Public schools no place for teachers' kids
By George Archibald
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
More than 25 percent of public school teachers in Washington and Baltimore send their children to private schools, a new study reports.
Nationwide, public school teachers are almost twice as likely as other parents to choose private schools for their own children, the study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute found. More than 1 in 5 public school teachers said their children attend private schools.
In Washington (28 percent), Baltimore (35 percent) and 16 other major cities, the figure is more than 1 in 4. In some cities, nearly half of the children of public school teachers have abandoned public schools.
In Philadelphia, 44 percent of the teachers put their children in private schools; in Cincinnati, 41 percent; Chicago, 39 percent; Rochester, N.Y., 38 percent. The same trends showed up in the San Francisco-Oakland area, where 34 percent of public school teachers chose private schools for their children; 33 percent in New York City and New Jersey suburbs; and 29 percent in Milwaukee and New Orleans.
Michael Pons, spokesman for the National Education Association, the 2.7-million-member public school union, declined a request for comment on the study's findings. The American Federation of Teachers also declined to comment.
Public school teachers told the Fordham Institute's surveyors that private and religious schools impose greater discipline, achieve higher academic achievement and offer overall a better atmosphere.
"Across the states, 12.2 percent of all families — urban, rural and suburban — send their children to private schools," says the report, based on 2000 census data.
"Public education in many of our large cities is broken," the surveyors conclude. "The fix? Choice, in part, to be sure."
Public school teachers in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Chicago, Rochester, N.Y., and Baltimore registered the most dissatisfaction with the schools in which they teach.
"These results do not surprise most practicing teachers to whom we speak," say report authors Denis P. Doyle, founder of a school improvement company, SchoolNet Inc.; Brian Diepold, an economics graduate student at American University; and David A. DeSchryver, editor of the Doyle Report, an online education policy and technology journal.
"Teachers, it is reasonable to assume, care about education, are reasonably expert about it and possess quite a lot of information about the schools in which they teach. We can assume that no one knows the condition and quality of public schools better than teachers who work in them every day."
"They know from personal experience that many of their colleagues make such a choice [for private vs. public schools], and do so for good and sufficient reasons."
The report says the school choice movement has begun competitively forcing public school improvement, particularly in cities like Milwaukee, called "a hotbed of school reform," where 29.4 percent of public school teachers sent their children to private schools, the study finds.
"Narrow the search to teachers making less than $42,000 and the percentage enrolling their children in private schools drops to 10 percent. Because Milwaukee is a hotbed of school reform, it's possible that teachers making less than $42,000 are beginning to favor the public school system."
"If so, it might be evidence that choice is having the intended effect of spurring improvements in public education there. Or perhaps the emergence of [public school] charters has provided another free option to lower-income teachers who might otherwise choose private schooling."