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Ted Cruz’s Visit to Charter School Nixed After Students Threaten Walkout

By Andrew Ujifusa — April 07, 2016 2 min read
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Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is a notable supporter of school choice. He planned to visit a Bronx charter school this week ahead of the New York state Republican presidential primary on April 19.

But his plan did not go well. In fact, it didn’t happen at all.

Students at the Bronx Lighthouse Charter Preparatory Academy got wind of Cruz’s plan, and sent a letter to the principal saying that they would walk out of Cruz’s slated appearance at the school, according to a New York Daily News story published Wednesday. Ultimately, the CEO of Lighthouse Academies, Khori Whittaker, agreed to cancel the senator’s appearance.

“The presence of Ted Cruz and the ideas he stands for are offensive. His views are against ours and are actively working to harm us, our community, and the people we love,” the students wrote in a portion of their letter.

“Most of us are immigrants or come from immigrant backgrounds. Ted Cruz goes against everything our school stands for,” Destiny Domeneck, a student at the school, told the Daily News.

As you may know if you’ve read our election guide, Cruz has said that choice is “the civil rights issue of our era” and has strongly backed vouchers as well as charter schools. But his views on illegal immigration have been criticized by some as too harsh.

Cruz did attend a different event at a restaurant in the Bronx on Wednesday, and took the opportunity to blast Mayor Bill de Blasio for his conflicts with charter schools, according to the New York Post: “One of the first things he did was try to shut down charter schools in Harlem because he is captive to the union bosses who control him. So one of his first actions was to try to throw young African-American and Hispanic kids out of the schools that were giving them hope.”

The Gotham mayor has had a chilly relationship with charter schools—for example, he has resisted offering them space in in traditional school buildings and indicated in 2014 that they should have to serve more English-language learners and special education students in order to qualify for co-locations. Among those who have attacked de Blasio for his criticisms of charters is Ruben Diaz Jr., the Bronx borough president and a Hillary Clinton supporter. His father is New York Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., who (ironically enough) hosted Cruz at the Bronx restaurant on Wednesday, the Post reported.

The snafu Cruz had with the Lighthouse Academy isn’t the first time a presidential candidate has made less-than-ideal headlines for himself with respect to a school visit. In a January visit to a school, former GOP contender Ben Carson noted that he was a poor student in 5th grade and then asked a group of students, “Anybody here in fifth grade? Who’s the worst student?” Carson tried to explain that he was pointing out his own early difficulties in school, but some took offense that students singled out one child in that fashion.

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