U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor, the U.S. House majority leader, interrupted a 10th grade geography lesson during a tour of Freire Charter School in Center City this morning before delivering a speech that jumped all over the political map.
Cantor, a Virginia Republican, came to Philadelphia to complain about federal education funding policy in Washington D.C. and to call out U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for a lawsuit the U.S. Department of Justice filed last month against the state of Louisiana.
The Justice Department wants to stop Louisiana from using public school money to pay for private school tuition in nearly half of that state's school districts since they remain under a federal desegregation order.
Holder called "absurd" the Department of Justice claim that the school voucher program would impede desegregation in Louisiana.
"The truth is an overwhelming majority of the students who receive the scholarships and benefits from this program are minority children from low-income families," Cantor told students assembled in Freire's gym for his speech.
He called on Holder to withdraw the lawsuit for face the wrath of the U.S. House.
"If the Attorney General does not withdraw this suit, then the United States House will act," Cantor said. "We will leave no stone unturned in holding him accountable for this decision."
Cantor did not take questions from the media after his speech, so it was unclear how any action he takes in the House would impact Holder since the U.S. Senate is controlled by Democrats and President Obama appointed Holder to the job.
Cantor did not mention the Philadelphia School District funding crisis in his speech. Instead, he framed school choice as "the greatest civil rights challenge of our time." He lamented "hundreds of billions" the federal government has spent since the mid 1960s trying to improve education, saying it has had "little to no effect."
He also predicted that school vouchers "will be a reality for every student in America" within the next 10 years.