Carpe Diem

Why do public school teachers send their own children to private schools at a rate 2X the national average?

In his latest weekly column, economist and GMU professor Walter E. Williams presents these facts about where various groups of parents send their own children – private or public schools:

General public: Nationally, 11% of all parents enroll their children in private schools, and 89% of American students attend public schools.

Public School Teachers: Nationally, more than 20% of public school teachers with school-age children enroll them in private schools, or almost twice the 11% rate for the general public.

Philadelphia Public School Teachers: 44% enroll their own children in private schools, or four times the national average.

Cincinnati Public School Teachers: 41% enroll their own children in private schools, more than three times the national rate.

Chicago Public School Teachers: 39% enroll their own children in private schools, more than three times the national average.

Rochester, NY Public School Teachers: 38% enroll their own children in private schools, or more than three times the national rate.

San Francisco-Oakland Public School Teachers: 34% enroll their own children in private schools, slightly more than three times the national average.

New York City Public School Teachers: 33% enroll their own children in private schools, three times the national rate.

Members of Congress: 33% to 44% enroll their children in private schools, three to four times the national average.

Walter concludes that:

The fact that so many public school teachers enroll their own children in private schools ought to raise questions. After all, what would you think, after having accepted a dinner invitation, if you discovered that the owner, chef, waiters and busboys at the restaurant to which you were being taken don’t eat there? That would suggest they have some inside information from which you might benefit.

In a 1995 article in The Freeman called the “Educational Octopus” I wrote:

What would you conclude about the quality of product or service X under the following circumstances?

1. The employees of Airline X and their families are offered free airline tickets as an employee benefit. The employees refuse to travel with their families on Airline X and instead pay full fare on Airline Y when flying.

2. The employees of Automaker X are offered a company car at a substantial discount and they instead buy a car at full price from Automaker Y.

3. Employees at Health Clinic X and their families are offered medical care at no additional cost as a benefit and yet most employees of Clinic X pay out-of-pocket for medical services at Clinic Y.

In each case, the employees’ willingness to pay full price for a competitor’s product or service and forgo their employer’s product or service at a reduced price (or no cost) makes a strong statement about the low quality of X. What makes the inferior quality of X even more obvious is that the employees at Firm X, since they work in the industry, would have better information about product (service) X and product (service) Y than the average person.

What then should we conclude about the quality of public education in the United States given the following facts? Public school teachers send their own children to private schools at a rate more than twice the national average–22 percent of public educators’ children are in private schools compared to the national average of 10 percent.

Bottom Line: Public school teachers are giving public education a failing grade by their disproportionate patronization of private education when it comes to the education of their own children

50 thoughts on “Why do public school teachers send their own children to private schools at a rate 2X the national average?

  1. As teachers, we sent our daughter to private school NOT for a better education (since I don’t think the teachers are as good) but because the kids associate with other kids whose parents care and raise their kids to have better habits.

    • so, i’m curious about this situation you claim exists.

      there is a private school to which parents who care more about education send their kids, and yet that school has worse teachers than the nearby school to which they could send their kids for free?

      so you are saying that these parents are idiots and that you are seeking to emulate them and that you are a teacher?

      either your are lying about the level of education at the 2 schools, or wow are you a sign of what a problem we have.

      • It could be the private school parents believe the benefit of not having your kid stabbed in the hallway outweighs a theoretical lesser quality of teachers. I’m not wholly unsympathetic to that argument. One of the benefits of paying more for private schools and neighborhoods is you minimize the crime, drugs, and other dysfunctions.

        • paul-

          some of those things may be true (though as someone who went to one of the best private high schools in the us, let me tell you, it does not reduce drugs) but i have real doubts that the teachers are worse.

          private schools fire bad teachers. public schools do not.

          private schools need good teachers to attract paying students. public schools do not.

          i am just not buying this “all the parents who care about education knowingly sent their kids to a school with worse teachers” argument. it sounds like a whitewash.

          • In the DC area private school teachers have advanced educations in the subject they teach and can’t hold a job unless they are fantastic.
            It all comes down to affording opportunity in the private vs. public debate.
            The private school kids have more opportunities in school that the public here.

  2. re:” Walter E. Williams presents these facts about where various groups of parents send their own children – private or public schools:

    General public: Nationally, 11% of all parents enroll their children in private schools, and 89% of American students attend public schools.

    Public School Teachers: Nationally, more than 20% of public school teachers with school-age children enroll them in private schools, or almost twice the 11% rate for the general public.”

    where are the facts?

    the link goes to a TownHall article (hardly an objective source of news to start with) but I do not see where Williams provides data to support his “facts”.

    where does he supply the references?

