Andrea Gabor: These Ways to Cool the Charter-School Wars Probably Won’t
Writing for Bloomberg, journalist Andrea Gabor explains why both public and charter schools should welcome the proposed rule changes for federal charter grants.
Forget the battle over critical race theory. The latest salvos in the public-school culture wars are being fired over the federal charter schools program and the sensible guidelines that are being proposed by the administration of President Joe Biden.
Congress extended the program in March, approving $440 million for state agencies to help charters with startup expenses such as staffing and technology. Almost immediately, the White House is received a barrage of criticism for issuing guidelines intended, most importantly, to rein in charter-school funding abuses.
In particular, the proposed regulations would prevent for-profit management companies that run nonprofit charters from accessing federal funds. Even ardent charter supporters shun for-profit charters, which significantly underperform traditional public schools, and the new guidelines would close loopholes that have fostered fraud nationwide and especially in states including Arizona where loose regulations have emboldened legislators to enrich themselves on the taxpayer’s dime.
That kind of common-sense rule should serve as a first step toward a truce in the decades-long conflict over the role of charters in public education. Alas, it probably won’t.
The debate about charter-school regulations has become a proxy for a wider and even higher-stakes fight over the proper role of government. Since at least the era of President Ronald Reagan, conservatives have seen privatization as a way to undermine public schools and teachers unions, rejecting guardrails and often ignoring the original mission of charters to foster educational innovation.