Education

Federal File: Private school choice; No job offer?; Cole under fire

January 13, 1993 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

It was probably not lost on President-elect Bill Clinton that as a longtime and vocal champion of public education, his selection last week of a private school in Washington for his daughter, Chelsea, would shoot skyward the eyebrows of public education advocates.

No surprises lurked, then, as the mixed reactions emerged.

Some groups, including the two teachers’ unions, said they were willing to separate what they--and the Clintons--saw as a family decision made with one child’s welfare in mind from an official policy position taken by Mr. Clinton. But others were not willing to concede that point.

Amy Carter, the last school-age child to live in the White House, attended the District of Columbia public schools.

In their Jan. 5 statement, Bill and Hillary Clinton said the decision to send Chelsea to the Sidwell Friends School, a respected and expensive coeducational Quaker school, was made “after many family discussions and careful consideration.’'

“As parents,’' the brief statement said, “we believe this decision is best for our daughter at this time in her life based on our changing circumstances.’'

Michael Casserly, the interim executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, agreed that it was “clearly a personal decision.’' Even so, he said, his group was “disappointed, and [we] think it’s a missed opportunity to become more personally involved in urban public education.’'

He added that the decision “does not lessen the enthusiasm of urban educators for Mr. Clinton.’'

In a statement, the president of the National Education Association, Keith B. Geiger, seemed to agree. He suggested that “many factors’’ were at play in the Clintons’ decision, including Chelsea’s security and her reaction to the school.

While he said he was “disappointed’’ that the District of Columbia public schools could not lure Chelsea, Superintendent Franklin Smith added that he was more interested in professional actions Mr. Clinton takes than in a “personal decision.’'

But others were less charitable.

In an interview on “CBS This Morning’’ last week, Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander was asked if he thought Mr. Clinton’s decision made him a hypocrite. “The answer is yes to that,’' he said.

Mr. Alexander took issue with the decision in light of Mr. Clinton’s stated opposition to government-funded tuition vouchers for parents to use at private schools.

But Mr. Alexander said he did not oppose the decision by the Clintons to do what is best for their daughter. Mr. Alexander’s son Will, 13, attends Sidwell Friends.

“The understandable parental desire to get a good education for your children cannot mask the hypocrisy of working to deny similar choices’’ for other Americans, said William H. Mellor, the president and general counsel of the Institute for Justice, a public-interest law firm that represents parents in school-choice cases.

Mr. Clinton has “actively committed himself to working against the ability of low- and middle-income kids to have the same choice’’ enjoyed by the well-to-do, Mr. Mellor charged.

Sidwell Friends, where Chelsea will be an 8th grader, offers grades pre-K through 12 and charges $10,400 for 8th-grade tuition.

About 20 percent of the student body is on some form of financial aid, a spokeswoman said. Seventeen percent of the students are black, 7 percent are Asian, and 3 percent are Latino.

Thomas H. Kean, the former Republican Governor of New Jersey, has denied a report in The Washington Times that he turned down an offer to head the Education Department before President-elect Clinton chose Richard W. Riley for the job.

When Mr. Clinton said he wanted to include Republicans in his Administration, attention focused on Mr. Kean, who, like the President-elect, is a moderate whose education policies earned him a national following.

Mr. Clinton told The Times that he discussed a Cabinet post with a Republican “who could not do it.’' The paper quoted an aide as saying Mr. Kean had been offered the education post.

Mr. Kean, now the president of Drew University, said that he had not spoken with Mr. Clinton about the job and that it had not been offered to him.

Johnnetta B. Cole, the Spelman College president who also had been viewed as a contender for the job, came under fire last month over charges that she is a sympathizer with extreme left-wing causes.

Critical stories about Ms. Cole, who headed the “cluster group’’ studying the Education and Labor departments for the transition team, were published in Forward, a weekly Jewish newspaper, and Human Events, a conservative weekly.

An aide confirmed that Ms. Cole had worked “as a peace activist’’ with the pro-Cuba Venceremos Brigade and with the pro-Palestinian U.S. Peace Council.

Although transition officials played down the disclosures, it is believed they destroyed any chance that Ms. Cole would be offered a Cabinet post.--M.L. & J.M.

A version of this article appeared in the January 13, 1993 edition of Education Week as Federal File: Private school choice; No job offer?; Cole under fire

Events

Jobs October 2021 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Using Integrated Analytics To Uncover Student Needs
Overwhelmed by data? Learn how an integrated approach to data analytics can help.

Content provided by Instructure
Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: October 27, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Vulnerable Students Left Behind as Schooling Disruptions Continue
The effects of unpredictable stretches at home can mirror those of chronic absenteeism and lead to long-term harm to learning.
4 min read
Students board a school bus on New York's Upper West Side on Sept. 13, 2021. Even as most students return to learning in the classroom this school year, disruptions to in-person learning, from missing one day because of a late school bus to an entire two weeks at home due to quarantine, remain inevitable as families and educators navigate the ongoing pandemic.
Students board a school bus on New York's Upper West Side on Sept. 13, 2021. Even as most students return to learning in the classroom this school year, disruptions to in-person learning, from missing one day because of a late school bus to an entire two weeks at home due to quarantine, remain inevitable as families and educators navigate the ongoing pandemic.
Richard Drew/AP
Education 'Widespread' Racial Harassment Found at Utah School District
The federal probe found hundreds of documented uses of the N-word and other racial epithets, and harsher discipline for students of color.
1 min read
A CNG, compressed natural gas, school bus is shown at the Utah State Capitol, Monday, March 4, 2013, in Salt Lake City. After a winter with back-to back episodes of severe pollution in northern Utah, lawmakers and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert will discuss clean air legislation and call for government and businesses to convert to clean fuel vehicles.
Federal civil rights investigators found widespread racial harassment of Black and Asian American students in the Davis school district north of Salt Lake City, Utah.
Rick Bowmer/AP Photo
Education Tiny Wrists in Cuffs: How Police Use Force Against Children
An investigation finds children as young as 6 and a disproportionate amount of Black children have been handled forcibly by police officers.
15 min read
Jhaimarion, 10, reacts as he listens to his mother, Krystal Archie talking with an Associated Press reporter in Chicago on Sept. 23, 2021. Archie’s three children were present when police, on two occasions, just 11 weeks apart, kicked open her front door and tore through their home searching for drug suspects. She’d never heard of the people they were hunting. Her oldest child, Savannah was 14 at the time; her youngest, Jhaimarion, was seven. They were ordered to get down on the floor.
Jhaimarion, 10, reacts as he listens to his mother, Krystal Archie talking with an Associated Press reporter in Chicago on Sept. 23, 2021. Archie’s three children were present when police, on two occasions, just 11 weeks apart, kicked open her front door and tore through their home searching for drug suspects. She’d never heard of the people they were hunting. Her oldest child, Savannah was 14 at the time; her youngest, Jhaimarion, was seven. They were ordered to get down on the floor.
Nam Y. Huh/AP