Rice said on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday public education has long been the route taken by black people to a better life, but the once-vaunted system is buckling under the political fighting over taxes and budget deficits.
"I think it's going to drive us into class warfare like we've never seen because education, even in the segregated South, was always the way that you got out," Rice warned.
Rice said politics has "sped up and gotten very loud" in recent years and is providing a major distraction for institutions such as Congress that don't move very quickly in the first place.
"With the failing public schools, I worry that the way that my grandparents got out of poverty, the way that my parents became educated, is just not going to be there for a whole bunch of kids," she said. "And I do think that race and poverty is still a terrible witch's brew."