-boundary lottery that's fine. However if an official takes advantage of the power and connections of his/her office to get special treatment that is just another form of corruption.

by Jacob on Jun 13, 2011 3:07 pm • linkreport

@Anon: While Amy Carter attended DCPS she was educated during non-school hours elsewhere. That was a sham pulled by the Carter Administration to the incredible detriment of all involved.

Say what now?

by Miriam on Jun 13, 2011 3:09 pm • linkreport

@Freely, I don't think that any parent with a proactive interest in their child's education, is setting their child up for failure by enrolling them in public schools. I say this as a southern boy whose district has never ranked in the top tier of US public schools - even today. Yet, at the 100% black school, our top 10 went on to Yale, Duke, Brown, UPENN et. al.

If the only answer to "not" throwing your child's education out the window IS private schools, then yes, we have a problem. A huge one because most US college graduates attended public schools.

Knowing parents of private school kids, the school itself is NOT the determinent as to how successful the kids are. Yet, it's the parental commitment that supplements the private school education. This same committment has been fostered among parents of "public school" kids throughout the US and its History.

DCPS has graduated top tier students and will continue to. This is an elitist argument gone rogue.

by HogWash on Jun 13, 2011 3:26 pm • linkreport

@freely: Adrian Fenty, is that you?

Alan Page is on the money. Only if pols have a vested interest int he system will they do anything to improve it. The commenters on here really are elitists, and this post proves it beyond a shadow of a doubt.

by copperreddc on Jun 13, 2011 3:46 pm • linkreport

It seems to me to be about vested interests.

Just because you have a vested interest in some entity, public schools, public transportation, police services doesn't mean you will be a better elected official. However, if you don't have a vested interest, mistakes made don't affect you quite as much.

I live in DC and don't want a DC Mayor who lives in Maryland because they don't have a significant vested interest.

As far as schools go, if you don't have a vested interest you may not be as concerned or you may accept a longer timetable for improvements.

Either way if you don't send you school aged kids to a DC school you ought to have the guts to say why because public schools are related to your job as a public official with oversight.

by LeeinDC on Jun 13, 2011 3:53 pm • linkreport

I don't care where HTJ (my councilmember) sends his kids to school. I do care that he claims to support school reform but is the featured speaker at each and every union rally against it.

by Brooklander on Jun 13, 2011 3:58 pm • linkreport

Smacks of elitism? Why?

Name me any job where the children of the people doing said job are required to act as representatives of their parents.

If a politician in DC stood up and said "I do not enroll my children in DCPS because I find the schools to be less than I want for my child" they would never get re-elected. Well, most wouldn't.

But a large % of the parents in DC say the exact thing about DCPS.

by greent on Jun 13, 2011 3:59 pm • linkreport

DCPS has graduated top tier students and will continue to.

DCPS consistently underperforms other school systems when it comes to educating students of comparable socio-economic backgrounds.

Some schools in DCPS do not even have doors and walls for their classrooms.

I would hope that elected officials who send their kids to private school would at least have a commitment to ensuring that DC public schools can deliver the same quality to their constituents that the elected officials expect from the schools they choose for their children.

by JustMe on Jun 13, 2011 4:02 pm • linkreport

@Greent Smacks of elitism? Why? ...a large % of the parents in DC say the exact thing about DCPS.

While I'm sure they do. over 90% of them are not elected officials. Why should the CEO of GM and Nissan own GM/Nissan cars? Because they're in business partly advocating that we do.

It's elitism because it's suggests that the only possible way to receiving a quality education is to attend private schools, which only a fraction of US students have the resources to do.

by HogWash on Jun 13, 2011 4:08 pm • linkreport

Alan Page is on the money. Only if pols have a vested interest int he system will they do anything to improve it. The commenters on here really are elitists, and this post proves it beyond a shadow of a doubt.

There is a "interest" in improving it: Elections. The problem with DCPS is that generally speaking, there's no consensus as to what we should be doing. So half the time, politicians who have show a track record of steady improvement get voted out because they closed the wrong school, or didn't attend the right church luncheon.

Generally speaking, DCPS is going to get better as DC's population trends more middle-class. As that happens, there'll be a smaller percentage of total DCPS students who are extremely poor.

