But not an option for many parents
The news came out yesterday, and no surprise here, the Obama girls will be going to a private school in Washington D.C.
Obamas chose private school for daughters
WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama and his wife have chosen Sidwell Friends School for their two daughters, opting for a private institution that another White House child, Chelsea Clinton, attended a decade ago.
“A number of great schools were considered. In the end, the Obamas selected the school that was the best fit for what their daughters need right now,” said Katie McCormick Lelyveld, a spokeswoman for Michelle Obama.
That makes all the sense in the world, given the media and security issues that surround the children of Presidents. It would have made no sense at all, even if D.C. schools were decent schools, to send the kids of the President to a public school. I don't criticize or begrudge the Obama's the opportunity to send their kids to a private school, as they did in Chicago before he was elected President.
Where my grumbling comes in is the double standard. The Obama's can afford to send their children to a nice private school instead of the problem riddled D.C. public schools. But most parents in the District cannot, and like the parents of children in most large cities they are faced with a no-win choice of sending their kids to failing schools full of violence or moving to the suburbs where the cost of living goes up. To send your kids to private schools in America means paying double: paying taxes to support public schools whether or not you have kids or if your kids attend that public school plus paying tuition at the private school. If you homeschool your kids, you still pay those taxes and get no real benefit to your own children. Americans are forced to subsidize failure. It is like being made to pay for repairs to a junker car that you don't own and don't drive but you still need to pay to keep it sputtering along on the road for someone else. The public school will never get better when the vast majority of parents have little choice but to send their kids to them (or homeschool them, which is something that many parents have been falsely convinced is beyond them). Like any organization, there is no compelling reason for public schools to improve. Only when we have real choice will the education system in America get better. Money isn't the answer. If you waste a billion dollars, wasting two billion isn't going to make things better, just more expensive. Competition will force schools to improve or to shut down in favor of other options.
It is great that the Obama's had the choice and made the right one for their kids. What would be even better is if he took steps to afford the same choices to regular Americans to determine where their education dollars go: public, private or home school. Unfortunately, with Obama beholden to the unions including the NEA, that sort of politically courageous and costly decision seems pretty unlikely.