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News spread like wild fire from Virginia’s 7th District across the country on Tuesday, as Rep. Eric Cantor lost his primary bid in a major upset against challenger Dave Brat. Cantor is known for his meteoric rise in Congress to his current role as House Majority Leader, and many expected that he would eventually assume the role of Speaker after John Boehner. Cantor has advocated for many issues during his time in Congress, but few have been as prominent as his support for school choice through both charter schools and vouchers.
In his concession speech Tuesday night, Cantor addressed his hope that Congress would continue legislation efforts for charter schools, saying, “I spent a lot of time on charter schools and education opportunity to make sure that everyone in America can have access to the American dream, starting with education.” In fact, it’s worth noting that the only other specific issue that Cantor addressed during his concession speech was his work to fund research for children’s diseases.
As recently as this past April, Cantor signed on to a bipartisan bill in the House that would increase funding for high-quality charter schools and make it easier for them to expand.
Nor has his support for charter schooling been restricted to the confines of the House floor. Back in January, Cantor took on a number of school choice critics, boldly declaring that, “They see school choice as a threat. And they are right. School choice is a threat to the status quo.”
He doubled down on these sentiments last month, confronting New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio after de Blasio delayed the opening of three highly-regarded Success Academy charter schools, saying, “There are some who are more beholden to special interests than to children’s needs.”
After losing Tuesday’s primary, Cantor may be forced to advocate for school choice from a different platform, as Brat will have the Republican nomination for Congress this November. What can we expect from a Brat candidacy when it comes to schooling? To be honest, no one really knows. The professor and head of the economics department at Randolph-Macon College says on his congressional campaign webpage that he is against federal efforts, including No Child Left Behind. He is also outspoken against the Common Core, going so far as to say he is “absolutely opposed to Common Core and top down education.” Whether Brat will be a proactive voice for school choice in the same way that Cantor has over the past decade, though, is yet to be determined.
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