Charter school advocates may not have an ally in President-elect Biden or his Education Department.
“He has been working closely with us over these last few months to listen and understand what the issues are that we are facing in this moment. We know we have a partner,” Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union, told the Wall Street Journal.
Unlike President Obama, who showed deference to the rise of charter schools and support for school choice, Biden has called for a ban on federal funding for charter schools that are operated by for-profit companies, which account for 12 percent of charter schools, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
He also pledged, as part of the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force, to “support measures to increase accountability for charter schools.”
“We will call for conditioning federal funding for new, expanded charter schools or for charter school renewals on a district’s review of whether the charter will systematically underserve the neediest students,” the task force’s final platform read.
The policy position has sparked worry among parents and school choice advocates representing such students.
“The data is consistently clear that nonprofit public charter schools, particularly in our urban communities that serve our African-American and Latino students, have performed well. For that reason, there’s also very strong support among African-American and Latino parents for charter schools,” Shavar Jeffries, president of Democrats for Education Reform, told The Journal.
“I absolutely am deeply concerned that a union-controlled Biden Education Department could have a chilling effect on the progress that the states and parents have made in securing educational options and excellence for the kids,” Jeanne Allen, chief executive of the Center for Education Reform, told the paper.
Under President Trump and DeVos, the federal government has prioritized school choice, which Trump has called “the civil rights of all time in this country.”
“Frankly, school choice is the civil rights statement of the year, of the decade and probably beyond because all children have to have access to quality education,” the 45th commander-in-chief said from the White House in June.
Biden, meanwhile, said that his issue with charter schools was that they “siphon off money for our public schools” during last year’s primary.
In a statement on the Trump administration’s current schooling policies, an Education Department spokesperson said, “There is no one less powerful and more marginalized than the student trapped in a failing, government-assigned school with no way out.”