Question: If approximately one of five students in Hawaii goes to private schools, can you tell me what the ratio is for public school teachers who have their children attending private schools? This has always been my concern. I had planned to send my daughter to public school but noticed my public school teacher friends all had their children in private schools. I then decided against public schools because if the employees have no confidence in their own system, there must be something wrong, especially if the product provided is free.
Many public school teachers
put own kids in private school
Answer: The only figures we've seen reported were released in 1995 in "Where Connoisseurs Send Their Children to School," by Denis P. Doyle. That report, based on 1990 U.S. Census data, showed about 45 percent of public school teachers in Honolulu sent their children to private schools, compared to 31 percent of the general Honolulu population.
Statewide, the figures were 25 percent among public school teachers, compared to 21.4 percent of the general population.
At 28.2 percent, Washington, D.C., had the largest percentage of public school teachers sending children to private schools, followed by Hawaii. Among 100 cities studied, Jersey City, N.J., was first with 50.3 percent, followed by Honolulu.
The oft-quoted Honolulu figure is "inflated," says Joan Husted, executive director of the Hawaii State Teachers Association. She said "the true figure is closer to 42 percent," although she believes that percentage reflects all Department of Education employees. However, she could not recall the survey from which she got that figure.
Still, Husted, acknowledged, "It is still too high."
Spokesman Greg Knudsen said the Department of Education hasn't conducted any such study. Offhand, the figures quoted "seem high to me," he said.
But, in general, both he and Husted said it's unfair to condemn the public school system just based on where teachers send their own children.
"I don't think it is a condemnation of public schools that individuals, whether they be teachers or not, make their own personal choices for the education of their children," said Knudsen, whose daughter graduated from public school and whose son attends one. There are "deep and varied" reasons why people select a private school, he added, and those reasons run "throughout the population in Hawaii."
Husted, Knudsen and Robert Witt, executive director of the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools point out that teachers, like other parents, may opt for private schools for many reasons, including religious and cultural reasons, family tradition, a particular program, smaller class sizes, or just better supplies and equipment.
"Finally," she said, "many teachers send their children to private schools because they are viewed by the community as poor parents if they do not send their children to private schools."
Knudsen said, "If given just one public school teacher, if that teacher were to send their own child to a private school, that shouldn't be interpreted as a statement in any way reflecting on that teacher's school or the system as a whole."
Witt agrees, adding that "these type of issues don't contribute to a positive discussion of educational reform ...
"Our whole position on education is that the private schools are here to provide a choice," Witt said. "And, public school teachers should not be exempted from that type of choice. It's their right."
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