At the July press conference where Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced his new Chicago Public Schools team, the newly anointed chief education officer, Janice Jackson, pointed out she’s not only a former principal, she’s also a “proud parent” of a CPS student.

Jackson’s son attends CPS Skinner North, one of the best elementary schools in the system.

Meanwhile, her boss, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool, is refusing to say whether his children are attending or have attended CPS schools, with a spokesman relaying via email only that they “have attended both public and private schools.”

We obviously respect Claypool’s right to make the best decisions for his family. But isn’t there value in knowing any rationale for choosing private over public, given his new role as the taxpayers’ steward for CPS and its 400,000 children?

Claypool wouldn’t come to the phone, and his chief of staff, Doug Kucia, hung up on us when we asked him about all this.

CPS Board Vice President Jesse Ruiz, who briefly was CEO after the departure of Barbara Byrd-Bennett amid a federal investigation, responded this way, referring to CPS leaders: “What matters is that they are committed and are willing to give their time and talent to public schools.”

Ruiz, by the way, sends his sons to the elite, privately run University of Chicago Lab School in Hyde Park.

U.S. Education Secretary (and former CPS CEO) Arne Duncan had his children at the Lab School while he ran CPS, and they’ve re-enrolled, according to published reports, now that his family is returning from Washington, D.C.

Former CEOs Ron Huberman and Jean-Claude Brizard had babies when they led CPS, so they were too young for school. Byrd-Bennett has grown children, though her grandchildren attended a pricey private school in Cleveland and she served on that school’s board.

Former Daley-era CPS chief Paul Vallas sent his kids to a religious school, as did ex-Mayor Richard M. Daley.

It’s worth noting that some local private schools are drastically different than CPS, with strong arts programs, small class sizes, and limited or no standardized testing – things that many CPS parents pine for.

The Chicago Teachers Union said, in effect, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

Most current CPS board members have grown children. Aside from Ruiz, the only other board member with school-aged children appears to be Dominique Jordan Turner, whose daughter is about to start 1st grade at Sutherland Elementary School, a highly rated neighborhood school in Beverly on the South Side.

At another recent event, we posed a question about Claypool to Emanuel, who indicated he doesn’t know where Claypool’s kids go or went to school. “I only know where my kids go to school,” said Emanuel, who, as has been reported, sends them to Lab School.

This blog entry was written and reported by the Better Government Association’s Sarah Karp, who can be reached at or (312) 525-3483.

Photo credit: Chicago Sun-Times