“I have no prejudice against private education,” Durbin declared on the Senate floor. “If I entrusted my children to it, I certainly believe in it. But the question always came up in my mind: Who should pay for it? We were prepared as a family to pay for it. It was an extra sacrifice we were prepared to bear.”
That, of course, is exactly the point. The Durbin family, like most middle- and upper-class American families, already enjoys school choice. D.C.-area families that earn enough can always more to suburban Montgomery County, Maryland or Fairfax County, Virginia, where the public-school systems are among the best in the country.
Yes, the cost of living is higher than in D.C. itself. And sure, it makes for a longer commute for working parents. But it’s a sacrifice most are willing to make and an option they can afford. That’s especially true for federal lawmakers, whose six-figure salaries ($169,300 on average) put them in the top 5 percent of American wage earners.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan knows this. “My family has given up so much so that I could have the opportunity to serve,” he told Science magazine. They decided to live in Arlington, Va. because, “I didn’t want to try to save the country’s children and our educational system and jeopardize my own children’s education.”
Saving the country’s children is indeed a big job -- but one that should begin with 1,700 kids in D.C. Lawmakers should make sure these poor families have the same educational advantages their own children so often do.