Eric Cantor And The GOP’s Assault On Public Schools

By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

Eric Cantor from his private school yearbook
Eric Cantor from his private school yearbook

My representative, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, has been doing a lot of talking recently about public schools. Criticized for “softening” his tough stand on social issues, Cantor has taken to the lectern to buff up his right-wing street cred. And what better whipping boy than public education?

Take for instance this little dittie in February while speaking to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI)  about budget priorities even as he diverted attention from the impending sequestration mess that he helped bring about. Lamenting the lack of progress on curing diseases such as brain cancer, Cantor remarked, “There is an appropriate and necessary role for the federal government to ensure funding for basic medical research. Doing all we can to facilitate medical breakthroughs for people … should be a priority. We can and must do better …. Funds currently spent by the government on social science – including on politics of all things – would be better spent helping find cures to diseases.”  As if  one must exclude the other, you know.

Then, Cantor delivered the coup de grâce, traipsing out D.C. resident Joseph Kelley whose son, Rashawn, was failing miserably in a D.C. school. Singing the praises of private school and the scholarship that got Rashawn there, Cantor pitched the usual GOP line about school choice. School choice, as many know, is the conservative’s way of subsidizing private schools with vouchers funded by tax dollars. In fact, Rashawn’s scholarship, the DC Opportunity Program, is a federally funded valentine passed by a GOP Congress in 2004 to aid its allies in the private school industry.

The AEI talk was billed as a “major speech” by the congressman, thus Republicans dutifully began to rally around a bill introduced last May by then-Rep. Jeff Flake which he promoted saying, “Let me simply say I can think of few finer examples to cut than the National Science Foundation’s Political Science Program.” The GOP got some unexpected support with an article published in The Atlantic, by former political scientist Greg Ferenstein, agreeing that such funding was impractical. “After four years of desperately searching in vain for how my degree could make the world a better place, the lack of real-world impact convinced me to leave a Ph.D. program in political science,” he whined. No degree makes the world a better place; that takes some post-graduate effort, my sad  friend.

Cantor doubled down at CPAC  this past Friday calling our schools “too dangerous,” and endorsing school choice as the fix.

In short, school choice is the answer,” Cantor said. “It puts our conservative values to work and provides opportunity for our kids. Now President Obama and the Democrats have got to see the light. We can find common ground. But as Ronald Reagan said, ‘If they don’t see the light, we’ll make ‘em feel the heat.’ The fight for the future of our country is here.

Guns, it seems, has replaced cancer as the call to arms for forking over tax payer dollars to private institutions –many of them religiously based.

It’s no surprise that Cantor was anointed by the GOP to sound the clarion on this issue. Graduating from Richmond’s prestigious (and private) Collegiate School, the nation’s highest ranking Jewish legislator attended George Washington University and then William & Mary Law School, and finally Columbia’s business school. He then settled into the wealthy suburban life of Richmond’s west end bedroom communities practicing law with his father and uncle. A protegé of former Richmond mayor and US Congressman Tom Bliley (of the infamous Gramm-Leach-Bliley bill deregulating banks in 1999 and ushering in the financial crisis of 2008) , he advanced rapidly in GOP circles aided by his father, Richmond lawyer, Eddie Cantor.  Initially practicing real estate law, he abandoned that profession under Bliley’s guiding hand to rise to the position he now enjoys.

In short, a child of privilege aiding other children of privilege with tax dollars.  I want what I want when I want it,” indeed. Sadly, nothing new now.  It was Kurt Vonnegut who said “True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.” Boy, was he right.

~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

Source: Politico and throughout

34 thoughts on “Eric Cantor And The GOP’s Assault On Public Schools

  1. Richard Faust – you find it “interesting to note that one of the most influential members of the GOP resides in the old capital of the Confederacy.”

    Do you also find it interesting that the 13th Amendment was passed almost entirely by Lincoln and the Republicans alone? That the Democratic party fought tooth and nail against passage of the amendment and, that the few Democratic votes had to be bought from lame ducks by giving them jobs and cash?

  2. I don’t think public money should go to religious institutions, but I believe wholeheartedly in increasing choices in education for parents and students.

    I think charters are mistaken in embracing the standardized testing paradigm that public schools embrace, but if parents and students want that, they should be free to pursue it. I think it’s wrong to judge teachers based on standardized tests. The only real judges of teachers should be students and parents.

    There are selfish, incompetent people in both charter schools and public schools. But there are caring, effective people in both. The only thing that matters is that parents and students get to choose where and how their education proceeds.

