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

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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/