What we have right now is a school reform debate that's characterized by the same tropes as characterized the crime debate for so long: No one cares! They could stop all the murders if they wanted to! They don't because they're all racists who hate poor people!

Poor kids deserve great schools; and poor people deserve safe streets, but the damned truth of the matter is, no one really knows how to make that happen. And anyone who says they do is lying. So instead we get conspiracy theories about how all the politicians are keeping thing shitty on purpose rather than fixing them--and becoming the most popular politician in the US since FDR.

by oboe on Jun 13, 2011 4:09 pm • linkreport

So half the time, politicians who have show a track record of steady improvement get voted out because they closed the wrong school, or didn't attend the right church luncheon.

Half the time? I assume you weren't referring to DC because I haven't seen a lot of that happening here.

What we have right now is a school reform debate that's characterized by the same tropes as characterized the crime debate for so long: No one cares! They could stop all the murders if they wanted to! They don't because they're all racists who hate poor people!

Hunh? Please expound.

by HogWash on Jun 13, 2011 4:13 pm • linkreport

Too tired--and too nice a day--to play that game today, HogWash. Heh.

by oboe on Jun 13, 2011 4:18 pm • linkreport

As HogWash demonstrates, many DC voters are actually quite happy with their DC public schools and would regard it as insulting for a politician to claim that the schools aren't good enough for him or his children. Making an active effort to improve the schools would also be regarded as similarly insulting.

Presumably for whatever reason, some members of the DC council feel that their children are better served in private or charter schools. At the same time, many members of the DC voting public feel that the public schools are doing a good job. The last thing these voters would want is for the members of the DC council to remake DC public schools into their preferred image. So why not have both sides be happy: you leave the DC council members and their kids along regarding the decisions they make for their schooling, and DC council members will leave the school system along and not interfere with DCPS's supposed ability to produce "top tier students."

by JustMe on Jun 13, 2011 4:20 pm • linkreport

" Why should the CEO of GM and Nissan own GM/Nissan cars? "

We are not talking about adults, we are talking about kids. Why do you insist a politicians children should be USED as examples?

"It's elitism because it's suggests that the only possible way to receiving a quality education is to attend private schools, which only a fraction of US students have the resources to do."

No, what it says is this parent has the fiscal means to decide where to send their child. But because we do not approve of them using their own private fiscal means for their children as we see fit, we are going to excoriate them for making a choice most any otehr DC parent would make if we had their resources.

It's not elitism. It's jealousy. And it's holding children of elected officials accountable for their parents jobs.

IF DCPS were the BEST school district in this region, would anyone care where the Councilmembers children went to school? Nope. So focus on the issue: improving the schools. The issue is not about councilmembers children.

by greent on Jun 13, 2011 4:23 pm • linkreport

As HogWash demonstrates, many DC voters are actually quite happy with their DC public schools and would regard it as insulting for a politician to claim that the schools aren't good enough for him or his children.

I have no issue with explaining my position and if you are going to speak for me, I would appreciate you hearing FROM me whatever clarification you need to take the dicussion further..or not. As it stands, you wrote what you assumed NOT what I actually said.

Additionally, please let's stop this "DC is bad that's why" crap. Politicians, around the country, send their kids to private schools, dc is not the exception to that. In fact, many people w/the means to do so...do. The question is whether it's our business and I say, yes. I didn't believe I gave my opinion with the hope that someone would agree - that it would meet GGW poster approval.

Greent, I think you need a afternoon dose of valium or something. I checked this board, no one "excoriated" a politican.

A politician "serves by example." Sure, it may not be fair but the idea that a politicians "life" is off limits has not been practiced..ever. It explains why they are criticized for the actions of their families. It explains why people are calling for the ousting of a man who sent suggestive photos online. It's why so many questioned Sarah Palin's position on issues when her daughter is a teen mother.

I don't think any rationale person would agree w/u in that believing that the only way to achieve an education is through private schools. Clearly you believe that but by the same, it's an elitist position to take.

by HogWash on Jun 13, 2011 5:13 pm • linkreport

"Greent, I think you need a afternoon dose of valium or something."

Go have a beer. You need one.

"I don't think any rationale person would agree w/u in that believing that the only way to achieve an education is through private schools. Clearly you believe that but by the same, it's an elitist position to take."

Do you EVER read what I write? I have never said this. I DID NOT SAY THIS.

