House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told a think tank audience Wednesday that he wants to give all parents the power to choose which schools their children attend, even if that means moving students out of the public school system over the next decade.
Cantor, R-Va., highlighted his school choice agenda at the Brookings Institution, which is set to release its own assessment of school choice issues in its 2013 education Choice and Competition Index.
Cantor told the crowd that he believes the ability of parents to send children to affordable schools outside of the public system "is under attack" in places as diverse as New York City and Louisiana, where state and federal lawmakers have stymied charter schools and school vouchers.
Cantor cited Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to take Louisiana to court over state school vouchers that help children pay for private schools, saying the vouchers could help minority students trapped in poorly performing public schools. That lawsuit has since been dropped, but the Justice Department is still seeking a federal review of the state-administered program.
"This kind of attack on an effective program that helps everyone, providing opportunity scholarships to kids of every background, is political payback to those who oppose school choice," Cantor said. "They see school choice as a threat."
Cantor also referenced New York City, where newly sworn in Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio is considering charging rent for public facilities used by publicly funded, but privately operated charter schools.
In Washington D.C., Cantor added, President Obama barred the use of federal funds for a citywide voucher program even though the dropout rate in the District's public schools is among the highest in the nation.
Cantor touted House efforts to increase student choice outside of the public system by passing the Student Success Act, which would steer money and control of schools, including teacher evaluations, back to state and local governments.
Education reform is a top priority for Cantor, who regularly visits charter and private schools across the country.
The Brookings school choice index is published "to create public awareness of the differences among districts in their support of school choice, provide a framework for efforts to improve choice and competition, and recognize leaders among school districts in the design and implementation of choice and competition systems," according to the think tank.