Choice For Me But Not For Thee

It is a known fact that senators overwhelmingly send their kids to private schools but a new study shows that so do public school teachers. It looks like those that know the public school system best know enough to send their kids somewhere else.

From the Heritage Policy Weblog:

We already know where members of Congress send their kids (the bottom line: “every piece of parental choice legislation would have passed if those who exercised choice in their own families had voted with supporters of school choice”) but what about public school teachers?

United, their opposition to vouchers is well known. But individually, as a new study (PDF link) from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute shows, “urban public school teachers are…more likely to send their children to private school than are urban families in general (21.5 vs. 17.5 percent).” This is against a rate of 12.2 percent for all families, according to the Fordham Institute’s analysis of census data.

This conclusion is not a function of household wealth. In fact, controlling for income yields the exact opposite result. More teachers send their kids to private schools in households where the total family income is $42000 or less (14.9 percent to 10.3 percent for all households), while fewer do so in households where the total annual income is $84000 or more (26.7 percent as compared to 35.6 percent for all households). Public school teachers demonstrate by their actions that school choice is especially important for low-income families.

So why does this matter? As the authors of the study explain, “We can assume that no one knows the condition and quality of public schools better than teachers who work in them every day.” Where teachers place their own children is one of the best barometers of the quality and value of our public schools.

Consider, for instance, some of the more subtle data from the Fordham Institute study:

“In the 21 cities where public school teachers lag behind all urban families in private school usage, the average spread is only –3.6 percent…in the 29 cities where public school teachers’ use of private school outpaces the rate among all urban families…the average spread…is 9.1 points. ”

This, the authors say, is “evidence of connoisseurship in action,” as public school teachers act “more decisively than the ‘all family’ average.” This suggests “they may be acting from information not readily available to the average family.” In other words, where public schools are really bad, the teachers act on it strongly by sending their children elsewhere.

Update -9/22/04: Washington Times has more.

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