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Cantor Hits Critics of Expanding School Choice

Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., the House Majority Leader, used a high-profile speech on education to draw attention to what he sees as a concerted effort to tamp down school choice in education overhaul hotspots, including Louisiana, New York City, and Washington, D.C.

His remarks came in a speech at the Brookings Institution, which released its annual "school choice" index today. All three areas singled out by Cantor earned high marks in their report. (For more on the report itself, check out this post by Katie Ash of Charters & Choice fame.)

"School choice is under attack in the very places that top this year's rankings," Cantor said. "It is up to us in this room, and our allies across the nation, to work for and fight for the families and students who will suffer the consequences if school choice is taken away."

Specifically, Cantor drew attention to the U.S. Department of Justice's lawsuit against Louisiana's voucher program, which Cantor said has "brought hope and opportunity to thousands of students." He urged Eric Holder, the attorney general, to visit the program and see it for himself.

And he hit Bill de Blasio, a Democrat and New York's new mayor, for considering a change to school-facility regulations that allow charter schools to share space with regular public schools, saving them big cash in the city's pricey real-estate market.

He also chided President Barack Obama for not including new money for the D.C. voucher program in his budget requests. (The administration has generally focused on funding existing slots, not bringing in many new students, despite what the program's supporters see as overwhelming demand.) 

"School choice is a threat to the status quo," Cantor said. "School choice protects families and children, not bureaucracies."

This isn't Cantor's first education-policy rodeo. He kicked off 2013 with a big education-policy speech, visited a ton of schools with a special focus on places that were investing heavily in school choice, and then pushed an amendment to the House ESEA bill that would allow Title I funding to follow students to the public school of their choice. During the Brookings speech, he urged the Senate (which is controlled by Democrats) to get moving on that legislation.

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