(CNSNews.com) – As chairman of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC) from 1995 to 2001, Barack Obama helped distribute $49.2 million to help improve Chicago’s public schools, a task for the CAC that two studies showed had little or no impact on improving public education.
Despite his work to improve Chicago’s public schools, the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee sends his two daughters to the University of Chicago’s Laboratory School, a prestigious private school in Chicago – and he opposes school vouchers, which would allow parents to send their kids to the school of their choice.
While Republican presidential candidate John McCain supports vouchers, the school choice topic has not been a major issue in the presidential campaign.
In July, McCain told the National Council of LaRaza, a Hispanic lobbying group: “The civil rights challenge of our time is education. We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition. ... We need to empower parents with choice.”
Obama later blasted McCain’s support for vouchers, saying he was “recycling tired rhetoric.”
“We know well-designed public charter schools have a lot to offer, and I’ve actually helped pass legislation to expand them,” Obama told a gathering of the American Federation of Teachers in July. “What I do oppose is using public money for private school vouchers. We need to focus on fixing and improving our public schools, not throwing our hands up and walking away from them.”
Tuition for the Chicago Lab School where Obama’s daughters attend is $18,492 a year for grades 1-4, the grades Obama’s daughters attend. The tuition climbs to $20,286 a year for grades 5-8, and $21,480 a year for grades 9-12, according to the school’s Web site.
For advocates of school choice, the fact that Obama sends his own children to a private school is relevant to the school choice debate.
“That’s not unusual. Loads of people opposed to school choice send their own kids to private school,” said Dick Komer, senior litigation attorney for the Institute for Justice, which supports school vouchers.
“Wealthy people like Obama have school choice,” Komer told CNSNews.com. “This is garden variety hypocrisy.”
Gaily Purkey, spokeswoman for the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT), disagreed that public positions should have a bearing on where an individual sends his or her children to school.
“It’s the position of the IFT that people can send their children to any school they choose,” Purkey told CNSNews.com. “But public tax dollars should be put only into public education.”
The Chicago Lab School that Obama’s daughters attend was founded in 1896 by education innovator John Dewey. It touts its long history of fostering intellectual curiosity, open-mindedness, critical thinking and a respect for evidence.
“We are among the leading independent schools in the nation and pride ourselves on creating conditions for a purposeful search for knowledge and truth,” School Director David W. Magill said in a statement on the Web site for the school.