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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Howard Fuller, December 14, 1996. Interview O-0034. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

School vouchers as a means to offer increased educational options for the poor

The right to a quality education, Fuller argues, should not be afforded to only the wealthy. Using President Bill Clinton's daughter as an example, he again illuminates how money provides increased opportunities for the affluent. Fuller presently endorses school vouchers as a viable alternative to increase low-income children's access to a solid education.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Howard Fuller, December 14, 1996. Interview O-0034. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

HOWARD FULLER:
I'm getting close to the end. One thing you ought to leave here with is a willingness to rethink strategies and labels, and to put everything within its historical context, and the context of struggle. I'm not trying to proselytize any of y'all, but I want to use this as an example. My work today revolves around how we transform learning for our children. How do we learn more about how to learn, but equally important, how do we create new structures for those kids to learn in. I support vouchers for poor parents. I support charter schools. I support public-private partnerships. I support a de-centralized, reconfigured system. Cyber schools, home schooling. We should no longer talk about school systems, but systems of learning opportunities. [END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A] [TAPE 1, SIDE B] [START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
HOWARD FULLER:
…how I came to support vouchers for low income parents. I know people go, "But you're trying to destroy the public schools." Here's my view. It ain't about the public school system, it's about learning for our children. It ain't ever about institutions, it's about people. It is not in the public interest to maintain systems that continue not to educate our children. [Applause] Why do I support some of these things? Because I want poor parents to have the same choices in America that people with money have. Now you take people like Clinton—and this ain't no Democrat-Republican thing. I'm gonna tell y'all the truth, for the first time in my life, I didn't vote for either one of them. I could not vote. I didn't see no bridge to the past, and I didn't see none to the future. Whatever they were talking about didn't connect nowhere with me, because both of them looked the same to me. I know there's differences, and everybody's in parties, but I couldn't do it. What crystallized this for me, was when Clinton went to DC, and looked at the public schools, he said, ain't no way we're putting Chelsea in there! We're gonna send her to a private school. Which is his right as a parent, but the reason why he could make that choice is because him and Hillary have got money. After they make that choice, they look down to poor people in DC, and say, it ain't good enough for my daughter, but y'all gotta stay there, because to give you a way out would be to destroy the system. Come on! We've got public school teachers who would never put their child in the school they teach in. This is a discussion about what Lisa Delpit called "other people's children." People have got all these things that they think other people's children ought to have, that they would never stand for for their own children. And like it or not, until you give poor people a way to control some of this money, money changes the conversation. If people knew that not only are these people gonna leave, but their gonna take the money with them, you'd have a different conversation. You can call me what you want, but the reality is, as long as this system remains closed, as long as we continue to depend on the bureaucracy to make change instead of empowering the people to make their own change, ain't going to be no change for a whole lot of our kids. This system works well for some children, but it does not work well for a whole bunch of kids. We've got people teaching kids who used to be there, kids they wish were there. Not the kids who are actually there. People tell me, Howard, I could do such a better job if I had better kids. These are the only kids these parents got! It ain't like they're holding back their best ones. [Applause] People say, "but Howard, the Republicans support that." I say yeah, so what. "But you're getting in bed with the devil!" Not if it's for my kids. I sit on the side of the bed, I get under the sheets—" [Laughter] But I'm dead serious about this. All these alliances we talk about—some of them are no longer progressive alliances around certain issues. We've got to look for different alliances, not because we share their world view, but there's an intersection at a certain point in time, and you know there's going to be differences, because you have a different reason for why you're there.