Teaching Profession Federal File

Mr. Clinton’s Neighborhood

By Michelle R. Davis — December 13, 2005 1 min read

Former President Bill Clinton can now count himself on the same level of renown as Mister Rogers.

On Dec. 9, Mr. Clinton was slated to pick up an award for Outstanding Service to Public Education from the National Education Association Foundation at a gala in Washington.

He was chosen for the award—whose past winners include the late cardigan-clad children’s-show host—by the board of the 36-year-old foundation, an offshoot of the 2.7 million-member teachers’ union. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was also scheduled to receive the award at the event late last week.

Mr. Clinton was selected for his education successes during his two-term presidency, said foundation President Harriet Sanford, including increased funding for the Head Start preschool program; federal investments in school construction and educational technology for schools; reductions in class sizes; and gains in the affordability of college, through Hope Scholarships and “lifetime learning” tax credits.

The NEA and Mr. Clinton have long been cozy. The teachers’ union endorsed both his bids for the presidency. And in 1993, President Clinton plucked NEA official Sharon P. Robinson from her job overseeing the organization’s National Center for Innovation to head the Department of Education’s office of educational research and improvement.

The silver-haired Democrat would also bring star power to the foundation’s event, Ms. Sanford acknowledged. The gathering was sold out this year, with 150 more tickets purchased over last year, with 850 total sold, she said.

Mr. Clinton is like a rock star, “except a rock star that advanced education,” Ms. Sanford said. “We need more of those.”

The NAACP was slated to be honored for its work on Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on school desegregation, as well as for more recent work on teacher retention, Ms. Sanford said.

Mr. Clinton’s name will now be grouped with past winners of the outstanding-service award, including his two-term secretary of education, Richard W. Riley, honored in 2000, and Fred Rogers of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” honored in 2001.

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