President Clinton: School Choice Supporter?

Published September 1, 1998

In a letter read at the June 9 Children’s Scholarship Fund announcement, President Bill Clinton praised the Fund for “helping to widen the circle of educational opportunity.” “Too many of our young people,” he wrote, “grow up in environments that offer them little or no encouragement to conceive, pursue, and achieve their dreams.” Clinton’s support for the Fund came as a surprise to many, given his persistent opposition to school choice proposals.

In May, the President vetoed a pilot voucher program that would have rescued 2,000 children from the District of Columbia’s schools. Scholarships from Forstmann’s program will fund 400 students in the nation’s capital, while the private Washington Scholarship Fund currently serves 1,600.

The President also vetoed, in July, a measure that would have permitted parents to accumulate tax-free savings for K-12 educational expenses. While the President argued such a program would benefit only the well-off, information provided by the Children’s Scholarship Fund shows that a typical scholarship family has an income of just $18,000 a year.

In private schools nationwide, 75 percent of K-8 students pay less than $2,500 a year in tuition. Even low-income families manage to contribute an average of $1,000 a year towards tuition at a scholarship school.