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Cantor: Let’s expand opportunity for all kids

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The goal of every parent in Virginia and across our nation is to provide greater opportunity for our children. The idea that each generation has it better than the last is woven into the fabric of our country. Yet, for the first time in our history, parents now fear whether this American promise will be realized for their children.

We must restore hope for a brighter future and we can start by focusing on education. A good education is the most basic and fundamental opportunity we owe each and every child. Yet, all too often we fail our children, especially those in low-income neighborhoods. Enough is enough.

Children cannot escape poverty if they cannot read or write. Young adults cannot prepare for college without access to dedicated teachers and administrators. And parents cannot ensure their children have it better than they did if they don’t have the opportunity to improve their children’s education.

Here in Virginia, we are fortunate to have some excellent public schools. But there are exceptions. We must continue to fight for equal opportunity to a quality education for all children.

To create education opportunity, we must start by replacing federal mandates and providing resources that will empower our parents and students. To hear from families impacted by current education policies, I visited several schools in Virginia’s 7th District — including one of the state’s few charter schools, Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts in Richmond. There I met Gwen Lewis, a retired Richmond Public Schools teacher who chose to remove her grandson, Terry, from his assigned public school and send him to Patrick Henry to pursue his interest in science.

Also at Patrick Henry, I met Kristen Larson, another parent and member of the Richmond School Board. Early on, Larson noticed her son Everett struggling like many young boys who would rather be outside exploring than sitting in a classroom. While Everett was keeping up with his peers in preschool, Larson felt he would excel in an environment that was more hands-on and project-based when he transitioned to elementary school. Fortunately, Larson had a choice. As a concerned parent, she was able to send Everett to Patrick Henry, where he will enter the third grade this fall. Everett has been afforded the opportunity to excel because of an education model that suits his individual needs as a student.

Lewis and Larson had the choice to send their children to a school with an educational environment that best suited their needs. Unfortunately, that option is not available to most parents across Virginia or America. When that choice is not available, many parents are left with one option — to send their children to underperforming, ill-equipped schools. The result is: Their kids fall further behind.

Recognizing that education is the best way to enhance opportunity and to preserve the American Dream for the next generation, I voted in the House of Representatives last week to eliminate onerous Washington mandates on our local schools and to provide greater opportunity for all of America’s students.

I supported the Student Success Act so parents and grandparents like Larson and Lewis can choose a better path for their children. This bill expands support to assist states in replicating high-quality charter schools. It improves tutoring and public school choice opportunities, and it ensures that parents have access to meaningful information about the performance of their local schools. This way parents can actually begin to hold schools accountable for the education they desire for their children.

In addition, the House adopted my amendment that gives states the option to have the federal funds they receive for low-income students follow the students to the public school of their choice, including charters. Right now, federal dollars don’t follow all of the students they are intended to help. My amendment helps ensure that no matter what public school a low-income student attends, he or she will see the benefit of these dollars. Building on some of the important work being done throughout the country, this amendment will give parents and students more education opportunities by making it easier for all states to expand charter and magnet school options for students.

I am committed to ensuring education is a priority, and to providing choice in education opportunities for those children trapped in failing schools. For that reason, I am proud of this important legislation passed by the House of Representatives.

As we continue our work to restore trust in our government and faith in our economy, we do so with a focus on making life work for more Americans. That starts with an equal chance at a quality education for those like Terry, Everett and all of our students in Virginia and across our country.

Eric Cantor, who represents Virginia’s 7th District, is the majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives. Contact his office at (804) 747-4073.

Education is the best way to enhance opportunity and to preserve the American Dream for the next generation.

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