ABC News’ Rick Klein Reports: Former senator John Edwards on Tuesday plans to unveil a proposal to alleviate economic inequality in the nation’s public schools, as he decries "economic segregation" in school systems across the country.
"I think we still have two public school systems in this country," Edwards, D-N.C., said Monday at a town hall broadcast on ABC’s "Good Morning America." "They’re not segregated just based on race. They’re segregated to a large extent based on economics, which has racial implications."
"The result is, if you live in a wealthy suburban area, the odds are very high that your child will get a very good public school education," Edwards continued. "If you live in the inner city or if you live in a poor rural area, the odds of that go down dramatically."
When the Edwards family purchased a 102-acre plot of land to build a home on in 2004, they appear to have had those odds in mind.
Elizabeth Edwards said at the time that they chose their location — in a more affluent school district than the neighboring district — in large part based on the education the couple’s two young children would receive there.
According to a local newspaper report shortly after the purchase, Elizabeth Edwards said that "the family plans to move there because she and her husband are interested in the school district there."
More than a year after the purchase, when local bloggers began buzzing about the fact that the new home would be in an unincorporated part of the county that’s part of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district, Mrs. Edwards wrote into the blog and cited the "great public schools" among the reason for their decision to relocate to the new piece of land.
"Our older children attended public schools in Wake County, and I knew well the reputation of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School System," she wrote in October 2005. "But there are other reasons, too, including the level of political involvement of the people here, the proximity to UNC where John now has a position and works, and good and long-time friends who live here."
The Edwards children, Emma Claire, 9, and Jack, 7, attend Chapel Hill-Carrboro public schools. The family’s sprawling home sits about a mile outside the boundary for the more rural Orange County school district, which has complained about funding shortfalls in recent years.
Unlike the Edwards family, the front-running Democratic candidates have sent their children to private schools. Sen. Barack Obama’s two daughters attend private schools in Chicago, and Chelsea Clinton attended the exclusive Sidwell Friends School in Washington while she lived in the White House.
The Edwards campaign says Edwards is the only candidate with a comprehensive plan to address income inequality in schools.
"John and Elizabeth Edwards sent their kids to the school district in which they live," said Eric Schultz, an Edwards spokesman. "The difference between John Edwards and the Bush administration is that he wants to make sure that every child in America gets to the same opportunity to attend a great public school — they just want to close public schools."
The plan Edwards is to announce would give federal bonuses to schools in affluent communities that enroll low-income students; double federal funding for magnet schools to promote "economic integration"; and establish new housing vouchers that would allow low-income families to move to better neighborhoods.