- The Washington Times - Monday, September 23, 2013

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

If you want to know where school choice stands today, the No. 2 leader in the U.S. House of Representations gave a pretty clear indication Monday by opening a new battlefront and throwing an obvious lifeline to Republicans, moderates and conservatives.

And he certainly helped boost fans of school choice and parents who are impatient with the slow pace of reforms unfolding across the country and are awaiting leadership on Capitol Hill.

The new momentum arrived in the words of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, who threw down an unmistakable gauntlet Monday in Philadelphia, saying in a speech that the Obama administration should withdraw its federal school voucher suit in Louisiana or else.

The Justice Department lawsuit questions whether the statewide Louisiana Scholarship Program, which offers vouchers to poor families, violates “long-standing federal desegregation orders.”

Mr. Cantor demanded — threatened even — that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. withdraw the federal challenge and vowed the House would act if he refuses.

The administration has said it filed the lawsuit to ensure the program is constitutional and nondiscriminatory.

But rightly characterizing the Obama administration’s legal challenge as “absurd” and the voucher program a “civil rights solution,” Mr. Cantor said, “If the attorney general does not withdraw this suit, then the United States House will act.”

“We will leave no stone unturned in holding him accountable for this decision.

The attorney general will have to explain to the American people why he believes poor minority children in Louisiana should be held back, and why these children shouldn’t have the same opportunity that the children from wealthier and more connected families,” he said.

Mr. Cantor’s tough talk should be welcomed by conservatives, Republicans and parents in places like the District, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Chicago and other school districts, where students have not faced discrimination so much as the slow-as-molasses-like education reform efforts that have left a generation of kids wallowing in academic mediocrity because of bureaucratic morass.

Make no mistake, that morass includes wasting hundreds and hundreds of millions of public dollars on aging, unsafe schoolhouses and failed academic programs that have left too many children behind.

Thanks to public charters and public vouchers, the mass exoduses have begun.

Charter schools have and are certainly doing their part to help lift students from the bottom rungs of the academic ladder (New Orleans and the District rank No 1 and No. 2 respectively in charter vs. traditional public school preference.)

Publicly funded voucher programs like the ones in Louisiana and the District are another reason for parents to pull their children out of public schools.

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