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Jeff Bryant explains why many Democrats and progressives are backing away from the charter school idea. It is not just because Trump and DeVos are pushing charters, though surely that is one reason.
Arne Duncanpromoted charters as enthusiastically as DeVos. But something has changed.
The politics of charter schools have changed, and bipartisan support for these publicly funded, privately controlled schools has reached a turning point. A sure sign of the change came from Democrats in the House Appropriations Committee who have proposed a deep cut in federal charter school grants that would lower funding to $400 million, $40 million below current levels and $100 million less than what the Trump administration has proposed. Democrats are also calling for better oversight of charter schools that got federal funding and then closed.
This is a startling turn of events, as for years, Democrats have enthusiastically joined Republicans in providing federal grants to create new charter schools and expand existing ones.
In explaining this change in the politics of charter schools, pundits and reporters will likely point to two factors: the unpopularity of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, an ardent charter school proponent, and teachers’ unions that can exert influence in the Democratic Party. But if the tide is truly turning on bipartisan support for charter schools, it is the charter industry itself that is most to blame.