Op-Ed: Biden puts new restrictions on charter schools



“We are shut up in schools and college recitation rooms for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bellyful of words and do not know a thing.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Starting in the era of “Reinventing Education,” many Democrats like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama praised public charter schools for their innovations. Most all charter schools excelled beyond their expectations in teaching low-income Black and Hispanic children when public schools continued to fail them. Parents and politicians praised this turnaround as the missing link for education reform.

After once criticizing for-profit schools of all kinds, even progressive Hillary Clinton made positive remarks about charter schools during her 2016 presidential campaign. Clinton assured low-income parents if she was elected she’d improve access to charter schools for every student who would benefit from them. Unfortunately, this education serendipity was to become a liability for the left.

Charter schools are non union and do what public schools won’t or can’t do. They are independently owned public schools with curriculum to meet the students’ needs. They function under contracts with either local government or nonprofit organizations. They are held to much higher standards than public schools and must meet those academic goals if they wish to maintain public funding.

Unlike traditional schools, most charter schools do not receive funding to pay for classrooms. If a public school is converted into a charter, it inherits the school and its facilities. A few states provide funding to start-up schools, but most must rely on other, independent means. The Federal Charter School Program, created in 1994, is the only source of federal funding available to charter schools.

The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) revealed that students who attended charter schools over the past decade showed significant gains in reading and math compared to their traditional public school counterparts. This was especially true for low income urban students.

“Education is the great equalizer that balances the wheel of the social machinery.” – Horace Mann

The Charter Management Organization (CMO) reports that up to 61% of charter school students in sixth through eighth grades fared better than their traditional public school counterparts in science, math and reading in member schools. Although this is only one example of how well students have performed in charter schools, compared to other public schools, these numbers prove their benefit.

Charter schools have been better at closing both racial and income achievement gaps than public district schools. But recent data from the Center for Education Reform (CER) indicates that 12% of charter schools have had to close due to lack of funding. CER argues there is a critical need to find a better way to finance them. Yet their pleas are falling on deaf ears with DOED and in Congress.

Before the pandemic, 7% of U.S. children attended charter schools. Since the pandemic started, charter advocates note that enrollment in charters jumped significantly. With most of their gain in virtual charters, this allows families to tailor learning experiences to meet a child’s specific needs.

President Joe Biden has proven that, “you can take politics out of money, but you cannot take money out of politics.” Biden, like many Democrats, once supported charter schools. But the left’s honeymoon with the charter school movement was brought to an abrupt end by the teacher unions. They wield a heavy hand over Democrats, since they are one of the largest donors to Democratic campaigns.

To gain support from the National Education Association (NEA) teacher’s union, Biden vowed to eliminate federal funding for for-profit charter schools if elected. This was no surprise since the NEA considers charter schools a threat to their nationwide monopoly on liberal union public education.

“Our goal is to insure charter schools do not take money from local school districts.” – Joe Biden

Biden’s budget for next year gives a substantial increase in funding for public education but funding for charters is the same – with new restrictions and regulations. This appeases Democrats and the unions who’ve lobbied to decrease funding for charter schools for years. Congress also approved strict new rules and standards for charter school start-ups that will be applying for federal grants.

Biden also proposed to prohibit funding for charter schools unless a district’s public schools were overpopulated. That would also withhold funds from charters that were considered “non-racially diverse” by liberal standards. Local teacher unions would also dictate education policy to them.

“Charter schools need more government oversight and education accountability.” – Joe Biden

The Biden administration is trying to turn back the hands of time on education to appease teacher unions. Since its creation under then President Bill Clinton, the federal Charter School Program has funded over 8,000 institutions of learning. This is one of the DOED’s greatest education success stories, since charters produce greater academic gains than traditional schools – without unions and less money.

When the charter school movement first appeared, the unions did not take it seriously since many of these schools relied on private funding. They did not consider them a threat to their piece of the federal education pie until Bill Clinton signed The Charter School Program Bill into law in 1994.

“Congress chose ‘progress over partisanship’ in passing charter school legislation.” – Bill Clinton

Charter schools have mostly benefited low income and minority students. But Democrats and the unions have convinced the NAACP to join their fight against them. At a recent national NAACP conference, the NEA claimed charter school funding was cutting budgets in urban public schools.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan told us, “You are entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts.”

The parents of the students that benefit most from charter schools are mostly Democratic voters. And these students would be worse off without charter schools. What matters to Biden and his party is keeping the teachers unions happy since they are the largest donors to their war chests.

Although union membership across the nation in the private sector is at an all time low, the Janus v. AFSCME decision, ending forced union fees in the public sector, has barely put a dent on public service union membership. The incestual relationship between the Democratic Party and the public service unions has the greatest influence on federal and state education laws and policies.

The future of charter schools and the school choice movement will continue to remain in jeopardy no matter how important and valuable it is for American youth as long as unions run our schools. Our children deserve more than a “one size-fits-all” federalized union education. Biden needs to defund teacher unions, not charter schools.

“Public education operates like a planned economy, a bureaucratic system in which everybody’s role is spelled out in advance.” – Albert Shanker

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