Private choice

Florida legislators often choose private schools for their own children, reports the St. Pete Times.

Nearly 40 percent of Florida lawmakers with school-age children send their kids to private schools, a rate four times as high as that for parents statewide, a St. Petersburg Times survey has found.

The rate climbs to 60 percent for lawmakers on education committees that make key decisions about K-12 policy and funding.

Democrats are more likely than Republicans to send their children to private schools.

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  1. Very interesting. I wonder what is the percentage in Washington, DC or Sacramento, California?

  2. I appreciate the political value of articles like this but I don’t think it serves to propel worthwhile changes. Politicians are too often thought of as hypocrites and liars for the evidence of hypocrisy and lying to have much of an effect on the larger, social issues.

    Yeah, you can extract the conclusion that public education must not be very good if our public servents won’t subject their children to its tender mercies but so what? Since it’s already established that our political class doesn’t live up to the standards we don’t live up to ourselves, what’s the impact of one, further verification?

    Besides, as the article points out, there are more defensible reasons for the lawmakers putting their kids into private education. For one thing, they tend to be wealthier then the rest of the population. They can afford to pay for their kids education as well as some number of other kid’s education.

    A related, and perhaps more telling, statistic is the percentage of school-age children of public school teachers who go to other education venues.

    From the Mackinac Center (caution: conservative think tank):

    Private choices also can be found in another group: public school teachers. In 1995, education analyst Denis Doyle found that Michigan public school teachers send their children to private schools at a higher rate than the nation at large. In Detroit, public school teachers are almost twice as likely to do so as city residents on average, 33 percent compared with 17 percent. In Grand Rapids, 41 percent of public teachers were choosing private schools, while the rate for the community at large was 27 percent.

    Here’s the link to the rest of the article:

  3. superdestroyer says:

    Allen, two reasons why politicians are affect by their children not being in public schools.

    1. First, such an arrangement is just poor leadership. Why are they willing to ask other people to do things with children that they are not willing to do with their own children.

    2. Second, having their children in private schools allows politicians on both the left and right to support policies that harm children. The right can spend its political capital worrying about prayer in school, the pledge of alligence, and intelligent design because it does not affect their children since they are at the science and technology schools learning about plasmids and DNA transformations. The left can spend its political capital supporting busing, diversity, denegrating Thomas Jefferson, or on mandatory voluntary services because their children are at private schools that actual read Jefferson and and are as white as a Klan meeting.

  4. Professional courtesy and tact forbid me from fisking the mention of each of those legislators in the article by name, all of whom I’ve worked with. But I can’t say I find any of this at all surprising, nor particularly unique to–or unusually prevalent in–Florida.

    It’s just that no matter what your political persuasion, pretty much everyone loves to bash Florida these days, and maybe rightly so.

  5. Supe, it’s a representative democracy. That means we can’t expect our politicians to be any better then we are because we are our politicians. So, to answer:

    1) Because we are rarely as good, just, generous, compassionate, forgiving, honest as we insist other people should be.

    2) That’s one possible interpretation. I prefer to use Occam’s Razor since he isn’t using just now: they (the politicians) feel they’ll get a better education for their kids in private schools.

    It’s worth noting that the majority of the politicians contacted had their kids in public schools although it was a smaller majority then the public in general. My guess is that if you could adjust for income much of the difference in public school-versus-private school attendance between the politicians and the public would dissappear.

  6. superdestroyer says:


    Why does every one excuse politicians/celebrities/etc by saying that they are doing it for the good of the children, yet they would rather waste the time of the children in public school by doing all they can to lower the academic levels.

    I wonder what the kids of the politicians are reading the English in High school versus what they want the blue collar kids to cover.

    I also wonder if liberals find it easier to oppose tracking and favor main streaming when their own kids are in a private school is admission requirements and no special education.

  7. Tom West says:

    It should be remembered that we don’t want the best possible education system, we want the best possible education system for the price that society is willing to pay.

    If someone else is willing to pay *more* than we are for a specific education, that doesn’t provide meaningful commentary on what we receive for our price.

    Likewise, it is in no way surprising that teachers are willing to pay more for education of their children than the general taxpayer. They probably consider education’s value to be higher than society as a whole.

    Politicians avoiding the public school system is no more suprising than politicians avoiding medicare. Neither is *supposed* to be the best system money can buy. Just the best system that the money we give it can buy…

  8. Ummm, I don’t know. If someone is willing to pay more, then the useful commentary it provides is that there are a range of values that individual parents place on the education of their children. For some parents the double-payment necessary to access private education is an acceptable price. For these parents the public education system falls short enough, in some critical regard, that the price is acceptable. Clearly, that says something about the preceived value of the public education system for these particular parents.

    The non-barking dog in this story is the parents who choose not to access private education.

    Are they all very satisfied and without complaints or reservations? How many of them are at the other extreme, teetering on the ragged edge of packing junior off to a private school? It’s hard to tell because of the all-or-nothing nature of the decision.

    The fact that people with more resources, as well as people who are closer to the system – teachers – suggests that there’s quite a bit of dissastisfaction with the public education system. That would go a long way toward explaining the continued political strength of the education alternatives movement.

  9. superdestroyer says:


    But what came first, the political class abandoning schools (in the south generally for racial reasons instead of academics) and the failure of the schools. Maybe that politicians see public school students are second class these days and thus not worth the effort of worrying about academics.

    As far as a private school as better school, much of that is probably due to residence instead of a desire for some sort of academic excellence. If the politicos live inside large cities or in heavily minority areas, then probably the private school use is a necessity but what about politicians who live in the suburbs with the good schools yet send their children to schools where their is not measurable difference from the private schools?

  10. The failure of the public schools came first. How could it be otherwise?

    Examine the other possibility. What sense does it make for a politician, any more then anyone else, to pull their kids out of good schools that someone else is paying for? You’d need one damned good reason to do so and that reason would have to apply across a geographically broad area because there isn’t anything unique about Florida. It would also have to apply across a fairly long span of time because this isn’t a recent phenomenon and across racial lines because, to the best of my knowledge, there’s no racial distinction between the parents who’ve chosen to send their kids to public schools versus those who’ve sent their kids off to private schools.

    So “white flight” doesn’t explain the phenomenon which still leaves you, supe, with an unanswered question. As for myself, I am perfectly willing to accept that it’s a combination of educational and social shortcomings that underpins the reasons for politicians (and teachers!) to send their kids to private school in disproportionately large numbers.

  11. No parent who has a choice in the matter would suffer his or her child to rot in an urban school. Almost all the teachers in my city who have school-age children live just across the border or use non-publics, charters or select publics. What’s wrong with that? Who would want teachers who are stupid or irresponsible?

    For the record, my residence was 200 feet on the good side of the tiny creek separating the city from the county. Most seriously, the atmosphere in the public schools in my city, even at the elementary level, resembles nothing so much as that of a prison. A certain level of mob rule and intimidation of the weak is tolerated in exchange for being allowed to function at all. We fear choice for a very good reason, for we know what the choices will be, having made them ourselves.


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