Since the defunding drama has consumed the capital, House majority leader Eric Cantor’s education speech in Philadelphia on Monday got little notice. But Cantor’s remarks at Freire Charter School are a worthwhile read, especially for conservatives who are interested in how the GOP is refining its education pitch ahead of the 2014 midterms. Cantor made a full-throated case for vouchers, and then promised to make them a legislative priority.
“While education opportunity has been expanding throughout the states, school choice has also been gaining traction at the federal level. Thirteen years ago when Congress last considered a major education authorization bill, there were few provisions related to education opportunity through school choice.
“Earlier this year, when the House considered the Student Success Act, I offered an amendment that allows parents to take Title 1 funds and use them to attend a public school of their choice, including charter schools. My amendment and this legislation passed the House. The next time Congress considers a major education reauthorization, I believe we will adopt full school choice.”
He also knocked the Justice Department for challenging Louisiana’s voucher program. (Rich Lowry recently wrote a column on the lawsuit.)
“If the Attorney General does not withdraw this suit, then the United States House will act. We will leave no stone unturned in holding him accountable for this decision. The Attorney General will have to explain to the American people why he believes poor minority children in Louisiana should be held back, and why these children shouldn’t have the same opportunity that the children from wealthier and more connected families.”
Beyond the support for Governor Jindal and vouchers, Cantor included several references to the civil rights movement.
“This is greatest civil rights challenge of our time, and it is up to us to solve it. . . In the end, I know that opponents of school choice and those who stand in the way will ultimately fail – and that fact strengthens my faith. Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and dreamed of an end to segregation. He knew this dream would be a reality because, as he often said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Education opportunity is justice for those children trapped in failing schools. And the arc is bending.
Outside the school, protestors chanted, ”Hey, hey, ho, ho, Eric Cantor’s got to go.” Cantor, though, stayed, and Republicans now have a better sense of how the leadership is handling an oft-overlooked issue.