Biden administration targets charter schools
President Biden is keeping a campaign promise that will unfortunately make life harder for students and parents.
The administration recently proposed a new Department of Education rule to make it harder for nonprofits to open charter schools, forcing them to comply with numerous unnecessary regulations and document requests. bureaucratic. The rule would also prevent for-profit charter school organizations from accessing federal start-up grants.
Unfortunately, the president’s approach is disconnected from what parents across the country are demanding for their children: more choices outside the traditional public school system.
Nationally, public school enrollment has plummeted since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as many teachers’ unions blocked in-person learning and parents sought other opportunities for their children. Charter schools, on the other hand, have largely weathered the pandemic. A January survey of more than 1,200 parents of school-aged children by EdChoice, a nonprofit that advocates school choice, found that 92% of parents of students in schools at charter were satisfied with their children’s education, compared to 76% of parents in traditional public schools who were satisfied.
Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes has found that privately run charter schools in New York, California and Washington State have been “very successful” in meeting student needs. from the start of the pandemic in March 2020 through June 2021. Similarly, a National Center for Education Statistics survey of more than 80,000 public and private school teachers and principals found: “Sixty-three percent of private school teachers, during the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020, said they used real-time scheduled lessons that allowed students to ask questions via video or audio call,” but only 47% of public school teachers did the same.
The Biden administration’s proposal is also disappointing because it ignores the important role that for-profit companies play in public education. Traditional public schools routinely hire for-profit companies to provide students with transportation, technology, building management, and more. While there have been some egregious insider examples in the world of for-profit charter schools, policymakers shouldn’t paint with too broad a brush. Some for-profit charter management organizations have produced impressive results for students.
“In the recent U.S. News & World Report Best High School rankings, four of the top five schools in the nation are associated with a for-profit education company,” noted Andrew Rotherham, co-founder of Bellwether Education Partners.
Equally concerning is how Biden’s proposal would impose new burdens on nonprofit entities that want to use federal funds to open charter schools in their communities. To access federal funding under the proposed rule, nonprofits looking to start a new charter school would have to create reports for the federal government proving that there is demand for a new school, detailing myriad of ways the school plans to engage with the community, an in-depth analysis of neighborhood demographics, how the school plans to attract a racially diverse student body and staff, and more.
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools said Biden’s proposal “would create roadblocks that would make charter school program funds almost completely inaccessible — especially to new schools in Black, Brown, rural, or Indigenous communities. “.
In many communities, charter schools are essentially privately run public schools that rally to provide students with better options. In the case of for-profit schools, ideally they wouldn’t need federal funding at all, but the current education funding system is so dysfunctional that many do, and so the targeting of the administration to their regard is wrong.
Across the country, parents are telling elected officials they need more education options for their children. Unfortunately, the Biden administration’s charter school rule would do the opposite, limiting education options for communities that need it most.