Should Journalists Disclose Public Figures’ School Decisions? Yes — & Their Own, Too

There’s no absolute consensus whether a politician’s choices over where to send his or her children to school are public decisions that should be reported and discussed or are private ones (like, say, health or finances) that should be given some measure of protected status.

However, bloggers and media outlets alike seem to end up reporting and discussing school choices for major political candidates (and, occasionally, for reform advocates like Michelle Rhee and critics like Diane Ravitch).

The latest such discussion comes via the Washington Post (Does Rubio have a spending problem?) and centers on Marco Rubio’s $40,000 a year tab for four children they’re sending to private school. A lowly US Senator, Rubio doesn’t make or have as much as many other big-money politicians, and spends what some see as more than he should given his income — including on private schools.

Of course, Rubio isn’t the only national political figure to send his kids to private schools.  And $40,000 is the tuition for just one kid at some of the most expensive options out there (New York City’s Avenues, for example, or DC’s Sidwell Friends). Unlike some Democratic politicians Rubio can’t be accused of being hypocritical about parental choice, either, having voted and spoken out in favor of various choice options especially for parents with children who have special needs.

Private schools have come up as a side issue related to Rubio’s political career at least once int he past.  A 2010 Tampa Bay Times story (Questions about use of campaign money still dog Rubio) noted that he wrote a check a $1,500 to St. John Neumann Catholic Preparatory School that March.  It wasn’t for tuition for his own children, however, but rather for “his sister-in-law’s private school fundraising event.”

My own feeling is that a public figure’s decisions are relevant as part of a discussion about their positions, credibility, and determinations about what other parents should do. So, too are their personal educational experiences growing up, be they private, district, parochial, or charter.

While we’re at it, why not open up the discussion and talk about where journalists and editors went to school and send their own kids? It’s a much-discussed but little-reported issue that undoubtedly has some relevance to the stories that are published and how readers would receive them if they only knew.

Disclosure: Growing up in Chicago, I went to two private schools (Near North Montessori and Francis Parker) and after that attended two private universities (Stanford and Harvard) for college and a Master’s degree.

Alexander Russo

Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at alexanderrusso@gmail.com.