Public school teachers in urban areas are far more likely than city residents in general to send their children to private schools, according to a new analysis of 2000 Census data by researchers led by Denis P. Doyle, who previously analyzed 1980 and 1990 Census data.
While just 12.2 percent of U.S. families send their children to private schools, that figure rises to 17.5 percent among urban families in general and to 21.5 percent among urban public school teachers, almost twice the national average.
The difference in the choices made by public school teachers and the general public were especially striking in America’s largest cities, where public schools are often the most troubled. For example, in the New York City area, 32.5 percent of public school teachers send their children to private schools, compared to 22.7 percent of the general public. In Chicago, 38.7 percent of public school teachers, versus 22.6 percent of the general public, send their children to private schools. In Los Angeles, private schools are chosen by 24.5 percent of public school teachers and 15.7 percent of the public.
Also noteworthy are the differences in cities where school choice programs have seen their greatest successes. In Milwaukee, for instance, home of the nation’s oldest publicly funded voucher program, 29.4 percent of public school teachers send their children to private schools, versus 23.4 percent of the general public.
In Washington, DC, home of the nation’s newest publicly funded voucher program, 26.8 percent of public school teachers send their children to private schools, versus 19.8 percent of the public. One of the revelations that helped pass the DC voucher legislation was the disclosure in the news media that the politicians opposing school choice in that city did not enroll their own children in District of Columbia public schools.
“We can assume that no one knows the condition and quality of public schools better than teachers who work in them every day,” note the authors of the new study. “If these teachers are more likely than the general public–which may not have nearly as much information or expertise in these matters–to send their own daughters and sons to the public schools in which they teach, it is a strong vote of confidence in those schools.”
However, if public school teachers choose not to send their own children to the public schools in which they teach, “then we might reasonably conclude that those in the best position to know are signaling a strong ‘sell’ about public education in their communities,” contend the researchers in the September 2004 study,”Where Do Public School Teachers Send Their Kids to School?” issued by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.
In San Francisco, outspoken school choice opponent Jill Wynns, a school board commissioner, dismissed any effort to draw conclusions about the quality of public schools from the data. Wynns suggested many public school educators might choose a private school because of religious beliefs.
Wynns acknowledged her oldest son attended a private school. She denied any conflict between her public stance and her own actions, saying her son had been recruited to attend a private school through a summer program, with the small school having advantages for him.
“It was a choice I let him make; he created the opportunity,” she told the San Francisco Examiner.
The Fordham study makes clear that–in the absence of publicly funded school choice–the ability to take advantage of such an “opportunity” is a function of income. For example, only 10.3 percent of families with incomes less than $42,000 choose a private school for their children, compared to 35.6 percent of families with incomes exceeding $84,000.
“We support a teacher’s right to choose a private school,” school choice advocate Howard Fuller told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We simply ask them to support the same freedom for low-income families.”
The authors note there has been little change in the data on this subject over the past 20 years. Doyle, the study’s lead author, is cofounder of SchoolNet, Inc., a Web-based school improvement company. His coauthors are economist Brian Diepold and SchoolNet academic specialist David DeSchryver, who is also managing editor of The Doyle Report.
Financial support for the study was provided by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute; the American Education Reform Council, formerly based in Milwaukee and now part of the Arizona-based Alliance for School Choice; and California Parents for Educational Choice.
Alan Bonsteel, M.D. ([email protected]) is president of California Parents for Educational Choice, which has a Web site at http://www.cpeconline.org.
For more information …
The September 2004 report from the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, “Where Do Public School Teachers Send Their Kids to School?” by Denis P. Doyle, Brian Diepold, and David A. DeSchryver, is available online at http://www.edexcellence.net/doc/Fwd-1.1.pdf.