Condi Rice: School Choice Is a Civil Rights Issue

Jillian Schneider | June 19, 2024

(The Lion) — Condoleezza Rice was once the highest-ranking woman in the U.S. government. Now, the issue closest to her heart is one often left out of the national conversation: school choice.  

In an interview with the Ronald Reagan Foundation, the former secretary of state addressed a wide array of social issues, including education freedom.  

“We already have a choice system in education,” Rice said with irony. “If you are of means, you will move to a district where the schools are good and the houses are expensive like Palo Alto, California.” 

“If you’re really wealthy, you will send your kids to private school. So who’s stuck in failing neighborhood schools? Poor kids. A lot of them minority kids.”

Proponents of traditional public schools often claim that school choice benefits rich families and would resegregate the education system.  

But Rice disagrees.  

“How can you say you’re for civil rights, how can you say you’re for the poor when you’re condemning those children to not be able to read?” she asked. “By the time they’re in 3rd grade, they’re never going to read.” 

Research has shown being a proficient reader by early elementary school is vital, since those who aren’t are more likely to struggle academically, drop out of school and suffer reduced earning potential as an adult. 

Currently, just one-third of America’s students read at grade level – and rates are even lower among low-income and minority students. 

“If you want to say that school choice and vouchers and charter schools are destroying the public schools, fine, you write that editorial in the Washington Post,” Rice concluded. “But then don’t send your kids to Sidwell Friends [a D.C. private school].” 

Others – such as U.S. Senator Tim Scott, R-South Carolina – also consider school choice a civil rights issue. 

“I can’t think of anything more actually racist than trapping poor black kids in the failing schools in these big blue cities dominated by a super-majority of radical progressives who are running the cities and destroying the schools,” Scott said last September.  

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, even called school choice “the civil rights issue of the 21st century.” 

This article was made available to EdNews Virginia via The Lion, a publication of the Herzog Foundation. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0).