By Larry Sand
As a presidential candidate in 2019, Joe Biden agreed with National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen García’s claim that charter schools – independently operated public schools of choice, that don’t have to follow the litany of rules and regs that traditional public schools do and are rarely unionized – are “very misguided school reforms.” The fact that charters are very popular, which over a million waitlisted students will attest to, doesn’t make a whit of difference to Biden or teacher union leaders.
Then in May 2020, Biden said that if he is elected, “Charter schools are gone.” Period. His policy advisor Stef Feldman tried to soften the statement, explaining that Biden doesn’t want to get rid of charters, but instead would “require them to be authorized by and accountable to democratically-elected school bodies such as school boards and be held to the same levels of transparency and accountability as district schools.” In other words, he would not eliminate charters, but he would eviscerate them.
To assist Biden with policy decisions, the National Education Association came out with a “policy playbook” in November 2020, which details specific actions the union wanted the Biden administration to adopt. Predictably, their prescriptions are all far left and cover a multitude of issues, including some harsh words for charters. In a nutshell, NEA wants to regulate them to death, so that there is no effective difference between them and traditional government-run schools. The union also vaguely states that it opposes “all charter school expansion that undermines traditional public schools.”
The government’s move to weaken charters began in July 2021 when House Democrats voted to cut $40 million from the federal Charter Schools Program. The 28-year-old federal CSP helps charter start-ups pay for things like technology and staff. The funds go primarily to state agencies, which award the money to charters, and to nonprofit charter management organizations. The cuts came despite an overall 40% increase in federal education funding to $102.8 billion. Currently, Congress appropriates $440 million for the CSP, which is less than 1 percent of federal spending on K–12.
And now, the Biden administration is proposing several rules that could damage charters even more.
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