  3. bottom line, while there are some public schools in some areas that are very very good – in general the private school provides a better product. and in a free market economy, when one can afford something – they often will buy the best product. large cities are listed in this article – cities with vast differences in the socio-economic status of the residents. ever been to a school that is in a transitional neighborhood? then compare it to the typical private/parochial school? not hard to understand why teachers would choose the private choice for their kids.

    • Ooohhh! I just love the squirmy white liberal euphemisms!

      Like “Transitional Neighborhood” (from where to where, pray tell? Fargo, ND to Camden, NJ?).

      Or “Mean Streets” (Did the pavement trip you as you were out walking?).

      Or “Failed Schools” (I do hope the school eventually got its GED).

      Until all you white folks can start speaking honestly and stop lying to yourselves, you are going to die, just like the GOP.

      • Hazel

        Ooohhh! I just love the squirmy white liberal euphemisms!

        I agree that such euphemisms fail to adequately describe the realities. How would you prefer to describe the neighborhoods, streets and schools referenced by those white liberals?

    • Did you notice Kelly rolling her eyes at the end?

      And isn’t this the guy who shut down the DC voucher program?

      Thank God for modern recording technology. There’s very little wiggle room available for later denials.

        • He also knows his target audience. There is NOTHING he can say that will change your views or my views, so he doesn’t even try. There is also nothing he can say that will trouble those who are convinced he is the Messiah, so he doesn’t even try.

          He is targeting those who may be unaware, undecided, clueless, or any combination of those.

  4. Why do so many college professors who advocate that as many government functions as possible should be privatized still choose to work at taxpayer funded public universities rather than private ones?

      • OK then Ron, the public schoolteachers who were the subject of the original post are probably doing heroic work behind enemy lines too.

        It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the average teacher who sent his kids to private school was more likely to be libertarian than those who didn’t, especially if he was paying out of his own pocket.

        Problem solved. What was initially seen as a sign of ill health is really a sign of good health.

        • private schools in 3rd world countries are pretty good also… but your kid has to go to school with a bodyguard and your family has to live behind a wall….

          that’s where the neanderthals want to take us.

          we not only will be lower than any other OCED country but we will then drop below other 3rd world countries.

          re: Williams and his reference “study”.

          at the least – he should give the title, a link to it and the page numbers that he got his data.

          sorry but when folks like him and AEI and the Daily Caller mess with data… I get suspicious.

          A College Professor writing an article without specific references is not serious in my view…

          re: why folks like William work for Public Universities and and function like the very parasites that steal money from others via thug govt -…. that they blather about.

          it is interesting. these same guys whine all the time about free speech and biased media… yadda yadda yadda and here they are sucking up public dollars to spout propaganda and spew misinformation.

          • “and here they are sucking up public dollars to spout propaganda and spew misinformation.”

            ~The low information troll who spent his “working” years as a government parasite.

          • hey… Paul.. I SUPPORT the govt especially for “defense”.

            these faux libertarians say govt is bad… bad…bad because they rob innocent people of their money and spend it on “stuff” especially they are the ones getting the “stuff” as college professors blathering about the bad bad govt.

            don’t you see a conflict there?

          • Nope. The world they want is diff from the world as it is, as you always blather on about. You can’t just cede the entire academic field as it exists to the Left.

          • It means you might be taking both me and yourself a little too seriously on this one.

            Probably not, my mood is pretty light since I read that first comment by stevor. I’ve been chuckling ever since whenever I think of it.

            However this IS an important subject to me.

            How about a test? If there IS to be taxpayer funded public education – and I don’t believe there should be – but since it does exist, how about attaching the funds to each student instead of to their physical address, so parents can choose any school they feel is best for their child?

            As it stands, low income people in bad school districts are pretty much stuck with the neighborhood school, while those with higher income can choose to pay a high premium to send their kids to better schools if they wish.

            If public schools are indeed the best providers of learning, they will thrive at the expense of competing private schools.

            What could be easier?

        • Greg

          OK then Ron, the public schoolteachers who were the subject of the original post are probably doing heroic work behind enemy lines too.

          No doubt many of them are, but they are fighting an uphill battle against an entrenched, monopoly government system that appears designed to thwart actual learning at every turn. It is only through the efforts of brave and dedicated teachers that any actual education takes place.

          It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the average teacher who sent his kids to private school was more likely to be libertarian than those who didn’t, especially if he was paying out of his own pocket.

          I seriously doubt that 20% of public school teachers are libertarians, but it’s not necessary to be a libertarian to understand that the public schools may not provide the level of education a parent wants for their children. That would be especially true of teachers who have a much better view than the rest of us.

