Stossel's "Myths, Lies and Nasty Behavior"

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., has called public education the "cornerstone of our democracy." But when she and her husband lived in the White House, they sent their daughter, Chelsea, to the elite Sidwell Friends private school.

When asked about it, President Clinton told ABC News, "We had to make the decision just for our daughter."

Well, sure he did. All of us want to do that, but not everyone can afford a private school. So what do you do if you're poor and live where the public schools are bad?

Are your kids just trapped?

Last month a student at an Ohio school videotaped his friend beating up a classmate. The teacher didn't notice because she was helping other students.

Sylvia Lopez lives in one of the most dangerous cities in America: Camden, N.J., where her kids heard scary things about public school.

So, Lopez scrapes together what little money she has to pay for a private school. But Ivan Foster can't afford to do that for his two kids.

"Something needs to be done now. You cannot take my tax dollars and tell me you're not going to help me help my children," Foster said.

He wishes he could take his tax dollars and use them to send his kids to a private school.

It's not that the Camden schools are starved for money. The district spends almost $15,000 per pupil. Even assuming as few as 20 kids per class, that's almost $300,000 per classroom. Think about that -- $300,000! Think what you could do with that money for one classroom. Hire five good teachers? Where does the government-run school money go? I don't know. But, if parents aren't happy with how that money's being spent, shouldn't they be allowed to take that money somewhere else? Say, a private school.

That's an idea many politicians oppose. President Clinton, for example, said, "I'm unalterably opposed to a voucher system to give people public money to take to private schools." But that didn't stop him from sending his own daughter to a private school. In fact, nearly half of members in Congress with children send or have sent at least one of their kids to a private school.

Sens. Lincoln Chaffee, R-R.I., and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., for example, sent their children to private schools yet they opposed proposals to let money follow the student to whatever school they choose.

The senators and most of the congressmen would not agree to be interviewed about this, but Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., would. His father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, sent him to high school at the exclusive St. Alban's school in Washington, D.C. -- that's the same place that former Vice President Al Gore sent his son. Tuition there is now more than $23,000.

But even though Jackson enjoyed the benefits of a private education, he votes against vouchers that would allow parents with less money have what he had. He says we should focus on fixing the public school system.

"When I went to high school, my parents did not have access to a voucher," he said.

But his parents had the money to afford it. Lots of other parents don't. So, why won't he vote to let them have the choice his parents had? "No one is keeping them locked in now. They can make decisions for themselves," he said.

The parent without money is stuck, stuck in the prison of the government monopoly.

"I wouldn't call it necessarily a prison," he said. But, he added, "It's not the best possible education system that's available."

Where will Jackson send his kids?

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