Elite schools and small class size

Sidwell Friends School has a history of small class sizes

Don’t miss this debate on CNN between a class size researcher and the co-founder of Parents Across America and head of NYC’s Class Size Matters, Leonie Haimson. She’s so good she quickly gets him arguing on her side and has time left to go after the hypocrisy of Bill Gates and Mayor Bloomberg in sending their children to private schools with class sizes of 15 or less, while forcing low-income urban schools into a position of having to raise class sizes every year.

The Obamas don’t escape this charge, either. Class sizes at the Sidwell Friends School, which Malia and Sasha attend, range from one teacher for every ten students in the lower grades to one teacher for every 16 students in some fourth grade classes.

In a thoughtful essay, “Mr. President, we want your children’s education, too,” D. C. public schools graduate Rachel Levy expresses her disappointment with comments President Obama made recently on the choice he and the First Lady made about where to send their daughters to school.

In response to a Today Show question about whether he would send his daughters to a D.C. public school, he said that the D. C. schools were still struggling, that they had made great strides (presumably under scary education broom-wielder Michelle Rhee) and that parents with less clout than the Obamas should still have similar choices. In other words, Levy says, “the president subtly plugged his own administration’s plans for education reform while using the coded language of the urban neoliberal elite.”

If the new school reformers’ policies, which you and your administration support, are the right ones, why don’t you send your own children to the very schools where such policies are being implemented? If that is not possible, why send them to a school that is in many ways the mirror opposite of your revolutionary reforms?…Mr. President, if we should all have your healthcare, as you have said we should, then shouldn’t we all have your children’s quality education, too?

Good questions, ones that the president ought to answer.

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.