          I suspect teachers who send their own children to private schools just realize it’s a better option in most cases, and they feel so strongly about it, they’re willing to pay the substantial addition cost.

          Problem solved. What was initially seen as a sign of ill health is really a sign of good health.

          I don’t know what that means.

          • “I don’t know what that means.”

            It means you might be taking both me and yourself a little too seriously on this one.

          • It means you might be taking both me and yourself a little too seriously on this one.

            Probably not, my mood is pretty light since I read that first comment by stevor. I’ve been chuckling ever since whenever I think of it.

            However this IS an important subject to me.

            How about a test? If there IS to be taxpayer funded public education – and I don’t believe there should be – but since it does exist, how about attaching the funds to each student instead of to their physical address, so parents can choose any school they feel is best for their child?

            As it stands, low income people in bad school districts are pretty much stuck with the neighborhood school, while those with higher income can choose to pay a high premium to send their kids to better schools if they wish.

            If public schools are indeed the best providers of learning, they will thrive at the expense of competing private schools.

            What could be easier?

    • Of course, this is a nonsensical “criticism”. It’s akin to saying that a McDonald’s employee can’t criticize McDonald’s. After all, why is that person working at McDonald’s if he’s going to criticize McDonald’s.

      The other reason this is just a blazingly stupid comment is because higher education is a government monopoly. So if you want to teach, you pretty much have to work at an institution that is taxpayer funded or subsidized. All those private colleges, also receive LOTS of taxpayer funded dollars, a lot of it hidden, like mere tax breaks, rather than direct money transfers.

      • no.. it’s NOT like criticizing you employer.

        It’s criticising your OWN chosen way to make a living…

        sucking off the public teat while blathering about the parasites sucking off the public teat.

        that’s MORE WORSE than criticising you employer!

        • “sucking off the public teat while blathering about the parasites sucking off the public teat.”

          See that’s where you’re either too stupid or too dishonest to accurately describe the argument. A good free-market economist is well worth the tax dollars spent teaching young minds. An ignorant douchebag like you glomming onto some useless job working for the federal government(and then pretending to be a “proud member of the national defense” ) is a galactic waste of taxpayer dollars.

          It’s about getting value for our money.

          • “A good free-market economist is well worth the tax dollars spent teaching young minds.”

            why would a “good free market economist” NOT work in the free market to start with Paul? What does it say about the “free market” when the guy teaching it is just another parasite govt employee?

            “An ignorant douchebag like you glomming onto some useless job working for the federal government(and then pretending to be a “proud member of the national defense” ) is a galactic waste of taxpayer dollars.”

            hahhahahahhah you might change your mind if you had half a brain and knew about weapon systems… that keep you “safe” for your silly free market… eh?

            “It’s about getting value for our money.”

            No. it’s not. not according to you and the other faux libertarians .. who say that taking money from taxpayers for govt is wrong.

            Now you’re compromising your own faux principles by saying it’s “ok” if you think there is “value”.

            isn’t that a tad hypocritical guy?

            who are you to judge “value” for money taken from others by the govt anyhow?

            once you do that -you’re just another partisan zealot, guy.. ya’ll are a dime a dozen… no principles.. just hate… of others.

          • “why would a “good free market economist” NOT work in the free market to start with Paul? What does it say about the “free market” when the guy teaching it is just another parasite govt employee?”

            That he’s trying to save the country from slack-jawed morons like you looking for handouts. He’s operating in the system as it exists, not what he prefers.

            “hahhahahahhah you might change your mind if you had half a brain and knew about weapon systems… that keep you “safe” for your silly free market… eh?”

            You’ve demonstrated your room temp IQ here quite decidedly over the yrs. I feel quite comfortable saying your “service” was a taxpayer ripoff. Whatever level of “weapon systems” you participated in, I have no doubt they could almost train a monkey to do the same role.

            And you already admitted you didn’t serve. You never wore the uniform, but you still shamefully try to cover yourself in the heroics that better men that you perform for our country.

            “No. it’s not. not according to you and the other faux libertarians .. who say that taking money from taxpayers for govt is wrong.”

            I’m not a libertarian. I want a miniscule, Constitutional government, not zero government.

            “isn’t that a tad hypocritical guy?”

            Nope.

            “who are you to judge “value” for money taken from others by the govt anyhow?”

            Easy. I’m a taxpayer who knows fraud and waste when he sees it.

            “once you do that -you’re just another partisan zealot, guy.. ya’ll are a dime a dozen… no principles.. just hate… of others.”

