House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has his detractors on immigration and other issues, but some education reformers will miss him.
Cantor has made advocacy on behalf of school choice and charter schools a priority. In January, for instance, Cantor got into a public spat with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio over charter schools, and promised to do whatever it took to check efforts to curb charters.
Last fall, Cantor challenged the Justice Department over its lawsuit against Louisiana’s new school voucher law. He has paid repeated visits to various inner-city schools while pushing school choice as the key to solving the cycle of poverty in inner cities.
Cantor’s defeat doesn’t signal any newfound hostility to school choice or charters among Republicans, and indeed both House Speaker John Boehner and several tea party leaders have been advocates for charter schools and school vouchers. But conservative reformers can’t help but notice that with Cantor — before Tuesday a possibility to succeed Boehner as speaker — made their issues a priority.
Michael Petrilli, executive vice president of the Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank promoting education reform, said that Cantor’s defeat removes a figure who put education issues near the center of his vision of the party.
“Maybe that stuff [will] get put on the shelf,” Petrilli told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“I think Cantor was trying to change the [Republican] message to be a message that would resonate more with middle America,” he continued. “With him gone, it could be that there’s nobody pushing for that, so the focus will go back to messages that mostly appeal to the base, which is gonna be about anti-Obama, anti-Obamacare, anti-immigration.”
Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, agreed that Cantor had played a major role in elevating education issues for the party at the national level, and praised him for helping to repeatedly bring education legislation to the floor. She emphasized, though, that some of Cantor’s potential replacements are committed to school reform as well. Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, she said, is one such figure Reese thinks could take Cantor’s place carrying the banner of school reform. Paul Ryan is another.
“It all depends on what the lineup is,” Reese told TheDCNF.
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