Done. Out. Not playing the hogwash game.

by greent on Jun 13, 2011 5:22 pm • linkreport

It's amusing to see the argument that "public officials must utilize public schools" on this blog. This is straight out of the Conservative playbook.

As I type, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are part of the chorus using this to criticize the Obama family for sending their children to Sidwell Friends.

Which is more ethical? Sending your children to an exceptional school because you have the means, but still caring deeply about public education and spending your PROFESSIONAL life trying to make it better, or

Sending your kids to private school all the while fighting to keep your taxes low while not caring one whit about public education.

by Michael North on Jun 14, 2011 9:25 am • linkreport

Personally, I think it is a parents' responsibility to do what is best for a particular child...not to do whats looks good publicly. I have one kid in public school and one in private school. Different kids....different needs....different schools.

The risk you run is that such a requirement will deter potential qualified candidates from running. You are unecessarily limiting the pool. Seems to me that someone who has been successful professionally and has managed his/her finances well is someone we should look at for office regardless of where they send their kids to school. That is not even a factor to me.

by michaeliceman on Jun 14, 2011 9:47 am • linkreport

We absolutely should care. Parents usually do what they think is best for their children. So if a politician is saying that the public schools are great, but sending his own kids to private school, that action speaks louder than his words. I, for one, wouldn't trust that private-school parent to run my public school system.

by tom veil on Jun 14, 2011 10:26 am • linkreport

tom: Some Councilmembers don't have kids. Should the ones without kids also not be trusted?

Let's say a CM has no kids when they're elected. Then, while in office, they marry someone with school-age kids. But the kids aren't going to public school. Does the CM suddenly become less qualified for their job because of it?

Anyway, the Council really isn't running the public schools. Is a Mayor unqualified to be Mayor if he doesn't have kids in school at all?

by David Alpert on Jun 14, 2011 10:31 am • linkreport

David, the question asked was whether we think public officials choosing to send their kids to private schools is our business. Some believe yes..others no. Wheever you fall, it's still our own respective opinions and considering that there is no such requirement, nor likely will be, I'm not sure that the "what if's" are particularly appropriate here.

To me, this question is no different than the one asking whether we should require our public officials to live in the city/district/ward they represent which in many cases, I'm sure impacts the entire family (housing and education).

CM kids should be required to attend public schools at the point which they are eligible. Whether they choose to or not does not reflect a CM's ability to govern. Both Fenty and Rhee seem to have made the right choice by sending their kids to public schools. I'm not as concerned about if it's in/outboud nor if they got the hook up.

by HogWash on Jun 14, 2011 11:07 am • linkreport

So let me get this straight. You have an otherwise qualified candidate who lives in the District, works in the District, pays taxes in the District and is willing to be a public servant for the District. But he/she is not a viable qualified candidate because, for whatever personal reason, he/she feels that the kids' needs are better met at a private school? Wow. Does everyone realize how unreasonably high that standard is? Ok. Apply that to health care. Is the CM required to have all his/her health care delivered at United Medical Center because it is a publicly run hospital? Can't use Washington Hospital Center or Sibley - they are private! WOW!

by michaeliceman on Jun 14, 2011 11:11 am • linkreport

So if a politician is saying that the public schools are great, but sending his own kids to private school, that action speaks louder than his words. I, for one, wouldn't trust that private-school parent to run my public school system.

This seems logically incoherent: if a DC politician is saying that DCPS as a whole is "great", that should disqualify her from public office. Maybe only childless politicians should be trusted to run public school systems. Those with children are clearly too close to the problem to address it objectively.

by oboe on Jun 14, 2011 11:15 am • linkreport

@Michael North,

For all his scummy behavior, I always thought the charges of hypocrisy against John Edwards were laughable as well. After all, what's more hypocritical than a wealthy man who advocates for more anti-poverty measures?

Totally hypocritcal!

Much more consistent to keep your wealth and advocate grinding up the poor and fertilizing rare orchids with them.

by oboe on Jun 14, 2011 11:20 am • linkreport

if a DC politician is saying that DCPS as a whole is "great", that should disqualify her from public office
But ironically, he couldn't get elected by saying, "DCPS schools are terrible, and I'm going to work to make sure they're as good as the private school I send my kids to, because those are the standards I have." Voters would consider that insulting, to say nothing of elitist ("he thinks he's better than us!")

