Emanuel to send his children to private school

July 21, 2011

Sam Hudzik

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to send his children to the University of Chicago Lab School in Hyde Park.

Updated at 3:42 p.m.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is bypassing the public schools he has vowed to reform, and is sending his kids to a prestigious private school. That's according to a source familiar with the decision.

The mayor and his wife will send their three kids to the University of Chicago Lab School, the same school President Obama's children attended when they lived in Chicago. The decision settles a thorny question raised during the campaign, and after it. And Emanuel always said roughly the same thing.

“We're looking at public and private schools. And we'll make what's in the interest of our individual children,” Emanuel said in February. “If it comes with a political price, I’m willing to pay it.”

As recently as this month, Emanuel still declined to say where his children would go to school.

"If I used my kids' education in any political context, I'd be less of a father than I want to be," he told reporters.

The president of the Chicago Teachers Union did not directly criticize Emanuel's decision. Rather, Karen Lewis stressed what a great place the University of Chicago Lab School is.

"We understand why he would choose a school with small class sizes, a broad, rich curriculum that offers world languages, the arts, a focus on critical thinking, not test-taking," Lewis said. "And we think it's wonderful that he has that option available to him."

Lewis' wry statement can be translated to this: most Chicagoans can't afford the $20,000 a year tuition, and so they're left with less favorable options in the city's public schools.

Asked if Emanuel's decision would hurt morale among public school teachers, Lewis replied, "I think plenty of things that this mayor has already done, is a morale problem for teachers."

Lewis added that she thinks the mayor should be able to do what he wants to do for his children, which is the same point Emanuel has made.

The Emanuels’ decision is far from ground-breaking. The city's last mayor, Richard Daley, sent his children to private Catholic schools.