Bernie Sanders Becomes the First Major Candidate to Call For a Charter School BanPhoto courtesy of Getty Politics News Charter Schools
It was only a matter of time before one of the Democrats came out with this position, and Bernie Sanders was always the most likely candidate, but seeing this news in print is still shocking. From CNN:
In a major education policy speech set to be delivered Saturday, Sen. Bernie Sanders will call for a ban on all for-profit charter schools, a position that puts him directly at odds with the Trump administration and becoming the first of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates to insist on such a move.
Charter schools are essentially a conservative institution designed to siphon money from public schools and re-introduce school segregation, and if the Trump administration and Betsy DeVos in particular had their way, our tax dollars would go to these schools (and private Christian schools…yes, seriously) en masse. They are private institutions that largely operate for profit (even some of the so-called nonprofits), and they take public money based on enrollment, which means that when public schools lose children to charter schools, they have less money to spend on each remaining student. As one study in North Carolina showed, that can amount to roughly $500 less funding per student in areas where charter schools predominate. This is because certain costs—utilities, pensions, etc.—don’t decline as attendance declines. Fixed costs remain the same, which means that the amount of funding per student takes a hit.
In addition, charter schools tend to have less accountability and oversight from the state level, and operate under the auspices of a private board that is not compelled to include teachers. It won’t surprise you, of course, to learn that the teachers themselves have a much harder time unionizing (about 90 percent of charter schools are non-union), make less money, and often have to watch school “CEOs” take home absurdly high salaries. The underlying goal of so many conservative policies, on every front, is to damage public institutions to the extent that they can justify shutting them down completely in favor of private alternatives. In education, charter schools have become their best weapon.
Sanders’ policy aims to tackle these schools head-on, and his proposal is far more aggressive than we’ve seen from any other Democrat, including Elizabeth Warren:
The Vermont independent also will call for a moratorium on the funding of all public charter school expansion until a national audit on the schools has been completed. Additionally, Sanders will promise to halt the use of public funds to underwrite all new charter schools if he is elected president…
The moratorium on the funding of public charter schools was initially called for by the NAACP; Sanders will say in his speech that he supports the group’s efforts. Sanders will also make the case that the growth of charter schools has done disproportionate harm to the black community because it has pulled public dollars away from community public schools.
Additionally, Sanders aims to reform weak oversight, put more teachers and parents on the boards of existing charter schools, insist on transparency of private funding, and improve collective bargaining for charter school employees.