Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx can almost move you to tears with his passion for Charlotte's public schools.
"The public school system is where so many of our young people find a doorway to daylight," Foxx told The Charlotte Observer last November.
Just not his kids, apparently. You'd think, after making the county's public schools the centerpiece of his mayoral campaign last year, that he'd enroll his own kids in the system.
Foxx spent months on the campaign trail challenging others to get involved in the city's struggling schools.
He found his calling when he visited his daughter's school, Cotswold Elementary, last year to have lunch with her and the other kids applauded, he told the Observer. It then dawned on him that as mayor, he could have a positive impact on the city's students.
Foxx apparently just doesn't want his kids to be among them. This year, the Foxx kids enrolled at Charlotte Country Day, where tuition for just one elementary school student is $18,270.
Charlotte Country Day declined to answer our questions about whether the Foxx kids got a tuition break. Through his spokesperson, Foxx declined to comment on the situation as well.
He isn't the only member of Charlotte city management with children in private school. One of City Councilmember Andy Dulin's children also attends private school. But Dulin didn't make the schools his political mission, and hasn't had much to say about the school system. That makes sense, given that the City Council doesn't oversee the schools or have much of anything to do with them. (The County Commission does.) That made Foxx's crusade on behalf of schools unique.
"I want to send an unambiguous message to the community that we can't leave it all to the superintendent, or to the teachers," he told the Observer in November. "We all have to get involved."
Foxx was right. The year 2008 was the first in which the majority of students who enrolled in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools system were poor. For the first time, more than half the system's schools had student bodies where 75 percent of the student body lived in poverty.
"The symbolic involvement of the mayor in a public school is important," Foxx said in an Oct. 31 Observer article.
Foxx has a point. If Charlotte's mayor won't enroll his own kids, what does it say about our school system? What does that say to other parents who are on the line about sending their kids to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, especially after they read last week that the system will now use drug-sniffing dogs to combat its drug problem. (Editor's Note: For more on CMS' new anti-drug initiative, read this week's The N Word.)
There's another bit of irony here. One of Foxx's other passions is increasing the city's supply of publicly subsidized housing. The city could build a lot more of it if it were located on cheaper land, but Foxx and city leaders are determined to build this housing in the city's most affluent suburbs, in the spirit of fairness and economic integration.
In fact, Foxx even referenced his housing policies to assure the Swann Fellowship that he would continue to fight their fight. The fellowship exists to battle racial and economic segregation in schools. Earlier this year, Foxx told them that he would use his housing policies to help foster integration of neighborhoods — and thus schools.
"We're going to do some housing things on the city side that will help in the long run," Foxx told Swann. "Stay in the trenches. It's a marathon."
Apparently, sending your kids to economically integrated schools is for other people.
To his credit, Foxx didn't drop the save-our-schools talking points once his campaign ended. At his swearing-in, he gave a passionate speech in which he emphasized the plight of the city's students.
"Why are we letting children fail?" the Observer quoted him as saying about the schools. "That isn't something we can fix inside these four walls. But outside these four walls, we can fix it."
Given the drug-sniffing dog situation, there probably are advantages to fixing the system from "outside" the four walls.