With Washington D.C. schools at a crossroads, President Obama said Monday he doesn’t think his privately-educated daughters could get the same level of education in the public system.
The father of two was asked whether daughters Malia, 12, and Sasha, 9, would benefit from the same “rigorous” instruction at a D.C. public school as they do at the “very elite private academy” Sidwell Friends by an audience member on NBC’s “Today Show.” With alumni like Chelsea Clinton, Al Gore III, and Tricia Cox Nixon, Sidwell Friends has long been the school of choice for the politically elite.
“I’ll be blunt with you,” the president replied. “The answer is no right now.” He went on to say that despite making great strides over the past several years, “The D.C. public school systems are struggling.”
The notoriously poor system is at a crossroads after Mayor Adrian Fenty lost to D.C. council chairman Vincent Gray in the Democratic primary. Fenty administration school chancellor Michelle Rhee closed 23 schools and fired hundreds of teachers, an aggressive approach to reform that inspired Oprah to call her “warrior woman,” but is widely thought to have cost Fenty his bid for reelection.
“He can walk out with his head held high,” education secretary Arne Duncan said on Sunday’s "Meet the Press". “I’m a huge fan of what he and Michelle have done. By any measure, the public schools in D.C. are dramatically better today than when they started.”
The president said the system still has a ways to go. There are “terrific individual schools” in the city, but the larger problem remains for parents who can’t choose to send their children to school where they please, he said. “They should be getting the same quality education for their kids as everybody else, and we don’t have that yet.”