Obamas Should Send Daughters to ‘Best’ Schools ‘They Can Afford,’ ‘Sopranos’ Star Says
November 17, 2008 - 8:23 PMEmmy award-winning Actor Joe Pantoliano of "The Sopranos" said despite President-elect Barack Obama's opposition to school choice for low-income families, the Obama family has "special circumstances" when it comes to where to send his children to school, and they should give their children "the best they can afford."
Pantoliano’s comments were made during an interview with CNSNews.com before the Lab School of Washington Gala on Nov. 11. The Lab School is a K-12 co-educational day school for students with learning disabilities.
Obama opposes school choice, which gives parents the option to send their children to public schools, private schools or charter schools, as well as apply for tax credits or deductions for home schooling expenses.
The public school system in Washington, D.C., ranks as one of the worst in the country with regards to students’ standardized test scores regardless of some of the highest spending per pupil in the nation. According to Andrew Coulson with the Cato Institute, total per-pupil spending in D.C.’s public schools is $24,600 per year.
Pantoliano, 57, says Obama should do what’s best for his family given his new circumstances as the president-elect.
“Those are special circumstances. It’s kind of – it’s between a rock and a hard place. It is a security issue. I think a parent is entitled to give their child the best they can afford to give them,” said Pantoliano, who played Ralph Cifaretto on HBO’s “The Sopranos.” “I have friends of ours who do home schooling and believe in it, and the kids are doing great.”
Pantoliano, whose parents put him through the public school system in Hoboken, N.J., was recognized with an award during the gala for his achievement in television and film despite his learning disability.
In October 2007, Pantoliano wrote on the National Alliance on Mental Health blog that he had been suffering from clinical depression for over 10 years. His formal announcement came soon after. He told CNSNews.com his grade school teachers thought he was lazy and he did not want to do the work he was assigned.
“That is so upsetting, because I tried so hard,” he said. “I actually had the teacher take my and two other kids in the 4th grade – she took our books away in front of the entire class because, she said, if we weren’t going to be putting in the effort, we weren’t entitled to read.
“And so for an entire class we stayed out of the reading hour when all of the other kids read. It was devastating, so I developed a persona where I didn’t care. I got into trouble because you act out – you act one way or another,” he added.
Robert Allbritton, CEO of Allbritton Communications, which finances The Politico, was also recognized at the event for his achievements. He offered his assessment of the Obama family’s schooling situation.
“It’s going to be up to him clearly,” said Allbritton. “I mean, we’ve got precedent on both sides. Those are kind of family choices, and I’m not so sure that in this particular city, you can read a whole lot of political significance out of which way a family goes.”
Pantoliano said Obama “should move the White House to Connecticut,” because where his children go to school, the town is spending upwards of about $17,000 a year per child for public school.
“This school (the private Lab School in Washington, D.C.) charges $34,000. It’s about personal needs. Some kids excel. Some kids are just so brilliant that they surpass the kind of public school education, and it would be awkward to be 14 years old, and you’re a senior,” he said.
According to The Lab School, their yearly tuition is $30,000-$32,340.
“It’s on a case by case situation. I think that, he should be – I think his mother-in-law and his wife are going to be doing a lot of the stuff for the kids, because he’s got a big mess to take care of first,” he said.
Pantoliano’s first major role was Guido the Killer Pimp in “Risky Business.” He also played the character Cypher in “The Matrix.” Pantoliano is also widely known for his role as Eddie Moscone, the bail bondsman, in the Robert DiNiro film “Midnight Run.” In 2003, he won an Emmy Award for his role as Ralph Cifaretto in HBO’s “The Sopranos.”