Paul Jacob

Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty took full control over his city's long suffering public schools earlier this summer. But he sends his own twin girls to a private school.

Does that make him a hypocrite? Does it make him a bad mayor?

Or, perhaps, just a good father?

Fenty is not alone. Politicians and other erstwhile members of the public school establishment demonstrate their preferences every time they choose to educate their own children outside public schools. Mayor Bloomberg of New York City sent his kids to elite private schools. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa currently enrolls his children in private institutions. A 2003 survey of members of Congress by The Heritage Foundation found that 41 percent of U.S. representatives and 46 percent of U.S. senators now send or have sent at least one of their children to a private school.

This isn't just a matter of the upper crust. A far greater percentage of public school teachers around the country — especially in urban areas such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. — send their own kids to private schools than does the general public.

Meanwhile, only 12 percent of U.S. school children are educated privately.

The first public/private schooling decision to receive national hype occured back in 1993, when President Bill and First Lady Hillary Clinton chose the exclusive Sidwell Friends School rather than a D.C. public school for their then 12-year old daughter Chelsea. They were roundly criticized. Yet, to me, their decision was reassuring, indicating for the first time that Bill and Hillary might actually place something ahead of their own political advantage.

One of the reasons Bill offered was that the private school would allow Chelsea "more control over her destiny." For once, Mr. and Mrs. Clinton and I saw eye to eye — as parents.

Granted, there is rampant hypocrisy at work. These people stump for public schooling, opposing systems of school choice. And yet, they choose to opt out of the system they allegedly shore up . . . from competition. The kind they themselves rely upon.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.