Recently, GQ magazine compiled its list of the 50 most powerful people in the nation’s capital. Political leaders such as Condoleezza Rice, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi topped the list.
But look who’s at number 42: Mason Lecky, the 31-year-old director of admissions at St. Albans School, an exclusive private school that members of Congress often want their sons to attend.
Why wouldn’t they? Accomplished graduates of St. Albans include Al Gore, Sen. Evan Bayh and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Besides, many lawmakers want to help their children escape Washington’s public schools.
That’s only reasonable. By some measures, D.C. public schools are the worst in the country. For example, District fourth-graders finished dead last in math on the government’s state-by-state 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Federal lawmakers turn to schools such as St. Albans because they know how bad the D.C. schools are. In a survey conducted this year by The Heritage Foundation, 37 percent of U.S. congressmen and 45 percent of senators who responded said they sent their children to private school. Nationwide only 11.5 percent of students go to private schools.
But here’s the problem: Many lawmakers seem to favor “school choice for me, not for thee.”
Since 2001 Congress has rejected several measures that would have granted parents more control of their children’s education.
During the first debate over the No Child Left Behind bill, for example, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted down an amendment that would have given scholarships to students attending low-performing or dangerous public schools. That vote was 273-155. That same year, the Senate voted 58-41 to defeat a pilot program that would have provided scholarships to low-income students.
What’s interesting is that, based on the results of a 2003 Heritage survey of where lawmakers send their children to school, both amendments would have passed if the representatives and senators who exercised school choice for their own families had voted in favor of school choice for other parents.
To be fair, lawmakers have taken small steps toward allowing school choice in D.C.
In 2004, the “D.C. Choice Incentive Act” squeaked through the House by one vote. The same proposal sailed through the Senate by a comfortable margin of 65-28, thus giving children trapped in low-performing public schools the opportunity to apply for a scholarship to attend the private school of their choice.
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