This morning, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor visited West Philly to speak at Freire Charter School, which he cited as as an example of the benefits of charters schools to public school communities. Many saw the irony in a school-choice speech being delivered in a school district in a financial crisis that some blame partly on the proliferation of charters, which in Philly cost the district an estimated $7,000 per student.
But Cantor said school-choice is a civil rights issue — in fact, "the greatest civil-rights challenge of our time. ... Who would ever want to deny parents from having better and more options for their kids?"
He also decried those who push back on charters — and said actions like a Department of Justice lawsuit to stop the use of vouchers in New Orleans because the use of vouchers was impeding the desegregation of schools there were "absurd."
"It's in some cases our federal and in some cases our state governments that are stopping this tremendous progress," he said.
Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools organized a protest this morning. State Sen. Vincent Hughes called the Congressman's visit to Philly "outrageous." He said in a statement:
"The Philadelphia School District is in the middle of a financial crisis and trading public dollars for vouchers will simply make the problem worse. ... If Congressman Cantor really wants to help the children of Philadelphia, he should work to reverse the massive budget cuts caused by the sequestration, which total $85.3 billion or 9 percent of all discretionary federal spending. It is estimated that sequestration will cause the Philadelphia School District to lose between $16 and $17 million in federal funds. This is a statewide issue, as Pennsylvania's public schools will lose up to $29.5 million overall.
Congressman Cantor ought to take some time while he's in Philadelphia to visit one of our public schools and see the real impact of massive budget cuts. Our children are dealing with overcrowded classrooms without art, music, or athletics. If Congressman Cantor understood what was happening in our schools, perhaps he would address the real issue—inadequate funding for public education."
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