President: ‘It’s Not Their Money’

Published February 1, 2000

The way federal officials view the swollen river of taxpayer dollars flowing through the nation’s capital was captured in comments made by President Clinton on the South Grounds of the White House last November 8, before the education spending bill had been finalized.

Reporter: Mr. President, on the issue of funding for teachers, sir, you resent it when Congress tells you to spend money in ways in which you do not deem appropriate. Why should a state governor who would like to spend that money differently feel any differently?

The President: Well, because it’s not their money. If they don’t want the money, they don’t have to take it. If they’re offended by it, they can give it to other states and other school districts.

Despite having control of Congress, Republicans in October abandoned an effort to place a voucher provision in the education spending bill and finally settled for a minor choice provision. The provision was promoted as being the first time federal education funds could be used to help parents transfer their children from a failing public school to another public school.

However, The Heritage Foundation’s education policy expert, Nina Rees, pointed out that states already can use Title VI money for public school choice if they wish. While supportive of the new choice provision for Title I funds, she noted that only the additional funds could be used for public school choice, not any of the existing Title I funds.