Do you now have, or have you ever had, “strong ties to private schools”? If you attended a private school – or your kids do – or your church has one – might that make you unfit for public office? According to the Illinois Education Association (IEA) – the state teachers’ union of which District 200’s Wheaton-Warrenville Education Association teacher's union is part – the answer is yes.
The IEA has endorsed State Senator Kirk Dillard, a long time incumbent who is being challenged in the March 20 Republican primary by energetic State Representative Chris Nybo, for nomination to the 24th State Senate District (eastern Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Lombard, Elmhurst and Oak Brook). Most endorsements focus on the positive attributes of their preferred candidate, but occasionally some will take shots at the endorsed candidate’s opponents. I have no problem with promoting or criticizing a candidate’s position on issues, whether I agree with those issues or not. That’s for the voters to decide.
But I was taken aback by the nature of the IEA’s personal attack on State Representative Nybo. The IEA denounces Nybo because he “has strong ties to private schools.” Think about that for a minute. This is a direct attack on anyone who may choose – or who may support the right of others to choose – a non-public education for themselves or their children. I call upon the Wheaton-Warrenville Education Association to denounce this guilt-by-association bigotry.
The irony is rich. If any politician has “strong ties to private schools” it is President Obama, who attended only private schools (other than a brief stint overseas), starting in Hawaii and continuing through college and law school. He taught at a private law school (University of Chicago, my alma mater) and has sent his daughters to exclusive private schools – University of Chicago lab school and Sidwell Friends in DC. Yet the NEA endorsed him for reelection even though he says public schools aren't good enough for his children. Meanwhile he tried to kill a program that allowed poor minority parents in DC to help their children leave failing schools to get a better, private education.
Private schools – often religiously affiliated – are a vital part of the fabric of many communities (including preschools, elementary schools, and a high school and college right here in Wheaton). They add diversity to the educational options for parents and children. Every parent who sends his or her child to a public school is still paying property taxes to support public schools, so private schools lessen the burden on public schools. And, of course, this is still a free country, so what’s wrong with parents choosing for themselves? If the IEA believes that public education is the best option, why are they so afraid of private schools?