Much of the first two months of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's tenure has been focused on reforming Chicago's ailing public schools. But the mayor announced today that his children won't be taking part in that process.
Instead, Zach, Ilana and Leah will be commuting down to Hyde Park to attend the very prestigious, private University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.
He's in good recent company: Barack and Michelle Obama sent their daughters to the Lab Schools before moving to Washington, D.C. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is also an alumnus, as is former Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens and a panoply of artists, musicians, scientists, academics and public servants.
Founded in 1896 by pre-eminent American educator John Dewey, the Lab Schools are known as one of the most diverse of the nation's elite private institutions; about 35 percent of its students are people of color. It's also known as one of the best: its high school is one of the top feeders in the country to America's elite colleges and universities, and its extracurriculars, from newspaper and yearbook to Model U.N., are regular winners of regional and national awards.
Such prestige doesn't come cheap: the lower school costs $21,060 per year, while the upper school is just shy of $25,000 annually. That means that the Emanuels will be forking over more than $60,000 each year for their three kids' tuitions.
Emanuel broke the news on Wednesday night in an exclusive with CBS, after losing his temper with an NBC reporter for asking him about where his kids would be enrolling just hours before.
In response to the news, Karen Lewis, the president of the Chicago Teachers Union had this wry comment, according to NBC Chicago:
"The new mayor seems to recognize how school funding impacts school quality. We understand why he would choose a school with small class sizes, a broad rich curriculum that offers world languages, the arts and physical education, a focus on critical thinking not test-taking, a teacher and an assistant in every elementary classroom, and paid, high-quality professional development for their teachers. ...
It's wonderful that he has that option available to him."
Relations between the CTU and the mayor's office have been icy since Emanuel took over andappointed a notoriously anti-union schools CEO, denied teachers a scheduled pay raise, and pushed a bill in Springfield that stripped the union of its rights to bargain on many issues central to its contract and essentially forbade it from striking.
Had Emanuel chosen to send his kids to their neighborhood school, they would be attending Ravenswood Elementary School -- in many ways a very average Chicago public school. Only 72.6 percent of students at Ravenswood are low-income, compared to an 86 percent district-wide average; 26.7 percent of its students are white, nearly triple the district average. 14 percent of Ravenswood eighth-graders exceed state standards, just in line with the rest of their CPS peers.
Almost one-third of Ravenswood students failed to meet state standards in reading in 2010, and just under a quarter of students failed the standards in math.
One imagines that Lab School students would fare significantly better.