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updated: 7/21/2011 11:51 PM

Emanuel sending children to private school

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Associated Press

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's already contentious relationship with leaders of the city's public school system may have gotten a bit testier Thursday with news that he and his wife will send their three children private school.

Emanuel, who made improving education a cornerstone of his successful mayoral campaign, has been engaged in a war of words with the union after announcing cost cutting measures for a system that faces a massive deficit. Just last month, he defended a school board decision to cancel raises for teachers, saying that while they have received two kinds of raises in the last eight years, flat test scores and a graduation rate of just over 50 percent suggests students are getting "the shaft."

Union President Karen Lewis, who angrily reacted to those comments, on Thursday issued a sarcasm-laced statement about Emanuel's decision to send his children to a prestigious private school.

"The new mayor seems to recognize how school funding impacts school quality," Lewis said in a statement. "We understand why he would choose a school with small class sizes, a broad rich curriculum ... a focus on critical thinking and not test-taking, a teacher and an assistant in every elementary classroom, and paid high-quality professional development for their teachers."

Lewis also drew a comparison between Emanuel and thousands of families who cannot afford to send their children anywhere but the city's struggling public schools.

"It's wonderful that he has that option available to him," she said.

According to various media outlets, Emanuel's children will attend the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools in Hyde Park, the same school once attended by President Barack Obama's daughters.

Emanuel, while not directly confirming the reports, nevertheless defended the decision to send the children to whatever school he and his wife wish.

"We'll do (what) is best for them as children and their education," he recently told reporters.

While his comments with WBBM-TV this week suggest he recognizes that he would be opening himself up to criticism by sending his children to private school, he also said he didn't think most residents would hold it against him.

"Nobody elected me or voted against me based on my children," he said. "They voted for their own interest, based on their children and their families and their future."