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Where Do Presidential Candidates Send Their Own Children to School?

By Alyson Klein — February 11, 2016 2 min read
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The presidential candidates may not be talking much about K-12 education these days—but they’ve all had experience with it. After all, every single one of the candidates, at one time or another attended some kind of school. And so have their own children.

So what was that experience like? Did the candidates go to public schools, religious schools, or private schools? Where did they decide to send their own kids? And how much does it any of it matter, when it comes to both politics and actual policymaking?

One big takeaway: In general, the leading candidates attended public school themselves, with a couple of notable exceptions. And in general, the candidates tended to send their own kids to private or religious schools.

Democrats: Both former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont went to public schools.

These Republicans attended public school for at least part of their K-12 careers: Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Rubio also briefly went to parochial school.

Who went to private school? Jeb Bush, the former Republican Florida governor, attended a mix of public schools and private schools (including the elite Phillips Andover Academy). Donald Trump attended a private primary school and a private, military high school. And Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas went only to religious schools, as far as our research showed.

But most of those folks sent at least one of their own children to private or parochial school for at least a portion of their K-12 schooling. Rubio’s children attend parochial school, and so did Kasich’s kids. At least two of Bush’s three children and Trump’s now-adult children went to private schools, including his daughter Ivanka, who attended the prestigious Choate-Rosemary Hall.

Who sent their kids to public school? Sanders’ kids went to public school. So did Chelsea Clinton, when her dad Bill was governor of Arkansas, but the family opted for the private Sidwell Friends School when her father became president. The Clintons caught some flak at the time for making the switch. They said security and privacy concerns factored into the decision. (The Obamas sent their daughters to Sidwell Friends, too.)

Now the big question: Does this sort of thing influence policy? And how much does any this matter to real, live voters?

It’s unclear that it has much of a policy impact, said Patrick McGuinn, a professor of education at Drew University. But politically it can reinforce the idea that traditional public schools, especially in urban areas, aren’t up to snuff and that many parents may need other options, such as charters, vouchers, and tax credits.

“It would be hard for a president to fight against those things (especially charters) when existing options weren’t good enough for their kids,” he wrote in an email.

Do you agree? How much does it matter? Let us know in the comments section or tweet at us @politicsk12. We’ll update this post with your views.

Some caveats: While we did our best research, there were some facts we couldn’t track down, such as what school Bush’s daughter attended, although both her brothers went to private schools. And we couldn’t figure out where Cruz’s daughter goes to school. (We never heard back from the campaign.) We also couldn’t account for the entirety of every candidate and every child’s K-12 career, just at least one part of it. And we didn’t consider Dr. Ben Carson, because he’s a long-shot at this point.

Library Interns Maya Riser-Kositsky and Rachel Edelstein contributed to this story.

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