President Biden is keeping a campaign promise that will unfortunately make life more difficult for students and parents.
The administration recently proposed a new Department of Education rule to make it more difficult for nonprofits to open charter schools, forcing them to comply with a number of unnecessary rules and requests for bureaucratic paperwork . The rule would also prevent for-profit charter school organizations from accessing federal start-up grants.
Sadly, the president’s approach is out of touch with what parents across the country are demanding for their children: more options outside the traditional public school system.
Nationwide, public school enrollment has fallen since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as many teacher unions blocked in-person learning and parents sought other opportunities for their children. In contrast, charter schools largely navigated the pandemic. A January 2022 survey of more than 1,200 parents with school-age children by EdChoice, a non-profit advocacy for school choice, found that 92 percent of parents with charter school students opted for a traditional public school. Compared to 76 percent of parents were satisfied with their children’s education. who were satisfied.
Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that privately managed charter schools in New York, California and Washington state were “very successful” in meeting the needs of students from the start of the pandemic from March 2020 to June 2021. Similarly, a National Center for Education Statistics survey of more than 80,000 public- and private-school teachers and principals found, “During the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020, sixty percent of private-school teachers took scheduled real-time jobs.” allowed students to use the lessons to ask questions via video or audio calls” but only 47 percent of public school teachers did so.
The Biden administration’s proposal is also disappointing because it ignores the important role of for-profit enterprises in public education. Traditional public schools regularly use for-profit companies to provide students with transportation, technology, building management, and more. Although there are some egregious examples of self-dealing in the for-profit charter school world, policymakers should not paint with a very broad brush. Some for-profit charter management organizations have produced impressive results for the students.
“In a recent U.S. News & World Report Best High School ranking, four of the top five schools in the country are affiliated with a for-profit education company,” said Andrew Rotherham, co-founder of Belvedere Education Partners.
Equally related is how Biden’s proposal would put new burdens on nonprofits that want to use federal money to open charter schools in their communities. To access federal funding under the proposed rule, nonprofits looking to establish a new charter school would be required to report to the federal government to prove that there is a demand for a new school, The school details myriad ways to engage with the community, an in-depth analysis of neighborhood demographics, how the school plans to attract a racially diverse student body and staff, and more.
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools said Biden’s proposal would “create bottlenecks that would make charter school program funds almost entirely inaccessible—particularly for new schools in Black, Brown, rural or Indigenous communities.”
In many communities, charter schools are basically privately managed public schools that are stepping in to give students better choices. In the case of for-profit schools, ideally, they would not require federal funding at all, but the current education finance system is so clumsy that many do, and thus the administration’s targeting is misguided.
Across the country, parents are telling elected officials they need more education options for their children. Sadly, the Biden administration’s charter school rule would do the opposite, limiting education options to the communities that need them most.