School Choice & Charters Federal File

Holy War of Words

By Michelle R. Davis — February 28, 2006 2 min read
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Advocates of private school vouchers condemned remarks made last week by Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., who said vouchers could pave the way for a government-funded “School of the Jihad.”

At a Feb. 21 forum before about 100 community and business leaders at the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp. in New York City, Sen. Clinton, who is widely seen as a potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2008, was asked whether she supported charter schools, said Sharae Brown, the corporation’s public relations manager.

The question evoked a response in which Sen. Clinton said, according to a Feb. 22 story in the Long Island newspaper Newsday, that if a Jewish or Catholic student could get a voucher to a religious school of his or her choice, another parent “comes and says, ‘I want to send my child to the school of the Church of the White Supremacist. … You gave it to a Catholic parent, you gave it to a Jewish parent, under the Constitution, you can’t discriminate against me.’ ”

She reportedly added: “So what if the next parent comes and says, ‘I want to send my child to the School of the Jihad?’ … I won’t stand for it.”

Her office did not return calls for comment by press time last week.

In 2004, she voted against a plan that ultimately was enacted in Congress to launch a pilot voucher program in the District of Columbia.

Clint Bolick, the president of the Phoenix-based Alliance for School Choice and a prominent voucher proponent, called the former first lady a “blazing hypocrite.” He noted that when Sen. Clinton and her husband, President Bill Clinton, resided at the White House, District of Columbia authorities gave them the choice of sending their daughter, Chelsea, to any public school in the city. They ultimately chose a private school.

“It’s just absurd to characterize other parents’ abilities to make similar choices for their children this way,” he said.

He added that while government voucher programs have been around for years in places such as Cleveland and Milwaukee, “we do not see white-supremacy schools. We do not see jihadist schools. … What we do see is children who never before have gotten a break learning in safe environments chosen by their parents.”

Ms. Brown said the forum attendees didn’t seem to view the voucher remarks as controversial. “There were a lot of different issues discussed,” she said in an interview. “That one didn’t necessarily stand out.”

A version of this article appeared in the March 01, 2006 edition of Education Week

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