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Not Feeling the Bern: Why Bernie Got It Wrong on Charter Schools

Not Feeling the Bern: Why Bernie Got It Wrong on Charter Schools_5fbec63a147b1.jpeg
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Not Feeling the Bern: Why Bernie Got It Wrong on Charter Schools

Not Feeling the Bern: Why Bernie Got It Wrong on Charter Schools

Bernie Sanders, white knight of social justice-loving liberals (like myself), has gone ahead and disappointed me one week into 2016. Lovely.

Sanders was recently asked, by a charter-school graduate no less, about funding both traditional and charter public schools. Sanders responded with what is one of the most actionable things any of the 2016 candidates has said on education to date, particularly the Democrats (not that there’s much to compete against there):

I’m not in favor of privately run charter schools. If we are going to have a strong democracy and be competitive globally, we need the best educated people in the world. I believe in public education; I went to public schools my whole life, so I think rather than give tax breaks to billionaires, I think we invest in teachers and we invest in public education.

So…that’s not great.

Not only do I see some strawmen and some contradictions in here, I see a few inaccuracies as well, so let’s go ahead and tackle each line of this together, shall we?

I’m not in favor of privately run charter schools…I believe in public education.

I feel like I’m shouting this into the world at least once a month and no one seems to really listen, but OH MY GOD charter schools are public schools, and they provide a public education to their public school students. So if you believe in public education, do you also believe in charter schools?

If we are going to have a strong democracy and be competitive globally, we need the best educated people in the world.

I totally agree! Glad we’re on the same page with that. Did you know in urban areas, charter schools typically provide a higher quality educational experience to their students than the traditional public schools in the same areas? I’m guessing you didn’t know that, so I’m happy to share that research with you.

I think rather than give tax breaks to billionaires, I think we invest in teachers and we invest in public education.

Well that’s a real doozy of a statement. What billionaire are you talking about? That one really came out of left field. Most charter schools are actually considered “freestanding”—meaning, they aren’t affiliated with a charter management organization or an education management organization (not that those are necessarily run by billionaires either). But you’re right on the money that teachers (in all kinds of public schools!) deserve to be paid far more than what they see on their checks each week.

Finally, I’d point out, again, that charter schools and the teachers in those schools are still public schools and public school teachers.

But I’ll level with you, Bernie.

Charter schools aren’t perfect. Some of them are run by for-profit operators, which I’m not quite on board with. Some of them do push out students like they’re accused of doing. Across the board, we could use much more accountability for the authorizers and operators of these schools.

But the majority of charter schools?

The majority of those schools and the people in them work incredibly hard at what they do and they deserve to be well-funded too. Charter schools across the country receive less funding than their traditional school counterparts and many of them still manage to get great results for their kids.

 

Photo by Phil Roeder, CC-licensed.

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