  3. Eric,
    In those days, the Republican party was made up of liberals. Things have done a 180 degree flip-flop socially, economically, and racially. The Republican Party of Lincoln and Roosevelt are as far different from the party of Bush and Romney as night and day.

    When I was young, the deep south voted solid Democratic. Things began to change in the late 1940s. The solid south still voted Democrat, but were drifting. When the Civil Right Act of 1964 was signed into law by Lyndon Johnson, the formerly Democratic southern states suddenly became Republican. 99% of that change was due to racism and resistance to social change that was coming. Through an evolutionary process, the two parties switched places.

    Lincoln, T. Roosevelt, and Eisenhower would be unelectable in a Republican primary these days.

  4. LJM,

    “I think charters are mistaken in embracing the standardized testing paradigm that public schools embrace…”

    Public schools and teachers haven’t embraced high stakes testing. High stakes testing is one of the things brought to public education by the corporate-driven school reform movement. BTW, charter schools are public schools.

  5. Cantor is my rep, too, and I, too, am disgusted by his politics and consider him a disgrace, not only to the human race but to everything Judaism is supposed to stand for. However, I also am disgusted by the bigotry exhibited in the original posting and in Barkin Dog’s comments.
    Mark E., why is his being Jewish relevant at all?
    Barkin Dog, do you actually believe that a “Jewish guy” couldn’t possibly have a Southern accent, that we all sound like New Yorkers (or maybe like Billy Crystal’s Julius Kassendorf)? Talk to my (also liberal Dem) parents some time (, you idiot).

  6. Rockola:

    It’s relevant because it’s part of his bio like graduating from William & Mary or Columbia. If you want to make more of it than that, it’s your problem.

  7. Elaine, I would never imply that teachers have embraced the tests, as they certainly haven’t, but the vast majority of schools and school boards have.

    There is some controversy as to whether or not charter schools count as public schools. They certainly use public money, but operate outside many of the usual channels and guidelines.

    Personally, I think they count as public schools in the most important way: they run on tax dollars. (Then again, so do many private companies, so…)

    Ultimately, though, these questions are academic. People on the left question the motivations of charter schools and people on the right question the motivations of teachers’ unions.

    People on the left say they don’t think standardized tests should be used to judge teachers (a position I agree with), and then they use their results to illustrate that charters don’t do better than traditional schools. People on the right want to judge teachers based on the tests, while ignoring the desires and preferences of the students.

    People on the left think public education doesn’t get enough money and people on the right think it gets too much.

    None of it matters. Not one tiny bit. Because every discussion involves talking past the people who matter most: the students. And no matter which side wins, most of the students are going to lose. Because the paradigm will be the same. Compulsory attendance to memorize mostly arbitrary subjects, at arbitrary rates, with arbitrary goals.

    People are fighting fiercely for their ideological teams, ignoring the well-known fact that millions of kids hate school for reasons that cannot be addressed with money.

    Charter schools are not the answer to this problem, so long as they embrace the traditional paradigm. And the traditional paradigm will continue so long as students are not given the freedom to choose what, when, and how they will engage in one of the most profoundly personal endeavors any of us ever undertake: learning.

    Disagreements over charter schools, testing, unions, funding, etc., are, in my opinions, distractions from the most enduring problems associated with schooling.

  8. anyone who really wants to know and understand why they keep attacking public education should read the destruction of american education
    only after reading this from beginning to end. will you begin to understand what is really going on and why….

    http://www.hermes-press.com/education_index.htm

    Dr Norman D Livergood

    It might seem that the word “destruction” in the title of this essay is a bit over the top. But it’s the only accurate description of what has happened and is happening in America today. The capitalist cabal that now controls the U.S. has systematically destroyed American education in general and is currently attacking each academic discipline.

    Obama, the cabal puppet, has continued the Bush onslaught against public education and initiated a new attack through what he calls his “Race to the Top” initiative. Actually, it constitutes a race to the bottom for American students.

    “The basic idea is to force state governments to compete for $4.35 billion in federal assistance, with the money going to those states which do the most to promote charter schools, utilize standardized testing, and weaken workplace rules for teachers. Essentially, the scheme sets up a bidding war among the states for desperately needed funds on the basis of an anti-public education agenda that has been promoted for decades by the right wing.

    The ruling class in the United States is intensifying its campaign to dismantle public education.

