Friday, March 24, 2023

Choice for Me but Not for Thee

Hypocrisy is the name of the game when it comes to elected officials, lobbyists, and influencers who oppose school choice with their votes, rhetoric, and campaign donations and then opt their own children out of the very school systems in which they work hard to trap everybody else’s children. The very people who drive policy and pass laws in the city of Providence have never felt any real sense of urgency since their beautiful babies have remain untouched by the lack of instruction, low expectations, and “reasonable dinginess” of the schools in the city that they represent. 

Ian Donnis of Rhode Island Public Radio did an important public service when he reported on which school lawmakers from Providence have chosen for their own children. Sure, a few send their children to Providence schools, but most have made the decision that the Providence Schools are not the best choice for their family. Maybe it’s fit. Maybe it’s reading instruction. Maybe it’s facilities. Maybe it’s safety. The reason is irrelevant—what is relevant is that they were able to access an escape hatch. They were able to make a choice. 

But my child has dyslexia, they may say. Sure, and it’s likely that approximately 20 percent of the children in the Providence Public Schools have some form of it too. Is it any surprise that the moms I saw cry the hardest at the public forums have children with dyslexia who are being denied services or access to appropriate reading instruction in PPSD? 

But our religion is really important to our family. Fine, but are we to assume that low income families wouldn’t say the same about their religion? Are we to assume that, if given the chance, none of the 24,000 students in Providence would do a beeline straight to a religious school?

We support public schools so we chose to send our children to public school. Oh, great. Which one? Is it the lowest performing one in the city? Does it have single digit proficiency in math? Or did you take advantage of your zip code on the fancy side of town to access the school that is so in demand, a lottery has to be held to determine who in the neighborhood gets to go? Or is it the only public exam school in the city that screens students with an exam before they can enter?

I do not begrudge any parent for the educational choices they make for their children. Whether it’s Governor Raimondo, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, or state senator Gayle Goldin, they have every right choose high priced private schools for their children, as they have. But I do begrudge those who choose for their own children and then block low income families—or any families, for that matter—from having any quality options at all.

Anyone whose rhetoric, deals with teachers’ unions, or actual votes have impeded parents’ from having access to educational freedom is, by definition, a hypocrite. They are living examples of the ugly, but all too common, life philosophy of “choice for me but not for thee.”

And parents should not stand for it. It is wrong.

If our elected officials would not send their own children to a school, then they have no right to ask or expect any other parent to do so. And they don’t even ask—they compel. If you are poor, they push policies and spout talking points that trap you in schools based on your zip code, regardless of whether or not it is a quality school, a good fit for your child or can even teach your son or daughter to read. The teachers’ unions pour money into the coffers of most Democrats —except the ones with the political courage to stand with parents and students —to ensure that when it’s time to vote or sign bills, they will choose the union agenda over the parent agenda. They do not believe in educational freedom.

But worse than that, they don’t practice what they preach. As they spit their “I believe in public schools” platitudes into the wind, their own choices tell a totally different story. They extricate their own children from schools they don’t deem good enough—via private school or real estate in prohibitively expensive zip codes—and then cheer when poor families are denied different and better options for their children.

There is nothing progressive — or moral— about that.

Erika Sanzi
Erika Sanzi is a former educator and elected school committee member. She is also a senior visiting fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Her blog is Good School Hunting and her Substack is Sanzi Says. She occasionally writes for other outlets including Scary Mommy, The 74, and The Hill. She is the mother of three school aged sons and calls Rhode Island home.


  1. You raise an issue that can be, and (should be) voiced by President Trump in the 2020 election. Yes, public school bureaucratic defenders are hypocrites. They have given lip service to school reform/improvement for many, many years. But the truth is school reform will never take place within anyone’s lifetime as long as money keeps pouring into the coffers of public school budgets….to be directed into salaries of highly compensated personnel who administer the current public school system.

    Kids need a reformed public education system NOW. A place of learning where disruptive/disrespectful kids are removed from the class room – not allowed to negatively impact all other students in the room. A place where destructive and highly divisive identity politics is not followed lock step in school policy making, and kids are not subjected to artificially stimulated tensions between each other. A place where student advancement is justified by mastery of the material, honest to goodness self confidence is built up in the students, free of artificial advancement based on some politically motivated abstraction. A place where parents and teachers are respected in real consequential ways that preserves all natural authority in their respective roles. A place where “self respect” is encouraged by honoring the sovereignty of individual identity guided by the positive attributes of God-inspired truth/dignity.

    I could go on but it suffice to say that all kids, of every race and economic background, cannot allow their future prospects to be crippled waiting around for layers of intransigent public school operators to find their moral compass. The answer for right NOW is schools of choice for kids. And for that matter, schools of choice for teachers too. Let freedom ring! Thank you Erika for a great article.


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