Dear Commons Community,
The New York Times has a featured article this morning examining the aftereffects of the Los Angeles teachers’ strike on the charter school movement. It essentially sees charters schools as suffering a major setback both locally in Los Angeles and across the country. It also takes aim at Eli Broad, a major funder of charter schools in California. Here is an excerpt:
“Carrying protest signs, thousands of teachers and their allies converged last month on the shimmering contemporary art museum in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Clad in red, they denounced “billionaire privatizers” and the museum’s patron, Eli Broad. The march was a preview of the attacks the union would unleash during the teachers’ strike, which ended last week.
As one of the biggest backers of charter schools, Mr. Broad helped make them a fashionable and potent cause in Los Angeles, drawing support from business leaders like Reed Hastings, the co-founder of Netflix; Hollywood executives; and lawmakers to create a wide network of more than 220 schools.
Mr. Broad was so bullish about the future of charter schools just a few years ago that he even floated a plan to move roughly half of Los Angeles schoolchildren — more than 250,000 students — into such schools. In 2017, he funneled millions of dollars to successfully elect candidates for the Board of Education who would back charters, an alternative to traditional public schools that are publicly funded but privately run.
His prominence has also turned him into a villain in the eyes of the teachers’ union. Now Mr. Broad and supporters like him are back on their heels in Los Angeles and across the country. The strike is the latest setback for the charter school movement, which once drew the endorsement of prominent Democrats and Republicans alike. But partly in reaction to the Trump administration, vocal Democratic support for charters has waned as the party has shifted further to the left and is more likely to deplore such schools as a drain on traditional public schools.
When the Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti, announced a deal between the teachers’ union and the school district after the weeklong strike, it became immediately clear that the fate of charter schools was part of the bargain: The union extracted a promise that the pro-charter school Board of Education would vote on a call for the state to cap the number of charters.
It was the latest in a string of defeats for a movement that for over a decade has pointed to Los Angeles and California as showcases for the large-scale growth of the charter school sector.
It is still unclear how much practical impact the deal will have on charters. Charter school supporters are lobbying the school board, which has steadfastly supported charters for more than a decade, to vote down the resolution for a charter school cap this week. Even if it passes, advocates are certain to take the fight to Sacramento, where a bill calling for a moratorium seems likely. They will argue that charters have given poor students and students of color essential options for better schools.
But the defeat in the court of public opinion is clear: After years of support from powerful local and national allies — including many Democrats — charter schools are now facing a backlash and severe skepticism.
Over the past two years, charter school supporters were dealt painful political defeats in California, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and other states.
As the push for alternatives to traditional public schools has come to be more associated with President Trump and his secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, the shift in Democratic Party politics has been especially pronounced. President Barack Obama supported expanding high-quality charter schools, and pushed teachers’ unions to let go of some of their traditional seniority protections and put more emphasis on raising student achievement.”
The article is a good analysis of the present state of the charter school movement. It started with much hope to assist public schools in this country and unfortunately was turned into a political football. With Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos supporting them, charter schools have become political liabilities for Democrats.