    “With the new fiscal year that began yesterday [7/1/2011], states throughout the country are slashing education funding, leading to the layoff of tens of thousands of teachers and the closure of hundreds of schools.

    “Both the Democratic and Republican parties are using the fiscal crisis–the outcome of decades of tax cuts to the rich, the bailout of the banks, and an economic crash caused by rampant speculation–as an opportunity to undermine and eliminate public education.”

  9. LJM,

    I think you and I are in agreement on many of the issues involving public education. In my state, it wasn’t the schools or local school boards who embraced the high stakes standardized tests. It was the state board of education–peopled with non-educators who had an agenda–who forced their vision of school reform on local communities/school boards/schools. One of the things school reform did was to weaken unions and principals ability to bargain. In fact, its aim was to set principals in competition against each other instead of encouraging them to collaborate–which is more beneficial to education.

    Plenty of educators have spoken out/spoke out about the destructive elements of the corporate-led school reform movement. One problem is that no one has been/was listening to them. Many people accuse teachers of only caring about their rights…their contracts…their raises–and that they don’t give a damn about their students and education.

    Unfortunately, many Democrats and so-called liberals have joined Republicans and conservatives in supporting this school reform movement with its focus on high stakes testing.

  10. http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2013/03/democracy-dies-in-camden.html
    Sunday, March 24, 2013
    Gov. Christie plans to announce Monday that he is taking the extraordinary step of putting the educational and fiscal management of the Camden School District under state control, The Inquirer has learned.

    As part of the takeover of what the state considers the worst-performing district in New Jersey, Christie will appoint a new superintendent and leadership team, shifting the school board to an advisory role, according to administration officials briefed on the plan.

    And so the plan is clear: take over the schools, starting where there aren’t many white kids. Starve them of funds, then declare them “failures,” and install your cronies. The takeover of Camden’s schools has been in the works ever since California billionaire Eli Broad installed his puppets into the NJDOE. Tomorrow is simply the culmination of a long-term plan.

  11. “Chris Christie was formerly a registered lobbyist for education privatization firm Edison Schools Inc. His current education commissioner, Chris Cerf, was previously President of Edison Schools Inc. at the time of Christie’s employment.”
    http://news.firedoglake.com/2013/03/25/governor-chris-christie-announces-privatizing-scheme-for-camden-city-schools/

    ========================================================
    http://articles.philly.com/2013-03-25/news/38013377_1_ray-lamboy-camden-school-district-new-superintendent
    ================================

  12. For all of you “know nothings”, what Cantor is saying is true. Our public education system is broken, which leaves us with uneducated broken children. Our public schools have become government run schools and it is our govenment who dictates what will be taught, who will be taught and how teaching will be done.
    Slower learning children do not have a chance of getting an education in our public/govt schools. Slower learning children as placed in special ed programs, disqualifying them from taking FCAT tests and SAT tests. Without these these tests a student will go through twelve years of school and the end result will be to received a “Speical Diploma” which isn’t worth the paper it is written on. Under the Title I Program, students will learning problems are entitle to tutors to help bring them up to grade level…HOWEVER, they do not get the tutoring because only students who take the FCATS and SAT’s are qualified for the tutoring.
    Many charter schools are unable to take special needs children because they are “lumped” into and ESE Program, once in an ESE Program, these children have no chance of getting an education and ESE teachers are being told NOT to teach these children. ESE students are the geese who lay the golden eggs for our public schools. Schools receive between $21,000.00 & $25,000.00 for each children that is kept in an ESE Program.
    These children are “labelled” academically mentally delayed, when in fact what they suffer from is “Failure to Thrive Syndrome” which is caused by students NOT being taught.
    It is very frustrating to have a school tell you your children cannot learn, only for a parent ot hire a private tutor and find out that their children can in fact learn and can be brought up to grade level. Of course, this is at the parents expense, so in essence, our children are being denied their legal rights of an education.
    Teachers are instructed not to get into any conversations with concerned parents…Principals and Board of Education members refuse to get into conversation with paretns…Not only do they want to keep students from learning, they want to keep parents from knowing what their legal rights are regarding their children’s education.
    The highest drop out rate of students is with students in these “spcecial education” and “ESE” programs. By the time the student reaches the ninth grade, they know they have NOT been taught, when they could in fact been taught. They know in order to get a regular high school diploma they will have to take a GED test…and how are they expected to pass a GED test when they have been denied anything higher than a third grade education.
    I defy anyone to dispute my statements….I have all of my facts…I know our children are being denied an education.

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