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Peter Greene: Something Surprisingly Good Happened to the Democratic Platform Language on Charters

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Peter Greene watched the discussion of education by the Democratic platform committee, and he was surprised by a good turn in the language used for charter schools.

The original platform language had squishy rhetoric about charter schools. Thanks to the behind-the-scenes work of Troy LaRivere (the elementary school principal who was pushed out of his school by the Chicago Public School leadership, most likely for his outspokenness against high-stakes testing and charter schools as well as his endorsement of Bernie Sanders in the primary); Chuck Pascal, a Sanders delegate from Pennsylvania (this blog helped to raise money to pay his way to Orlando for the platform meetings); and Christine Kramar, a Nevada delegate who is devoted to public education. These activists had the support of Randi Weingarten, and some of their platform changes were accepted.

Peter Greene writes about the most important of them: the charter language. The original platform spoke out against for-profit charters, but Peter has shown in other posts that the difference between for-profit charters and non-profit charters is often a distinction without a difference.

He writes:

Randi and this amendment do make a new kind of distinction– that when charters disrupt and displace traditional public schools, that’s a Bad Thing. Which is a remarkably direct challenge to the modern charter model, which says that disruption and displacement of the public school system is the goal. It’s the closest I think I’ve heard a national union leader get to saying, “The goals of charter proponents are bad, destructive, wrong goals.” So I’m happy for that….

But the original platform definition of Bad Charter was just “a for-profit charter” which seriously overlooked the point that non-profit charters are just as bad (and profitable) as the for-profits. This new language defines a Bad Charter as one that does not have democratically-elected governance, does not serve the exact same population as the the local public school, and that destabilizes or damages the health of that local public school.”

In other words, the new language offers a much broader understanding of when a charter school is Not Okay than the draft did.

Peter would have preferred language that recognized that charters by nature undermine public schools, but he was pleased that the Democratic party moved to recognize the damage that charters inflict on neighborhood public schools and to propose that this damage should no longer be permitted.

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