June 21, 2023 11:00 pm

A Sharp Turn Right: A New Breed of Charter Schools Delivers the Conservative Agenda

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American taxpayers across the country are funding the recent explosion of growth in far-right, Christian nationalist charter schools, including those affiliated with Hillsdale College, according to our new report, A Sharp Turn Right: A New Breed of Charter Schools Delivers the Conservative Agenda.

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NPE identified hundreds of charter schools, predominantly in red states, that use the classical brand or other conservative dog whistles to attract white Christian families to enroll in the school. From featured religious music videos to statements that claim they offer a faith-friendly environment, these charter schools are opening at an accelerated rate, with at least 66 additional schools in the pipeline to open by 2024. While some of these schools, such as the Roger Bacon Academies, are long-standing, nearly half of the schools we identified opened after the inauguration of Donald Trump.

The report exposes how right-wing Republican politicians, including Congressman Byron Donalds of Florida and failed Colorado gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl, have embroiled themselves in creating and governing these schools, with some benefiting financially.  In fact, NPE found that right-wing charters are nearly twice as likely to be run by for-profit management companies than the entire charter sector.

In the words of NPE President Diane Ravitch, “This report should be a wake-up call to those with progressive ideals who have embraced charter schools. A movement you support is now taking a sharp turn right to destroy the values you cherish.”


Conservative-backed Charter School Tries to Get Houston Campus Approved for Fourth Time

Last summer, the Texas State Board of Education denied for the third time an application from Heritage Classical Academy to start a charter school in Northwest Houston. Heritage will try again next week, and although very little has changed about its application, its chances of success are now much higher. 

Classical charter schools, like Heritage, have been on the rise nationwide and in Texas as parents seek an alternative to “woke” lessons and themes in public schools, namely the promotion of diversity and inclusion, viewing America’s history through a more critical lens, and discussion of LGBTQ topics in classrooms. And earlier this year, the Texas Legislature advanced several bills to bring more Christianity into public schools, part of a related national movement.

You can read Edward McKinley’s piece in the Houston Chronicle here.

Report Examines the World Of Right Wing Charter Schools

The Network for Public Education, a pro-public education advocacy group, today released a new report. “A Sharp Right Turn” looks at how “a new breed of charter schools delivers the conservative agenda.”

In her preface to the report, NPE president and education historian Diane Ravitch places the rise of conservative charters in the context of the current wave of culture wars.

Few doubt that the religious right has decided to stake its claim on the next generation of hearts and minds with its unrelenting push for vouchers and book and curricular bans. This report exposes the lesser-known third part of the strategy — the proliferation of right-wing charter schools.

You can read Peter Greene’s piece in Forbes here.

New Breed of Charter School Pushes Limits on Separation of Church, State

The religious right scored a win this week when Oklahoma’s virtual charter school board approved the opening of the nation’s first religious charter school, which, if it is actually allowed to open as planned in 2024 for grades K-12, will weave Catholic doctrine into every single subject that students take. Given that charter schools are publicly funded, and public schools aren’t supposed to provide religious education (although they can teach about religion), you may wonder how this school could be given permission to exist.

The decision is no surprise to people watching the way some charter schools run by right-wing organizations have been operating in recent years, pushing the boundaries of the separation of church and state embedded in the U.S. Constitution even as Supreme Court decisions have chipped away at it. Details can be found in a new report entitled “A Sharp Turn Right: A New Breed of Charter Schools Delivers the Conservative Agenda.” (See full report below.) It was written by the nonprofit Network for Public Education, a group that advocates for traditional public school districts and opposes charter schools, and has written reports in recent years chronicling waste and abuse of public funding of charter schools.

You can read Valerie Strauss’ piece in the Washington Post here.

How Right-Wing Christians Are Taking Over the Charter School Industry

Former Education Secretary and Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos and her husband, Dick DeVos, want to advance God’s “kingdom” with taxpayers footing the bill. School choice is the banner under which the DeVoses and their Christian nationalist allies fight to turn back the clock on American culture by undermining “government schools.” Their preference is to spread religious school vouchers, but the expansion of charter schools designed to appeal to Christian nationalist families serves their plan too.

For years, the charter school movement was associated with neoliberal reforms based on the belief that school competition in urban environments would be the tide that lifted all boats. But that thinking shifted as school choice became a Republican priority. There is even an ongoing effort, applauded by DeVos’s American Federation for Children, to open the first religious charter school in Oklahoma–which was approved by the Virtual Charter Board this week.

You can read Carol Burris’ piece in The Progressive here.

A ‘New Breed’ of Charter Schools is Spreading Christian Nationalism — at Taxpayers’ Expense

Charges that public schools are subjecting children to leftwing indoctrination are proving to be mostly over-hyped or not at all based in fact. Yet, there’s evidence, according to a new report, that a fast-growing sector of the charter school industry is engaged in indoctrination, only, in this case, the schools are instructing children in white, conservative ideology.

The report, “A Sharp Turn Right: A New Breed of Charter Schools Delivers the Conservative Agenda” by the Network for Public Education (NPE), finds that charter schools that market to families a “classical” or “traditional” approach to schooling are essentially catering to parents and politicians that follow “right-wing ideology.”

You can read Jeff Bryant’s piece on AlterNet here.