On Wednesday morning, National School Choice Week proponents gathered to hear from a list of top congressional speakers.
Some notables in attendance at the Capitol Hill rally included: House Speaker John Boehner, Republican senators Ted Cruz and Tim Scott, as well as House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.
There were over 120 students present, each of whom had benefited from school choice policies.
Rep. Messer of Indiana served as the master of ceremonies, and spoke with The Daily Caller right before the event tipped off. He gave a brief statement:
“Lots of kids in America go to great schools, but too many kids don’t,” said Messer. “The best way to make sure kids go to great schools is to empower families to make decisions for their child’s future. We are also here to highlight other policies to make sure every kid in America gets access to a quality school.”
When asked about what Congress can do to help with an issue like education, Rep. Messer responded: “I believe education is best led at the state and local level, but the best local control is to empower families. We should allow states to spend money we already have through Title I, and eliminate the top down bureaucracy.”
Speaker Bohener gave the keynote address to open the event. “I want to help make sure that every student had the same chance that I did to go to a good school.” Bohener said. “Education is the great equalizer in America.”
The Speaker directly addressed the children in the audience by saying, “This struggle will not be won by my generation, but it will be done and accomplished by your generation.” During Bohener’s closing remarks he added “You can change hearts and you can change minds. And if you can change hearts and minds, then you can also change laws. And if you can change laws, you can change the nation.”
Senator Tim Scott also had a brief comment for TheDC on the event. He said “I think school should be spelled H-O-P-E. I spell it hope, because so many of these kids are receiving a quality education–and as someone who didn’t do so well in high school, I understand the importance of these kids reaching their full potential.”
Senator Ted Cruz received a warm reception when he opened by saying, “God bless each one of you. What a fantastic gathering.”
Cruz praised school choice advocates as innovators, and highlighted how important their cause is. “This is a room full of pioneers. They are helping change the face of this country. It shouldn’t matter what your race, ethnicity, or zip code is. Every child deserves the opportunity to achieve the very best”
Steve Scalise of Louisiana contributed as well by talking about his home state and its charter program.
Scalise claimed Louisiana charter schools were a model for the rest of the country. “We have taken control back from the institutions and gave it back to the parents,” said Scalise. He then proceeded to contrast the charter system with public schools by saying:
“You wouldn’t have a guarantee over tax payer dollars, you actually had to perform for the children.” Scalise ended by saying that he hopes Congress can move forward on legislation to expand charter schools across the nation.
Illinois Rep. Dan Lapenski was the only congressional Democratic lawmaker at the meeting. When his office was asked their opinion on the congressman being the only Democrat, his staff said he would not be available for comment.
TheDC also tried reaching both ranking Democrat members of the Congressional Committees on Education, to ask why they were not involved. However, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) could not be reached for comment. The Department of Education was also contacted and did not return The Daily Caller’s inquiries.
Federal Democrats have been strong advocates against school choice, most likely due to their ties with public sector unions. It has been the position of many unions that voucher programs would steer much needed funds away from the public school system.
Sen. Murray is on record as voting no for D.C. school vouchers in 1997. Rep. Scott also voted no on a school voucher bill that would have created a non-profit corporation to disburse federal funds to low income DC children for their schooling.