Sen. Clinton Raps School Vouchers

Published April 1, 2006

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton slammed private school voucher proposals [February 21], predicting that vouchers would eventually lead to the creation of taxpayer-financed white supremacist academies or even a government-funded “School of the Jihad.”

Clinton, a longtime voucher foe who earned the backing of the [New York City] teachers union in 2000, says government financing of sectarian groups would incite ethnic and religious conflict and encourage fringe groups to demand government cash to run their schools.

President George W. Bush has long favored laws that require states to provide vouchers, a position that earned him the allegiance of conservative Christian groups that have clamored for public education dollars.

“First family that comes and says ‘I want to send my daughter to St. Peter’s Roman Catholic School’ and you say ‘Great, wonderful school, here’s your voucher,'” Clinton said. “Next parent that comes and says, ‘I want to send my child to the school of the Church of the White Supremacist …’ The parent says, ‘The way that I read Genesis, Cain was marked, therefore I believe in white supremacy. … You gave it to a Catholic parent, you gave it to a Jewish parent, under the Constitution, you can’t discriminate against me.'”

As an adoring, if somewhat puzzled, audience of Bronx activists looked on, Clinton 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.”

The former first lady said that vouchers would also accentuate divisions, singling out government-financed Protestant and Catholic schools in Northern Ireland and similar arrangements in the Netherlands as examples of poorly functioning systems.

She spoke during a breakfast at the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp., where she denounced Bush administration cuts to community development programs, offered advice to minority and women business owners, and vowed to help bring more broadband access to the South Bronx.

Andrew Coulson, who works on education issues for the conservative Cato Institute, differed on the voucher issue, saying, “It’s misleading because under federal law no one would be permitted to open a school that advocates violence against the country.”

Glenn Thrush writes for Newsday from its Washington Bureau. This article originally appeared in the February 22, 2006, issue of Newsday. Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc. Reprinted with permission.