You Don’t Get To Have Opinions About Public Schools If You Refuse To Send Your Own Children There

shutterstock_27866770__1365263047_70.118.110.28If you have school-aged children and you opt to send them to private school, should anyone be listening to your public education advocacy? Maybe. But not in the case of New-York-City-based education activist Leonie Haimson. I say this purely because I think she is a total hypocrite.

I actually believe that everyone who pays taxes is entitled to an opinion about public schools. I even believe that you can advocate for better public schools while sending your child to private school. What I don’t support is someone building their public school advocacy cred by blasting other parents who don’t send their kids there – and then doing the exact same thing.

Her transparency only came this week when it was revealed that Gotham Schools was reporting on the public to private school trajectory of her children. She had never volunteered the information before. She has also been very critical of public school advocates whose children attend private school in the past. Gotham Schools reports:

For one thing, she has often pointed to where other education advocates and officials sent their own children to school as valid grounds for debate about their education policy positions. And she has been especially vocal about targeting others’ decisions to send their children to private schools.

“Why Do Politicians Blow Up When Asked Where They Send Their Own Kids to School?” she asked in the headline of one Huffington Post column. The column cited Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, President Obama, and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey as examples of elected officials whose personal school decisions contradicted their public positions about education.

How could you be so critical of these people, and then turn around and do the same thing with your own children? If you actually believe that sending your children to private schools makes your own advocacy suspect – what the hell are you doing?

Her response? ”I am fighting for the right of every public school parent to have what every private school parent has access to,” she said. ”The hypocrisy is Joel Klein and Bill Gates, who say class sizes don’t matter and yet send their kids to schools with small class sizes.”

Fair enough. I think she actually has a point there. Every parent should have access to small class sizes. But she diminishes her own credibility by keeping the choices she makes for her own children a secret.

I don’t have a problem with parents sending their children to whatever school they can afford and think is best. But don’t slam other parents with resources that not all of us have for doing the same thing. It undermines the good work you are doing.

(photo: Jorge Salcedo/

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  • Blueathena623

    I do think she should have volunteered that information sooner, but I think she makes a good point in her personal blog post that she’s upset that these elected officials are supporting and passing public policies that go against what they want for their own children. Like if an elected official is passing measures to increase standardized testing but yet e rolling their kids in a school with little standardized testing. Leonie has always been against large class sizes, and has thus placed her kids in a school where they have lower class sizes. Still, in the interest of full disclosure, she shouldn’t keep that a secret and acknowledge that she has the means to do so. Honestly, I’m a big supporter of public schools and plan to send my children to one, but if they are not doing well, I’ll investigate other opportunities, because at the end of the day, my main responsibility is my kids, not my personal beliefs.

    • Blueathena623

      Well, someone is pissy with the down votes today.

    • Ordinaryperson

      All the cool kids are doing it

  • CW

    I graduated from public school and know that they don’t have to be as mediocre as the ones in my district. If I had the opportunity to send my kids to a public school that was as high quality as my alma mater, I most likely would enroll them. Unfortunately, we don’t have the money to buy or rent in a neighborhood zoned for a good school. The fact that I homeschool my own kids shouldn’t disqualify me from advocating for education reform.

    • Melody

      Same here. I grew up going to some of the best public schools in the country, but now that I have kids we are living in an area with atrocious public schools, even the charters. Private school tuition for 3 kids is way too expensive so we are homeschooling, but I think that makes me want to advocate more for school choice and reform because it has impacted us so much.

    • Blooming_Babies

      After owning a home in a terrible school district and paying for private school we did rent specifically in a good school zone and still got lousy results. My son ended up in virtual school for two years which is a nice mix of home school and public school. Now my son has been accepted to the public school gifted and talented academy for jr high and our school options are looking very good. I am a firm advocate of school choice and education reform, all my experiences taught me a lot. Homeschooling makes you uniquely qualified to talk about education reform in my opinion, this is an issue that needs many voices.

  • chip

    I think an important point to consider is that Haimson is advocating for public schools to be like private schools-small classes, rich learning environment, minimal testing, etc. I don’t think she’s hyprocritical at all-she wants to turn public schools into the same kind of environment that private schools have, but in public school the class sizes are large, too much testing, under-staffed and under-supplied for her to want to send her children there. However, she’s working to ensure that all students, rich or poor, any race, any mental ability, have the same environment that she’s fortunate to be able to provide for her children.
    Gates/Rhee/Emmanuel/Walton/etc. ARE hypocrites because they advocate for large classes, lots of testing, poorly trained teachers, etc, but send their kids to schools that are the polar opposite of what they advocate for for all children.

  • Lawcat

    While it might be slightly hypocritical, if the public school she was going to go to wasn’t all that great, then I think it would be incredibly blockheaded and selfish to keep her child in a crappy school just to reinforce her position.

    If you have the resources and another school fits your child’s needs, then why not? I a child needs smaller class sizes that a public school just can’t offer right now, why should they flounder just because it might make their parent seem like a hypocrite? Plus, if your platform is similar to what private schools are doing, what better way to learn the ins and outs.

  • t-rex

    You are entitled to form any opinion on which you have researched.