School choice for me but not for thee – Seattle’s liberal mayoral candidates want private education for themselves but not for others

Oct 26, 2017

KUOW radio’s well-respected host Bill Radke recently interviewed Seattle’s two candidates for Mayor, Cary Moon and Jenny Durkan.  In response to a listener’s question, Mr. Radke asked both candidates why they send their children to private schools.  Here’s what they said:

Bill Radke:

                “…What do you say, Cary Moon?” (at time stamp 19:08)

Cary Moon:

“My kids were in public school for eight years.  I was intending to keep the kids in public school the whole time….  We got to a point though where what was on offer did not meet our needs as a family….”  (at time stamp 19:18)

Bill Radke:

“But do you even agree with Shana [the KUOW caller] that you are part of the problem because of that choice?”

Cary Moon:

“Well, until we work together to change our school system, which I have been doing, I am endorsed by SEA [teachers union], I’ve been standing up for getting McCleary funding, fully funding our schools, I marched with the teachers on their march [the 2015 WEA strike] two years ago…

“But until we get this problem solved, families like me that are not having their needs met by the school system, those who have the means to go, leave and it is not fair, I don’t like it, I have mixed feelings to this day about that choice, but given what our family’s needs were, we were kind of pushed into it.”

Bill Radke:

“Jenny Durkan, kids in private school, do you think this is a problem?”

Jenny Durkan:

“I don’t think it is a problem. I think I’ve had the great privilege to be able to do that and it was the best fit for my kids.” (at time stamp 20:26)

One of these two women will soon be elected mayor of Seattle.  The winner will then use some of the tax dollars she receives in salary to pay tuition at private schools.  Like a voucher, public dollars will go to a private school.  Yet as liberal Democrats, both candidates oppose letting other families use public dollars so they too can have school choice. 

As a policy researcher, I often see people with money and political influence using their power to prevent those without money from attending a good school.

Both candidates are white, yet they are working to prevent the children of black and brown families assigned to failing urban schools from having a way out.

Seattle has more private schools (119) than public schools (98).  It also has one of the highest private school attendance rates in the country (30 percent).  We know that many public school employees use their salary to funnel public dollars to private schools for the benefit of their own children. Yet the public school unions are the angriest opponents of allowing school choice to others.  In fact, WEA union president Kim Mead says she wants to close every charter school in the state.

This mean-spirited stance strikes me as unfair, biased and hypocritical.  Seattle politicians are literally telling families, “School choice for me, but not for thee.”

Opposing school choice is to oppose equity and social justice, because all families, regardless of color, ethnicity or background, should have equal access to high-quality learning opportunities that today are reserved for the wealthy.

Every child is different.  Extending voluntary school choice to all families, not just the rich, would make sure every child can attend the school that is the best fit, not one blindly assigned by socio-economic status and zip code.

Let’s end the hypocrisy.  The children of all families, not just the privileged Cary Moons and Jenny Durkans of the world, need and deserve voluntary school choice.