How Charter Schools Lost Support Among Democrats
From coast to coast, Democrats are souring on the charter school model. But it wasn’t always this way. On the heels of several successful teacher walkouts that put the criticism front and center, Governing has traced the decline in charter school support among progressives in California and elsewhere.
Los Angeles is just one example. LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner’s purported plan to create 32 networks across the district in a bid to foster greater autonomy energized anti-charter forces ahead of the January strike, according to Governing. As part of the eventual agreement, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti — once a proponent of expanding charters — got the school board to support a charter school cap. (The bold reorganization idea has also been abandoned.)
In November, California voters elected Gavin Newsom for governor and Tony Thurmond as state superintendent of public instruction. Both of them have called for a crackdown on charter schools. Similar defeats for the movement have taken place in Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New Mexico.
“Charter support has also cooled at the local level,” Governing reports. “According to a report by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, the opening of new charters has steadily declined since 2013. More than 600 were authorized that year. By 2016, the total number of authorizations had fallen by almost half, and the number of charters authorized by local school boards declined from 357 to 135.”
Since charter schools exploded onto the scene, people have been able to gauge their drawbacks as well as their advantages in practice. Studies conducted in cities like Chicago show mixed results when it comes to testing scores and special needs students, for instance.
But the most significant development for Democrats has been the increasing fervor of teachers unions, which complain that charters siphon off funding for traditional public education and introduce unfair competition. Union lobbying efforts have had a tremendous impact on the party’s outlook on charter schools.
Read more about Democrats’ declining support for charter schools here.