Sen. Bernie Sanders is praising public education and teachers.
Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), a neoliberal group that supports the privatization of public schools, is unfairly making Sanders out to be a flip-flopper on charter schools.
When asked about whether he supports charter schools, Sanders says he “supports public charter schools.” He says the same thing over-and-over and the emphasis is always on “public.” Many, myself included, don’t believe there are many truly public charter schools left.
But one can argue that charter schools approved by local school boards, run by rules, and sometimes by actual teachers or principals, are public. Some of the older charter schools were like that. And some public charter schools are still good schools.
In last night’s debate a Teach for America recruit also quizzed Sanders, giving unjust praise to charters.
Sanders, simply said again that he supported public charter schools but not private.
CNN’s Roland Martin also claimed that many African-Americans like charters and vouchers. Sen. Sanders reiterated that he supported public charter schools, and he brought up a school in Vermont. There was a little confusion about whether it was a magnet school.
There are some on social media that are making a big deal out of this. I think that was the intention of DFER. While I’m not a supporter of charter schools, I think this is being blown out of proportion.
Sanders has spoken out against Mayor Rahm Emanuel because of his record on closing schools and firing teachers in Chicago.
This past weekend, while the attention was on the Trump ruckus there, Bernie Sanders met with parents and teachers. Here is 6th grader, Asean Johnson, introducing Sanders and speaking eloquently to a crowd about the loss of public schools to charter schools due to funding cuts. After speaking, Asean introducted Sen. Bernie Sanders who had been there all along.
Let’s also look at the video that circulated this past weekend on social media. It’s a tough Sen. Sanders who, in 2011, pushes Education Secretary Arne Duncan on a variety of issues about schools and children.
This video provides precious insight into a Senator that is asking excellent questions.
So why the focus on his public charter school statement? Maybe it helps to revisit the original concept of a charter school.
Ray Budde, an educator turned principal, turned college professor to work with teachers, wrote a paper with some ideas about reorganizing school districts. Budde was fascinated with school systems.
When he introduced charters as small schools within public school settings, teachers were to run them.
But charter schools evolved into a totally different concept. They were used to shut down traditional public schools and the claim was made that they were better schools. To this day there is no proof that this is true.
A lot of the charter schools today are not run by teachers, and many of them are private chain charters like Rocketship, Green Dot, Imagine, Heritage to name a few.
Still, there are some good charter schools that hung on from earlier years, run by real teachers.
Some educators and parents cling to the hope that one day we will get the old concept of teacher-run charter schools back.
Both the AFT and the NEA support well-run public charter schools and so does Hillary Clinton.
Hillary Clinton also took some heat, as DFER notes, for stating that charter schools should not reject students. We all know of charter schools that do not accept students with special needs, or second language students.
I think the Clintons have also noticed how charter schools have strayed from the original concept.
Hillary Clinton later highlighted her support for charter schools like she was penitent for her earlier criticism about them.
Bernie Sanders’s emphasis on the word “public” is what matters most in my opinion. I would not get my knickers in a knot over the public charter school reference.
We’re still listening, but I also think Sen. Bernie Sanders is listening to us too.
Kolderie, Ted. “Ray Budde and the Origins of the ‘Charter Concept.'” Education Evolving. June 2005.
Roxana Marachi, PhD (@ConnectEdProf) says
Thank you for your attention to this, Nancy. I was also surprised to hear the comment, and believe he meant the last remaining (actually serving the full public) charter schools. For readers interested in the controversies surrounding corporate charter school proliferation, the following is a collection of over 100 articles (with keyword search features as well): Charter Schools & “Choice”: A Closer Look: http://bit.ly/chart_look.
Nancy Bailey says
Roxana, Thank you for sharing! I love Eduresearcher! So much wonderful information. Great writing! Can’t wait to go through this.
Janice Strauss says
I’ll try to read more on Ray Budde, but I always thought it was Albert Shanker who started charter schools. They were to be run by TEACHERS and were to remain within the public school system, very different than what is happening today.
Nancy Bailey says
Hi Janice. Charters were Budde’s idea. Shanker picked it up and promoted charters. My understanding is that he regretted it before he died because he realized the concept was being distorted by the reformers.
Janice Strauss says
Yes, thanks for continuing to educate us. I read up on it and found out Budde first introduced the idea in 1974 and Shanker got the ball rolling in 1988. And, yes, I had heard Shanker was very disappointed with the turn charters took.
Two Teachers says
I’m still unclear as to what Bernie’s understanding is of the difference between the two types of charter school, I asked his campaign’s education spokesman for clarification but have not heard back.
To my mind, all charters are “privately run” but I’m all ears to learn what I’m missing. I hold that charters today are a scourge on our society for the way they segregate schools by parent involvement, which by design discriminates against the highest need small children in our inner cities at the most pivotal time in their development.
#1 – Because charter schools cherrypick motivated families from poor neighborhoods, it benefits the kids with “Type-A” parents, but creates larger learning vacuums as public schools lose their high performers and thus concentrate more disruptive kids, ELLs and IEP kids. This was laid bare in the NY Times as the charters fully admitted they cherrypick, by design, and offer no solutions for what to do with all the other kids. Read the discussion at:
#2 – charters have no better performance nationwide than public schools, and in NYC last year, scored significantly worse in ELA than public schools (ironically, it’s the charter schools who put the most stock into standardized test scores).
# 3 – NY charter schools are violating the law in several ways, if you read the NY Charter School Act, you’ll see charters are supposed to focus on students “at risk of academic failure” but abandon them in droves, first through their application/lottery process, but also through suspension practices recently found by experts to be illegal:http://gothamist.com/2015/02/13/charter_school_suspensions.php
#4 – Charter school construction has been a goldmine for Wall Street hedge funds thanks to Bill Clinton’s New Market Tax Credit, which Hillary is now vowing to expand. Here you can see JPMorgan Chase offering 115% proceeds on a 7-year investment of $5-20 million in a fund that finances charter school construction or repairs: http://www.liifund.org/products/new-markets-tax-credits/
Nancy Bailey says
You have brought up the serious concerns of charter schools today. Both nonprofit and for-profit charter schools often run without transparency and the taxpayer doesn’t know how their dollars are being spent. So they are not “public” schools by any way, shape, or form.
My point with this post, was that the original concept of charter schools was much different, and I think when Sanders discusses them he is referring to the earlier version.
Both teachers unions and Hillary Clinton seem to look at charter schools like they are the old version too. Or they imply it. There are some that still exist like this, but most are like the ones you describe.
Thank you for the links. The construction issue is one I wrote about in a book, and it is infuriating because we have traditional school facilities that are in terrible condition–like DETROIT!
ciedie aech says
While it is useful to see how Sanders differentiates between the corporate takeover of public schools with his support for “public” charters, I am afraid that he does not see how our obsession with standardized testing has turned the original benevolence written into earliest charters as now being fully corrupted. The true question will have to be: How does Sanders feel about forcing a standardized testing onto diverse student populations? ciedieaech.wordpress.com SCHOOL REFORM AND THE RACIAL DIVIDE
Nancy Bailey says
Great question, Ciedie! In fact, high-stakes testing is so serious that every Presidential candidate should have to discuss it.
As far as Sen. Sanders and testing, if you watch to this video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFKNdoSJa70 at the end he asks Ed Sec. Duncan, what I think are serious questions about high-stakes testing and how they are used with immigrant children. I think you will be pleased with his questions and concerns. I know I was.
ciedie aech says