In 2003, the Heritage Foundation conducted a congressional survey on school choice. Of those who responded, 41 percent of U.S. representatives and 46 percent of U.S. senators said they send, or have sent, at least one of their children to a private school.
Contrary to what the venture capitalists and public hucksters say, when it comes to selecting a school for their children, average American parents have little if any real choice. The local public school is the only campus in town, unless you are wealthy enough to avoid them. The new labyrinths of despair being designed by Wall Street in the form of charter schools and soon vouchers, the ultimate wet dream of Wall Street, is hardly ‘choice’; it is more like forcing our children to herd into Petri dishes in the interest of for-profit testing and obedience training.
The disparity between the schools of the power elite and those schools to which we as working people must send our children is obviously due to the fact that politicians and government leaders (not to mention the super rich who they serve) have an array of public and private schools to choose from as a result of their wealth, social position, status and income. Which leads to the question: If the public schools are so good then why do the wealthy elites opt out of them? The answers are not simply issues around the quality of education but they also go further and involve status, ruling class solidarity and ‘elite social networking’. Yet the sad fact is that while enabling stealing from the public for decades through relaxed regulation, failing to fund the public sector in an effort to ‘drown it in a bathtub’, along with other neo-liberal policies like economic and social deregulation now bankrupting schools and educational workers, the power elite have done so knowing their own kids can attend costly private schools and avoid the public mess they have created for the rest of us.
So where do our elected public servants send their children of privilege? Here are just a few answers. One should not be surprised for in fact, according to the Washington Post, the last child of a U.S. President to attend D.C. public schools was Jimmy Carter’s daughter, Amy. She lived in the White house from 1977 to 1981 – ironically or more bluntly and more salient is this was the beginning of Reaganomics, neo-liberal economic policies and the wholesale destruction of all that is public.
President Barack Obama sends First Daughters Malia and Sasha to Sidwell Friends School. Annual tuition: about $29,000. Vice President Joe Biden’s grand-daughters Naomi, Finnegan, and Maisy are also on the Sidwell roster.
Rahm Emanuel, former White House Chief of Staff and Chicago mayoral candidate, says he is undecided about whether he will choose private or public schools for his three children in Chicago. Zach, Ilana, and Leah Emanuel now attend private schools in D.C. It does not go unnoticed that Emanuel is running on policies supporting the ‘privatization of education’ for the hoi polloi while he opts out of public schools for his kids. The hypocrisy is as naked as the Emperor.
However there is Emanuel’s opponent in the mayoral race, Gery Chico. He sends his children to Chicago Public Schools. Chico recently told Fox Chicago News:
“There is something to be said for leading by example and having a personal stake in the system you seek to reform.”
Quite right but don’t tell that to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who sent his daughters Emma and Georgina to Spence School — this is an expensive an all-girls private academy on the Upper East Side with a $34,000 annual tuition.
Then there is Adrian Fenty, former mayor of Washington, D.C. where he allowed former Superintendent of Instruction, Michelle Rhee to ‘run wild’ firing teachers, attacking public education and public union workers with a vengeance and laboring assiduously for the pirate philanthropists like Eli Broad and Bill Gates who see a growth industry in privatized education. After assuming control over the D.C. public schools in 2007, former Mayor Adrian Fenty was criticized for continuing to enroll twin sons Matthew and Andrew in a private school. He simply shrugged at the time. Not to worry, the elites do as they wish in a climate of unaccountability to the masses of people.
New Jersey’s Governor, public service sector assassin, and presidential hopeful Chris Christie sends his children to parochial schools, and thinks more parents should have the choice to do the same. He supports providing tax credits for parents who opt to send their children to private schools of course not telling them the additional cost would be born out of their own hole ridden pockets. What Christie really wants is ‘vouchers’, but this is currently not polite to mention in mixed company either.
Finally there is former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who called teachers and nurses ‘special interests’ and then set out to destroy them by seeking to implement social and economic policies that would decimate public education specifically, but the public sector more generally. He left office smiling and leaving the state with $28 billion in deficits which now are the excuse given to cut more public services. During his Governorship his eldest daughter, Katherine, attended Brentwood School where tuition ranges from $25,000 to $30,000.
In the age of oligarchy and plutocracy, when working people and the poor are told they must accept austerity measures in the form of a slashed and burned public sector and bankrupt pensions, the protagonists in the new Gilded Age simply have no compunction about saying they are ‘public servants’; their true service, of course, is as private butlers and valets for their true employers — the ruling class. The fact that anyone would take any stock in what they say without concentrating on what they do is a telling feature of contemporary American life.
However their policies are not sustainable for working people. In fact, they are and will be proving disastrous. We can only hope and work to build a social movement that challenges their domination for we certainly have the numbers of people on our side. The oligarchy unfortunately own the means of material and ideological production and this is a problem we face in both awakening a public and building a movement.
Working people are not stupid; once the vicious social and economic policies that are now being implemented state by state by the political representatives of the ruling class come home to roost in the form of a devastating social and personal life, we might find ourselves in the beginning of a new decade of radical mobilization and change.