June 14, 2000

June 14, 2000 | News Releases on Education

Many Congressional Foes Of School Choice Send Their Children To Private School, Survey Finds

WASHINGTON, June 14, 2000-A substantial number of federal lawmakers who have sent or are sending their children to private school consistently vote against giving the same right to families with lesser means, a new Heritage Foundation survey finds.

The results come as the U.S. Supreme Court and the Ohio Supreme Court prepare to rule on cases involving public funds being made available to private schools-and follow recent polls showing a majority of African-Americans and Hispanics support school choice.

The survey, conducted between February and May by Heritage Senior Policy Analyst Nina Shokraii Rees and Researcher Jennifer Garrett, reveals that 49 percent of the senators and 40 percent of the representatives responding to the survey have sent or are sending at least one child to private school. Lawmakers who serve on committees with jurisdiction over education are the ones most likely to send their children to private schools, Rees and Garrett found.

In the House, 57 members who have taken advantage of school choice for their own children voted against an amendment introduced last fall that would have enabled more children in public schools to switch to private schools. As a result, the amendment failed by a vote of 166 to 257. Had those same members reversed their votes, the legislation would have passed, 223-200.

In the Senate, a bill expanding education savings accounts to cover K-12 education expenses at public, private or religious "schools of choice" failed to attract the supermajority needed to override President Clinton's likely veto. The amendment would have passed easily if the Senate members who practice school choice had supported it.

The survey also found that:

  • 61 percent of Senate Finance Committee members and 57 percent of Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee members send or have sent their children to private school;
  • 43 percent of House Ways and Means Committee members and 33 percent of House Education and Workforce Committee members chose private schools for their children;
  • 33 percent of members who represent the congressional districts of the 10 largest U.S. cities have chosen private schools; and
  • 28 percent of Black Caucus members and 14 percent of Hispanic Caucus members send or have sent their children to private schools.

The Heritage Foundation has conducted this survey twice before, with different congresses, and has consistently found large numbers of members who send their children to private school while opposing school-choice opportunities for the disadvantaged.

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