School Choice for Mayor Adrian Fenty, Not for the Rest of D.C.


So, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty pledged to send his kids to public schools four years ago, in the misguided belief that letting his kids suffer in the capital's terrible schools will somehow mean he doesn't have to address school choice as a serious policy issue.

Flash forward to 2009, and he is (a) not addressing school choice as a serious policy issue, and (b) his kids are enrolled in public schools, just like everyone else. Sort of. His neighborhood school—West Elementary, at 14th and Farragut Streets NW—isn't the greatest. Magically, his twin sons are enrolled in the much, much better Lafayette Elementary, on the far side of Rock Creek Park.

Reporters start asking questions, Fenty refuses to answer—thus indicating that he obviously did call in special favors—and then gets testy, calling family decisions about his kids' education "private." Parents across the city snort and mutter something about how nice it would be if they got to make private decisions about where their kids went to school, too.

Meanwhile, D.C. is running an ad campaign to convince people that they city's public schools are a-OK. The radio ads trumpet an award received by a single school, and conclude: "Go public and get a great free education!" The campaign only costs $9,000, less than the system spends on a single pupil. But it's not the cost that's disturbing, it's the message: "Hey! Public education is free! For something you're not paying for, it's not so bad, right?" 

UPDATE: While many of the people who are stuck using D.C. public schools don't pay much in taxes, I should have noted that public education is not actually free, and TANSTAAFL, and all that. (Or, I suppose, TANSTAAFE, where the "E" is education.)

And let's not forget the dear, departed D.C. voucher program: