Eric Cantor on Bill de Blasio: ‘I Hope We Can Work Together’

Congressman Eric Cantor today.

Congressman Eric Cantor today.

Does Congressman Eric Cantor want to have a kumbaya moment with Mayor Bill de Blasio?

The Virginia Republican and House majority leader has ripped Mr. de Blasio repeatedly in the past for his stance on charter schools. But during a visit to the Bronx Charter School for Excellence today, Mr. Cantor held his fire against the left-leaning Democrat, telling reporters he’d be open to working with the new mayor to expand charter school growth.

“I hope that we can all work together, whether it’s Mayor de Blasio or someone else in trying to focus on the kids first,” Mr. Cantor said.

The proud conservative tampered his rhetoric after blasting the mayor’s criticism of the charter school movement in January.

“Obviously in the past I’ve been very critical about the reports that I’ve read, when there was an attempt to try and limit co-location, when there was an attempt to limit funding of charter schools,” Mr. Cantor said in a response to a question about his view of Mr. de Blasio. “I’m very much an advocate of allowing for school choice. If something doesn’t work, we shouldn’t be subjecting kids or their families to a school that’s failing or a school that doesn’t meet their needs.”

When pressed, Mr. Cantor stopped short of calling Mr. de Blasio out-of-step with the ongoing  national charter school debate, choosing instead to reiterate his own opinion.

“What I can tell you is, I believe in charter schools, I believe in school choice,” he said.

Mr. Cantor had previously warned that Mr. de Blasio could “devastate the growth” of charter schools because the Democrat, unlike many Republicans, has not be overly supportive of the publicly-funded but privately-run schools. Before Gov. Andrew Cuomo thwarted him earlier this year, Mr. de Blasio had pushed to charge some charter schools rent, reversed several previously approved co-locations and implied he would be less interested in their growth than his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg. The mayor also tangled with the city’s most prominent charter school executive, Eva Moskowitz.

Today’s visit to New York City was just the latest stop for Mr. Cantor, who has been touring charter schools across the country to support their growth. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill Friday that would boost federal funding for charter schools.

A spokesman for Mr. de Blasio declined to comment directly on Mr. Cantor’s visit, but stressed the mayor’s commitment to all city students.

“The mayor and this administration believe every child, whether he or she attends a traditional public,parochial or charter school, deserves a great education,” said the spokesman, Phil Walzak. “That’s why we are putting in place reforms that deliver for every student—from universal pre-K to more after-school programs to deeper parent engagement.”

Updated with comments from Mr. de Blasio’s office.