            So I guess you’re back to pretending not to be partisan again until the next time you jump in to defend your boyfriend.

      • Ken

        K-12 education is much more of a government monopoly than higher education so your comment is much more applicable to the original post than my comment.

        All colleges get some taxpayer’s money but state universities get much more than private ones if you care about such things.

  5. the quality of the schools is not all to do with the teaching. if the school is full of unruly disruptive dangerous students who would get kicked out of any self respecting private school, the teachers might not want their own children exposed to that environment

    how do you fix that problem? it is not the fault of the public schools that can’t expel enough students, it is the fault of society

    • how do you fix that problem? it is not the fault of the public schools that can’t expel enough students, it is the fault of society

      Instead of society, you must mean that it’s the fault of government for limiting the ability of schools to expel students limiting peoples ability to send their children to s school of their choosing.

      Society and government aren’t the same thing, and you may believe that government reflects the needs and wishes of society, but that’s not the reality.

  6. What are the statistics for suburban districts? It would likley show that the problem (as indeed a lot of the whole problem for cities) is the city school district. (I suspect the rate is lower for suburban districts). I do note that all the examples are the failing big city school districts.
    Of course my solution to big city districts, would be to make all principals of schools entrepreneurs, and rate them by the length of the waiting list. One would allow any student to enroll in any school in the district.

  7. here’s an interesting wrinkle:

    teachers earn far more than the average american.

    75% of americans earn less that $50k a year.

    teachers earn more than that in about 50% of states.

    in new york, the average salary is $72k, putting them in the 86th percentile nationwide.

    and many earn more money from other jobs in the summer.

    might this higher percentage simply be the result of income?

    wealthier people are more likely to send kids to private school.

    the average teacher salary in the us is around $50k, roughly 40% higher than the average american salary, and again, that does not include summer work.

    if we compare teachers to others of like income, i wonder what this looks like?

    i suspect some of the gap goes away, but in places like nyc and philly, i doubt very much that it disappears.

    • Hmm. Interesting point. So, teachers, to the same extent as everyone else, realize that public schools may not be their best choice, but they are in a better position to act on that belief.

      • teacher is OECD countries also earn well.. some as well as doctors!

        keep in mind most OECD countries are ALSO public schools.

        there is nothing inherently wrong with public schools per se as the OECD countries easily prove that public schools can do good -… good enough to put the US in 25th place.

        Our “solution” is not to do what OECD is doing – nope – …

        our model seems to be the 3rd world education systems with private schools for those that afford it and “whatever” for others.

        It is no coincidence that the top economies in the world all also have the top literacy rates.

        there are no countries in the top 30 that don’t have public schools.

        but in the topsy-turvy libertarian world – up is down and out is in ….

        we don’t need no stinkin public education in the US.

  8. The District of Columbia has access to a humongous amount of money (the USA treasury), yet congress cannot set up a public school they will send their own kids to.

    • Jon C.

      It’s not about the money. DC schools already have one of the highest costs per student in the country. Adding more money isn’t the answer.

    • that’s not the case in all schools though. For instance, Massachusetts ranks 7th in the world while the rest of the US ranks 25th.

      the problem with urban schools is the number of poor and disadvantaged whose parents themselves lack educations and the ability to earn a living.

      you could send everyone of those kids to a private schools but the results are not going to be much better if those schools are not equipped any better to teach the disadvantaged demographic – which takes higher level reading specialist – who basically have their choice of where they want to work and will not work in a poor city school unless they have no choice.

      I doubt they’ll work in a poor city private school either unless they pay more and the teacher feels safe teaching there.

      It’s a horrible problem, no question about it but there is evidence mounting that not all private schools do that much better. The high dollar ones that the rich and famous spend big bucks on – do.

      There’s another part of this that may not be well recognized. and that is that most public schools offer a wide array of courses and extra-curricula activities like sports that are not offered in many private schools unless parents pay extra fees, etc.

      perhaps that is the problem with the public schools – that they do not focus on core academic and get rid of the other stuff.

      Finally, recent testing of Charter schools with COmmon core standards (which replicare European/Asian) standards show that most Charter schools also don’t do well …. Google “charter schools” “common core” testing.

      The purpose of public schools – the only reason you can justify taxing everyone – even those without kids – is to produce an employable workforce as a core goal.

      everything else is add-on… and some of it just adds costs rather than make the kid more college or career ready.

      Private schools tend to not have as many of those distractions.. can’t afford them.

  9. Surely you can’t ignore the racial angle. Teachers are frequently “leftists” or “liberals”, and will therefore want to send their own children to schools with fewer blacks or NAMs. Diversity is for other people’s children.

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