Elaine Luria Rails Against School Choice. She Once Was President of a Private School.

Swing district Dem failed to disclose her position on financial disclosures

Rep. Elaine Luria (D., Va.) / Getty Images
December 15, 2021

A Virginia Democrat who railed against school choice on the campaign trail failed to report that she once was president of a private high school or that her daughter attends a private middle school.

Rep. Elaine Luria (D., Va.) slammed charter schools and voucher programs during her 2018 campaign, saying they pull funding from public schools. But Virginia corporation filings show Luria served as the president of Tidewater Montessori High School, Inc. in Norfolk, Va., from at least 2015 to 2019. Luria did not list her position on her 2018 and 2019 financial disclosure forms, a violation of House Ethics rules. Her daughter attends a Montessori school in Norfolk that can cost more than $12,000 per year.

Luria is one of several Democrats who oppose school choice but send their children to private schools.

The Washington Free Beacon reported that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), who came out strongly against private and charter schools during her 2019 presidential campaign, lied about sending her son to a private school when confronted by a school-choice activist. Former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed a bill to bolster the creation of charter schools in 2017 but sent at least four of his own children to an expensive private school.

Eran Livni told the Free Beacon he launched Tidewater Montessori High School in 2013. He left the school in 2014, and Luria took the helm of the school soon after. Tidewater Montessori High School dissolved in 2019. It’s unclear whether the school ever officially opened. The Free Beacon found no record of Tidewater Montessori High School outside of state corporation fillings.

Luria’s office declined to comment regarding the school’s launch, her role as president of the organization, and her failure to include the position on her financial disclosure statement.

House ethics rules require first-year representatives to report any non-federal positions they held in the two years prior to their election. Luria did not list her position at the high school on that report. Nor did she list the position on her 2018 candidate financial disclosure report, her 2019 new filer report, or her 2020 annual report.

Livni said he met Luria through her daughter's Norfolk Montessori school. The tuition for the middle school programming at the private school ranges from $11,314 for instruction from 8:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. to $12,397 for 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m—plus $750 in fees.

Luria’s private school connections did not stop her from attacking school choice.

"I stand strongly against voucher systems," Luria said at a May 2018 Democratic candidate forum. "I stand strongly against any type of charter schools that would remove funding from our public education, because the public education that we provide across America is the foundation of our future generation."

While Luria's daughter's school reopened early on for in-person learning, Luria in February voted for a budget procedural vote that blocked the House from deliberating on the Reopen Schools Act. The Republican-sponsored bill would have given federal funding to schools that reopened for in-person learning.

Education is not the only issue where Luria's actions contradict her policy positions. Though she said on the campaign trail that national minimum wage hikes could hurt small businesses, she cosponsored legislation to raise the national minimum wage to $15. Luria sold her own small business just weeks before that vote.