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Public or Private? The Obamas face the school choice decision

As Amy Carter walked through the doors of Thaddeus Stevens Elementary School, the media had a heyday. But most of the country?s top politicians ever since have opted instead for private schools. So a lot of people this week are urging the Obamas to make the PC decision and send their two daughters, Sasha and Malia, to D.C. public schools.

Among them is the D.C. superintendent of schools. He lauds the district?s many fine neighborhood and charter schools. He cites the opportunity for language instruction, multicultural environment, and the many students who are wooed by top-notch colleges. Additionally, D.C. is a ?school choice? district, meaning parents have the right to enroll their children out of the boundaries of their neighborhood school, assuming there is room in the desired facility.

The superintendent also suggests that the Obamas can learn about all the problems with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) by putting their kids in the thick of it.

I was on his side until I got to that part. As a public school teacher by profession myself, I think that the superintendent is making his request at the children?s expense. Not that I disagree with the idea that the Obamas should consider ALL of their options. Nor do I disagree that the local public school could be their best option. But they should make a decision based on what works best for each child and the family as a whole. They should not make educational decisions in order to make a political statement. They especially should not send their daughters into a mess (the superintendent?s opinion of NCLB, not mine) so they can see firsthand how bad it is.

That doesn?t make a lick of sense.

My husband is also a public school teacher, so we raised a few eyebrows when we decided to home school our son through junior high. But I would not be shamed into enrolling him in a school that I did not feel best met his educational needs. School is not one-size fits all. And teachers know this better than anyone. I have several friends who take their children to different schools because the one that?s best for the oldest child is not best for he next.

Of course, the Obamas have more options than some families because of their position in life. I think that?s great. Their decision may involve more than just academics, as do all of our school choices. They must consider their values, as well as what?s convenient. They also (unlike most of us) need to consider politics and security. But it?s not just public vs. private anymore.

Parents can choose to homeschool, they can investigate charter schools (which are tuition-free), and there are public or private hybrids with homeschooling. If the Obamas? move has you thinking about school, maybe it?s time to re-evaluate your own school choices. Hopefully, you find that what you have decided is still the best place for your kids. But if not, it?s a great time to look at the new opportunities that may have arisen in your community.


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