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Democrats v. Biden on charter schools

Eighth graders perform at Henderson Hammock Charter School in Tampa on April 13, 2021.


Douglas R. Clifford/Zuma Press

Biden’s education department continues to take heat for its proposed new restrictive rules for a federal charter school grant program. The protests from parents and a growing number of Democrats are a warning to the administration that its underhanded push to limit school choice is regressive and unpopular.

In a May 5 letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, seven U.S. senators, including Democrats Dianne Feinstein (California), Michael Bennet (Colo.), and Cory Booker (NJ), wrote that the candidacy rules charter school program funds don’t “prioritize student needs” and limit “high-quality choices to certain families.”

The senators take issue with the requirement that schools requesting the money provide proof of the charter request and declining enrollment at district schools. “It would give federal examiners the power to override state and local decisions to authorize new public charter schools,” they write. The requirements could “make it difficult, if not impossible,” for charters to access federal funds.

Colorado Democratic Governor Jared Polis also opposes the rules. The “community impact analysis” requirement would give “anonymous grant reviewers in Washington the ability to veto parent, community, district and state efforts to open a new school,” he wrote in the Washington Post last month. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also attacked the new rules and backed the charters with donations from his foundation.

On Wednesday, hundreds of parents from 20 states will gather in Washington, DC, outside the Department of Education and the White House to protest the rules. More than 30 parent and education advocacy groups are involved, including charter networks in Texas and Illinois. Parents will speak and protesters plan to deliver copies of the public comments to the Department of Education.

The rally is a chance for parents to express that the federal rules “do not go unnoticed” and constitute an “aggression” on educational choice, says Janel Artis-Wright, executive director of the Freedom Coalition for Charter Schools and mother of two daughters. who attended charters. She says the rules are a particular affront to black and Hispanic families — and “hypocritical” to an administration that preaches diversity.

The protest is the latest sign of the political backlash since the rules were published in March. The Biden administration is close to teachers’ unions, but sticking to its biased charter rules is a mistake that will hurt children and cause political damage to President Biden.

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Appeared in the print edition of May 11, 2022.


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