The Biden administration is deep in the tank for teachers’ unions, and it’s proving it again by imposing new rules to sabotage a modest $440 million grant program for charter schools.
The 28-year federal Charter Schools program helps fund start-up costs such as technology and staffing. The funds go primarily to government agencies, which allocate the money to charters, and to non-profit charter management organizations. The Federal Ministry of Education recently proposed new rules that would bar charters from even applying for grants – which could be the goal.
Applicants must now describe an “unmet demand for charter school.” It is not enough to have hundreds or thousands of children on charter waiting lists. The administration wants evidence of “overcrowding of existing public schools” as well as proof that the new charter “does not exceed the number of public schools required to meet community demand.”
This means charter applicants would almost certainly be rejected in declining enrollment school districts, which include many large cities. “Demand for charter schools isn’t just about the availability of any place, it’s about the demand for quality places,” said Karega Rausch, president and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. Because of this, charters in cities with empty public school buildings have waiting lists.
The administration also plans to require applicants to “work with” a traditional public school or school district on an “activity” such as transportation or curriculum. In other words, charter operators will be required to give teachers’ unions, which dominate traditional school systems, a say in the implementation of their charters.
The charters would also need to show “plans to create and maintain racially and socioeconomically diverse student and staff populations.” Many charter schools primarily serve black and Hispanic students in cities. Supporters of the charter worry that this unnecessary diversity rule could discourage schools that don’t prioritize racial diversity in their enrollment models. The rule could also prevent schools from opening in suburban areas or hiring white teachers, even if they are willing, able and qualified.
States and local school districts are the primary regulators and funders of charters that are public schools. But the government is trying to use federal dollars to restrict school choice and prop up failing union-run schools that have received a staggering $200 billion in Covid aid funds since 2020.
After unions spent two pandemic years keeping public schools closed while many charter and most private schools stayed open, this is an educational and moral disgrace.
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Appeared in the print edition of March 28, 2022.
https://www.wsj.com/articles/charter-school-sabotage-biden-teachers-union-public-school-achievement-gap-hispanic-black-students-charter-schools-program-rules-11648224610 A case of charter school sabotage