I politician who says that DCPS as a whole is "great" should be disqualified from public office, but saying that DCPS is great is the sort of message that voters want to hear.

by JustMe on Jun 14, 2011 11:40 am • linkreport

I politician who says that DCPS as a whole is "great" should be disqualified from public office, but saying that DCPS is great is the sort of message that voters want to hear.

I don't think saying DCPS is great should disqualify someone for office.

That said, no politician has ever said that.

Voters would consider that insulting, to say nothing of elitist ("he thinks he's better than us!")

Don't we criticize city leaders who don't use transit? Don't we say things like "xyz has nerve sitting on abc council/board" when they don't even use or understand the system?

by HogWash on Jun 14, 2011 11:50 am • linkreport

Jimmy Carter was the last president that put his child in a public school. If it was a sham and she was tutored at least his intentions were good he supported the public school. Unlike Obama who sold the District out to the republicans(voucher program). Rhee,Fenty did not want real reform or they would have consulted with the community in stead of firing teachers and talking down to community groups. Perhaps some day we will have real reform and residents will feel safe leaving their children in a safe holistic environment.

by leeshato on Jun 14, 2011 12:29 pm • linkreport

Amy Carter attended Stevens Elementary in downtown Washington, not far from the White House (she was "in boundary" for Stevens). Among other issues, the playground was exposed to traffic (on L Street, between 20th and 21st Streets, I think) so the Secret Service prohibited her from playing outside on the playground during the four years she attended that school. I remember feeling sorry for her, and wishing that President Jimmy Carter had sent her to a private school, where she would have had a more normal schooling (with an outdoor recess at least). She might have been able to thrive at a public school like Lafayette, whose playground is a little more removed from traffic. Either way, I think President Carter was trying to make a point, and used his daughter to further his views, to her detriment. Stevens is now closed--the Carters' involvement did not improve the school. To this day, I don't like politicians using their children to make any kind of point. Leave the kids out of it.

by Wendy Leibowitz on Jun 14, 2011 3:54 pm • linkreport

If one were to say a politician not sending their kids to DCPS is akin to being mayor and living in maryland, then we need to make a law saying that all council members need to have kids to be eligible for election. You know, it would be a horrible disservice to the public if the politician didn't get intelligence updates from the front line every night at the dinner table from his or her kids. The metro board argument is also ridiculous because the council member isn't going to school, the kid is.

Finally, how could you encourage somebody to run for council by saying their kid (or future kid if they don't have one yet) has to go to DCPS school? That doesn't seem like a good way to entice people to become public servants.

by James on Jun 14, 2011 7:47 pm • linkreport

I would prefer that District public officials send their children to public (including charter) schools.

I am a 1970s graduate of the DCPS, but it is a losing battle to argue with people who flatly proclaim that all District schools are terrible.

Mr. Glazerman, I'm not certain that your comment about Mr. Mendelson is current. His daughter did attend Eaton, but she probably has graduated. I don't think Mr. Mendelson lives in Cleveland Park anymore.

by District Native on Jun 15, 2011 2:57 pm • linkreport

I find it completely hypocritical for a public official that claims to be concerned about public education to not choose public education. As a teacher, I feel the same way about teachers. If I teach in a district, why wouldn't I feel comfortable placing my child there? Do I feel as if I am the only good teacher?

While I certainly understand the need for DC to offer a wider variety of choice in the enrollment of students, I believe that this has also led many neighborhood schools to decline. KBrown, for example, could easily work with other residents in his Hillcrest neighborhood and strengthen those schools by getting involved. Its the same thing my husband and neighbors are working to do in our Ward 5 neighborhood.

And for those who think I'm throwing my children's future away by enrolling them in DCPS--check back in 12, and 15 years. I'm pretty sure they'll be headed off to a great college, well prepared to succeed.

by MrsJones on Jun 21, 2011 4:41 pm • linkreport

It's this simple: Nobody is asking for private info regarding the children of certain politicians. Rather, not including the use of private body guards, if a public school is not properly equipped to safeguard the president's children, then it is not properly safeguarding any children who attend and the matter should be corrected immediately!

by Roseanne Sullivan on Jan 2, 2012 1:43 pm • linkreport

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