Elizabeth Warren’s new K-12 education plan takes hard aim at public charter schools, putting her at odds with poor students, other Democrats, and even the Washington Post.
In the part of her plan addressing charter and private schools, Warren said that she would end all future federal funding for new charter schools and force exiting charters to comply with the same regulations as their public counterparts. Her plan would also shut down the Federal Charter School Program — a Clinton-era creation which provides grants to new charters. She also wants to ban “for-profit charter schools and charter schools that outsource their operations to for-profit companies.”
We must stop the privatization of public schools. My administration will end federal funding for the expansion of charter schools, ban for-profit charter schools, and ensure existing charter schools are held to the same level of transparency and accountability as public schools.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) October 21, 2019
Charter schools, which receive government funding but operate independently of the local school system, have long been a target of those opposed to school choice, who argue that the funding belongs at government schools instead. Proponents, however, say that charters bring innovation to the public education market and that public funding for them offers low-income students — especially in underperforming school systems — more opportunity.
“Safety, innovative curricula, and unique missions give public charter schools the opportunity to impact specific communities and tailor their programs to them,” writes the Heritage Foundation’s Jude Schwalbach. “In fact, charter schools impact student achievement most among low-income and academically struggling students.”
But it’s not just pro-school-choice conservatives who disagree with demonizing charter schools.
“Elizabeth Warren’s unfortunate rejection of the Obama legacy on public charter schools is fundamentally at odds with her party,” says Amy Wilkins, senior vice president of advocacy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “President Obama increased funding for the federal Charter Schools Program more than any other president, and the majority of rank and file Democrats understand this funding is critical to support the education of underserved students.”
The APCS statement also cites recent polling that says that 61 percent of Democratic primary voters who said Obama’s “education policies would promote innovation and choice in public schools and raise standards for every student.”
“The Warren Education Plan hurts low-income kids. Period,” said Democrats for Education Reform president Shavar Jeffries. “It’s also out of touch with Dem voters who support expanded public school choice and the Obama education legacy.”
In May, even the Washington Post editorial board went to bat for charter schools in a rebuttal to an attack on them from 2020 Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vt., who wrote, “The proliferation of charter schools has disproportionately affected communities of color.”
“Sanders is right about the outsize effects on minority communities — but those effects have been positive, not negative,” the op-ed reads. “Of the nearly 3.2 million public charter school students, 68 percent are students of color, with 26 percent of them African Americans. Studies indicate that students of color, students from low-income families and English-language learners enrolled in public charter schools make greater academic progress than their peers in traditional schools. Research from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that African American students in charter schools gained an additional 59 days of learning in math and 44 days in reading per year compared with their traditional school counterparts.”
But cutting money to charter schools doesn’t mean we’ll be saving money in the budget. Warren’s plan also includes $800 billion in K-12 education spending, $450 billion of it going to the federal Title I program for low-income schools.