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Real Clear Education: Sacre Bleu! American and French Bureaucrats Support Private Schools, But Only For Their Kids

Recently, France’s Education Minister nominee, Amélie Oudea-Castera, faced criticism when, just three days after being appointed, it came to light that she sent her son to a prestigious private Catholic school. Subsequently, her nomination was withdrawn amidst the blowback from this decision. However, she remains in her role as France’s Minister of Sports and Olympic and Paralympic Games.


In a country where school choice, as Americans know it, doesn’t exist and where a revolution started over the ruling class ignoring the needs of the masses, it comes as little surprise that the French acted quickly to oust a would-be education minister for sending her child to private school.


Oudea-Castera’s stated reason for sending her son to private school was that she was tired of the teacher shortage at her son’s public school, and therefore her son attended a school with an annual high school tuition of €2,561 per year.


This tuition may sound modest compared to the sticker prices of some American private schools, but keep in mind that the average French annual salary is $52,764 whereas the average American annual salary is $77,463. Coupled with the fact that in France wages ranging from €28,798 to €78,570 are taxed at around 30%, €2,561 is a high price for many families.


France is known for its top-down, central bureaucracy that offers almost no school choice options to families wishing to send their children to non-government schools. Indeed, France has some government-subsidized private schools (many of which are Catholic). Notably, these schools do not admit students based on religious criteria, nor do they teach religion. Nonetheless, France does not have a system of education freedom such as school vouchers or education savings accounts (ESAs) that fosters individual choice and freedom when it comes to K-12 education.


Thankfully in America, many states, including Iowa and Florida, have passed school choice policies that help families of all socioeconomic backgrounds. But the anti-school choice hypocrisy is alive and well in the land of the free and home of the brave.


Illinois has programs like tax credits, open enrollment in public schools, and charter schools. But the Chicago Teachers Union has worked to oppose charter schools and a tax credit-funded scholarship program for families who send their kids to private school. And Stacy Davis Gates, president of the Chicago Teachers Union and executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers, sends her son to the well-known De La Salle Institute to the tune of $14,750 per year while making over $262,000 per year (average annual salary in Illinois is $63,930).


In the Volunteer State, Democratic Tennessee State Sen. Heidi Campbell referred to her state’s Education Freedom Scholarship Act as a “scam” and was later called out on a radio show for sending her children to private school, instead of the majority-black school in which she and her family are zoned.


American public schools face reading and math test scores at their lowest in decades. In France, public schools face violence from rioters and Islamic terror. But in both countries, the elite manage to send their kids to private schools.


Over 200 years ago, France and America each launched revolutions against governments imposing unjust laws. America's revolution started, and ended, very differently from France’s. We created a country conceived in liberty, individual rights, and balanced power between the states and the federal government. On the other hand, France had a revolution that led to the Reign of Terror and then created a robust central bureaucracy.


But perhaps this time, Americans can take a page from France’s livre. After much pushback, Oudea-Castera’s nomination as Minister of Education was withdrawn. So too, perhaps Americans would benefit from more outrage against leaders whose actions reflect a “let them eat cake” mentality at the expense of America’s schoolchildren.


This article first appeared in Real Clear Education.



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