School Choice & Charters

Private Or Public?

April 19, 2005 2 min read

How many of Florida’s state lawmakers send their children to private schools, rather than the public schools those legislators help oversee?

A recent St. Petersburg Times analysis found that 39 percent of state House and Senate members who have school-age children send them to private schools. That percentage jumps to 60 percent for the lawmakers on education committees in both chambers who have school-age children.

The newspaper published its findings April 6, as the legislature was weighing major K-12 school policy decisions, including an expansion of a voucher program.

Towson Fraser, a spokesman for Speaker of the House Allan G. Bense, a Republican, downplayed the importance of the paper’s report. He noted that the Times showed that more Democrats (44 percent) than Republicans (37 percent) in the GOP-controlled legislature choose private schools for their children.

“It’s not a factor that the speaker took into consideration when appointing people” to House committees Mr. Fraser said. “I think it’s probably just a statistical oddity.” For the record, he added, Speaker Bense has sent his three children to public schools.

How do Florida lawmakers compare with legislators in other states on the choice between public and private schools?

In 2000, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, based in Midland, Mich., found that a significant minority of Michigan lawmakers were sending children to private schools. Of legislators with school-age children, 33 percent of senators and 24 percent of representatives responded to the survey that they were either sending a child to a private school, or had done so in the past.

In Hawaii, lawmakers have preferred private schools as well. Honolulu TV station KITV found in February 2003 that of Hawaii’s 76 lawmakers, most of those with children had sent or were sending their children to private schools. At the time, 36 legislators with children had sent at least one child to private school, while only 16 legislators had sent their children exclusively to public schools.

Meanwhile, many members of the U.S. Congress have preferred private schools for their children.

A 2000 Heritage Foundation survey found that 40 percent of U.S. House members with school-age children and 49 percent of Senate members had, by the time of the survey, sent at least one child to private school. A majority of Senate Republicans preferred private schools for their children, but a majority of Senate Democrats and members of both political parties in the House preferred public schools.

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