GOP Leaders: School Choice a ‘Civil Rights Issue’

Ali Meyer | January 28, 2015 | 7:40pm EST
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In this Aug. 13, 2014 photograph, a student prepares to leave the Enterprise Attendance Center, southeast of Brookhaven Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

( - In celebration of National School Choice Week at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, GOP leaders came together to tout the benefits of school choice, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) who said that “education ought to be the civil right of the 21st century.”


National School Choice Week is an “annual celebration of all the options available to families and children nationwide.”

“Education ought to be the civil right of the 21st century – and you have the power to make it happen,” Boehner told students, teachers and parents in the audience. “Believe it. I have faith in you, and frankly, I’m counting on all of you.”

“The education establishment decided a long time ago that the answer to every problem was more money and more government control, and no matter how much money they poured into that hole, things just got worse,” Boehner said.

“So a few of us got together – including Anthony Williams, our mayor here in D.C. at the time. We said, ‘Let’s try something different,’ and we were shouted down. We said, ‘Let’s have parents make these decisions’ – we may as well have been talking about life on Mars. That’s how alien the idea of school choice was – and still is – to the people in power.”

“This struggle won’t be won by my generation, but it will be won by yours. Through the Opportunity Scholarship Program, you’ve shown that students thrive when parents are empowered to pick the best schools. You’ve shown how great charter schools are – and how we need more of them. Because of you, we know that school choice can make anything possible,” said Boehner.

“That knowledge is worth more than any power Washington has – and this is where your assignment comes in. If you share YOUR story, you can change hearts and minds, and if you can change hearts and minds, you can change the laws, and if you can change the laws, you can change the face of education in this country,” he added.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) echoed those statements at the event saying, “School choice is a civil rights issue.”

“Every child has an opportunity to receive an excellent education. It shouldn’t matter what your race, or ethnicity, or zip code is. Every single child deserves an opportunity,” said Cruz. “That’s what school choice is all about. The rich and middle class have had school choice from the beginning of time. This fight is about ensuring that every child has the same opportunities.”

“Over one million children are on waiting lists for charter schools all over this country. We shouldn’t put our future on a waiting list,” Cruz added.

Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.), who was the master of ceremonies at the event, formed the Congressional School Choice Caucus last January in celebration of National School Choice Week.

“No child should be forced to go to a school where they won’t have a meaningful chance to learn,” said Messer. “That’s why school choice matters. Whether that means open enrollment, expanding charter schools options or more access to virtual classrooms, empowering parents with a choice will give their children a greater chance for success.”

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