Fund Teacher Unions, Not Charter Schools
Does public education exist for the benefit of children or for teachers’ unions? The answer should be obvious, but President Joe Biden seems to have it upside down. Last year he gave carte blanche to national unions to keep classrooms closed and children out of school. This year, he plans to cut funding for charter schools to hold union bosses more accountable.
Funding for charter schools has been a priority of the American Federation of Teachers for years. By extension, this priority is shared by leading Democratic politicians. During his campaign, Joe Biden promised to crack down on school choice. “If I’m president,” he said in 2020, “the whole notion (of) Betsy DeVos charter schools (will) be gone.” President Biden is now trying to keep that promise.
Last month, the Biden administration proposed banning federal funding for charter schools unless a district’s traditional public schools are overcrowded. The proposed decision would also withhold funds from charters that are not sufficiently “racially and socio-economically diverse”, and it would allow teachers’ unions to dictate how they operate. And that’s not to mention the tidal wave of red tape that impending contract regulations would send charter school administrators in the way.
How would this decision help the nation’s 3.4 million charter school students? Or the nearly 206,000 charter school teachers who depend on government grants to provide and improve their educational services? Or the millions of parents who want to enroll their children on a charter but can’t due to limited supply? The answer is: it will not.
Since its inception under President Bill Clinton, the federal charter school program has earmarked hundreds of millions of dollars to support the growing charter school movement, which now encompasses nearly 8,000 institutions. By all accounts, this is one of Washington’s greatest successes. Research shows that charter schools produce greater academic gains than traditional public schools while using less money to do so.
Charter schools are especially beneficial for students from disadvantaged communities in the American urban core. Various studies indicate that attending a charter school significantly improves academic outcomes for students in urban settings. That’s part of the reason why a majority of black and Hispanic Democrats, who disproportionately make up urban neighborhoods, support charter schools.
I have written to the Biden administration, urging it to reverse course on its proposed decision and allow more time to hear from the families who will be affected by these disastrous policies. I hope President Biden responds, but I’m not betting on it – because he seems to value teachers’ unions over local communities, mainstream educators and children.
The only reason to crack down on charter schools is cronyism. National teachers’ unions hate charters because they give parents the option to flee failing schools or seek a better solution for their children. These highlight the shortcomings of traditional public schools, an embarrassment to failed unions.
Spend your days with Hayes
Subscribe to our free newsletter Stephinitely
Columnist Stephanie Hayes will share her thoughts, feelings and fun stuff with you every Monday.
You are all registered!
Want more of our free weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s start.
Explore all your options
We have known for two years that the interests of national unions do not always align with what is best for parents and their children. But unions are experts at getting “their people” into political office, and they donate tens of millions (much of it from teachers’ union dues) to political action committees. Their outsized influence allows them to buy broad support for their anti-charter agenda.
Never mind that many Democratic voters favor school choice. And it doesn’t matter that students are worse off without charter schools. What matters to Democratic politicians like Joe Biden is keeping their special interest donors happy.
American families deserve better than the federal government’s destructive special interest politics and “one size fits all” mandates. This is especially true today, when the demand for alternative schools is high – and still unmet. If President Biden really wants to help our nation’s children, he should cut funding for radical teachers’ unions, not charter schools.
Marco Rubio, a Republican, represents Florida in the US Senate.