Joe Biden promised during the presidential campaign to be a shill for teachers unions. His newest attack on charter schools is yet another example of how he’s fulfilling that vow.
The charter school concept is a success story in American education. Charters are public schools run by outside groups. Operators generally have more freedom to set curriculum and implement different teaching methods. Some of the best charter schools feature a heavy focus on academics and a “no-excuses” philosophy.
Economist Thomas Sowell detailed the success of some charters in his book “Charter Schools and Their Enemies.” His analysis focused on charter and traditional public schools in New York City that shared a building. The kids, often minority students, were from the same neighborhoods, too. The results couldn’t have been more different.
In comparing these schools, Mr. Sowell found 28 classes where less than 10 percent of kids tested at proficient on state tests. “All charter school classes at the same grade levels in the same buildings did better — including six grade levels where the charter school majorities reaching the ‘proficient’ level ranged from 81 percent to 100 percent,” Mr. Sowell wrote in The Wall Street Journal in 2020.
But teachers unions — perhaps Mr. Biden’s most important political ally — aren’t celebrating. The achievements of charters threaten their monopoly on public education dollars. Most charter school teachers aren’t unionized either.
That explains the Biden administration’s new attacks on the federal Charter Schools Program. It provides $440 million in funding to help new charter campuses get started and to replicate those that are doing well. While Mr. Biden wants excessive spending in most areas, the funding for this program has been frozen for several years.
Now, the Department of Education has proposed new rules that would gut the program. Those seeking a grant would be required to show there is an “unmet demand for the charter school, including any over-enrollment of existing public schools.” But many failing public school districts have extra space precisely because they’re doing poorly. Families with financial means have fled. Charter schools offer low-income students an opportunity to escape.
Another requirement is for an applicant to offer demographic projections and comparisons to the local school district. Also, charter schools must demonstrate new choices don’t “exceed the number of public schools needed to accommodate the demand in the community.”
Those hoops won’t help children stuck in public schools. They’re designed to limit the number of charter schools that qualify — or eliminate them entirely.
During the 2020 campaign, Mr. Biden told members of the National Education Association, “When we win this election, we’re going to get the support you need and the respect you deserve. You don’t just have a partner in the White House, you’ll have an NEA member in the White House. And if I’m not listening, I’m going to be sleeping alone in the Lincoln Bedroom.”
During the pandemic, teachers unions had an inordinate amout of sway over Biden administration school policies — the same teachers unions that insisted on keeping children out of the classroom long after it became clear that distance learning was a disaster, particularly for low-income and disadvantaged kids.
Now, Mr. Biden seeks to regulate out of existence an alternative for those very same students.
That’s not what’s best for children or families — but it’s what the teachers unions want. Mr. Biden continues to make abundantly clear that his loyalties lie with the latter, not the former.