Reporting Jay Levine
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CHICAGO (CBS) – CBS 2 News has learned where Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s three children will attend school this fall.
The mayor repeatedly has said that he and his wife would make that decision as a family and now they have.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports on what he learned following an exclusive interview with the mayor on Wednesday.
Sources familiar with the decision said that Emanuel’s son and two daughters will be enrolled in the private and prestigious University of Chicago Lab Schools in Hyde Park.
As recently as two weeks ago, Emanuel insisted that he would not publicly announce where he will be sending his kids to school
Word of Emanuel’s choice of schools came after the one-on-one interview on Wednesday, which dealt with Emanuel’s challenges as a mayor and as a parent, and how he’d separate the two.
Decisions concerning his family, he said, would be strictly divorced from politics.
“If I made a decision about my children that was not as father, but as mayor, first of all my kids would know it – because it is exactly what we said, they have a sixth sense about that – and I’d be less as a father,” he said. “I would know it and the public will understand, then I’m less of a person and I know they will appreciate that. I have absolute confidence in that.”
Only after the interview did CBS 2 learn that Leah, Ilana and Zach – who walked with their mother and father to City Hall right after the inauguration in May – would go to the top-rated South Side private school once attended by President Barack Obama’s daughters.
Emanuel and his wife chose the Lab Schools rather than the Chicago Public Schools he’s made such a priority both during the campaign and first months in office.
During Wednesday’s interview, the mayor talked at length about the importance of separating political from personal decisions.
“There is nothing more important to me than my children and my family and you know this as a father … our kids are unbelievably smart. They know if tjey become instruments or second priorities,” he said. “And I never want my kids to grow up thinking that my career or my profession trumps their future or their relationship with me.”
Emanuel has consulted with other politicians – including the Clintons, Daleys and Obamas – about the difficulty of raising children while holding office, drawing lines between politics and family, setting ground rules and sticking to them.
The mayor realizes the risk that people might say he doesn’t practice what he preaches by sending his own children to private school while overhauling the city’s public schools.
“They’ll have to make that judgment and I’ll have to live with the judgment I have as a father and a husband,” Emanuel said.
“Over the years, the boundary between private and public … constantly gets eroded, erased, knocked down; and unless Amy and I are vigilant about it, there’s nothing that’s gonnna – not meanly – nothing’s gonna stop you, because rules are different. And, in fact, I don’t think any of us really know anymore,” Emanuel added. “So I have to be vigilant about the wall that protects my children so they have a natural both childhood and now adolescence. And that, to me, is something I thought about and, therefore, that’s why we’re gonna be strong because, in fact, I don’t think you could tell me today where the wall is, where you stop.”
The mayor said he thinks the voters who elected him will understand that.
“Nobody elected me or voted against me based on my children. They voted for their own interest, based on their children and their families and their future,” Emanuel said. “That’s what they voted for. They didn’t vote about where I’m sending my children or any decision Amy and I make as parents or as a family. I think they respect that.”
There will undoubtedly be questions about how his choice of private school for his own children reflects on his commitment to and belief in the quality of Chicago’s public schools.
Judging from his interview on Wednesday, it’s clear this was a decision that Emanuel and his wife gave much thought and that they are comfortable with.