Biden Education Department ‘Declares War’ on Charter Schools as School Choice Becomes Overwhelmingly Popular in America

As more families and teachers flee government schools, the Biden administration – bound to the teachers’ unions – has now “declared war” on charter schools, as Robert Maranto, editor of the Journal of School Choice, wrote at National Review Monday.

The Biden education department is now on a path to sabotage the federal grant program that funds charter schools, public schools that are privately managed, with its proposal of new rules that appear to actually deter applicants from seeking grants.

The proposal was entered into the federal register on March 14, with a public comment period that extends until April 13. The rule comes as school choice has been shown to be overwhelmingly popular in the country.

Maranto, the 21st Century Chair in Leadership in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, wrote:

[W]ith Democrats going woke and a new president in town, the U.S. Department of Education has declared war on charter schools, using obscure bureaucratic rulemaking to kill the federal charter-school program without having to explain why.

The editorial board of The Wall Street Journal also wrote Sunday what the proposed rule will mean for those considering applying for a charter school grant to support start-up expenses:

Applicants will now have to describe “unmet demand for the charter school.” Having hundreds or thousands of children on charter waiting lists won’t suffice. The Administration wants evidence of “over-enrollment of existing public schools,” as well as proof that the new charter “does not exceed the number of public schools needed to accommodate the demand in the community.”

This means that charter applicants in school districts with shrinking enrollment, which includes many big cities, would almost certainly be rejected. “Demand for charter schools isn’t just about demand for the availability of any seat but the demand for a high-quality seat,” says Karega Rausch, president and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. That’s why charters have waiting lists in cities with empty public-school buildings.

Corey A. DeAngelis, national director of research at the American Federation for Children, spoke to The Star News Network last week about the plummeting enrollment in public schools:

Nationwide, I believe the enrollment drop in public schools is about 1.5 million students, or more, which was roughly about a 3% decline in enrollment. We saw Census Bureau numbers suggesting a doubling of homeschooling relative to pre-pandemic levels. Charter school enrollment jumped by 7%, whereas the government run school enrollment dropped by about 3%. And, so, people were voting with their feet even before these massive expansions of school choice that we saw in 2021, the year of school choice.

“Just imagine if we had universal school choice, if all of the funding followed the child, every single child, to wherever they wanted to get an education?” DeAngelis noted. “We probably would have seen a much larger exodus from the government-run school system in the pandemic period.”

RealClear Opinion Research Poll published on February 28 surveyed more than 2,000 registered voters and found 72 percent of respondents support school choice, compared to 18 percent who oppose the concept.

That outcome includes 68 percent of Democrats, 82 percent of Republicans, and 67 percent of Independents in support of school choice.

The findings also represent substantial increases in support for school choice since the pandemic, when teachers’ unions insisted schools remain closed.

Overall support for school choice jumped 8 percentage points from 64 percent in April 2020 to 72 percent in 2022. Democrat support rose 9 percentage points, from 59 percent to 68 percent, while Republican and Independent support increased 7 percentage points, from 75 percent to 82 percent, and 60 to 67 percent, respectively.

The Biden administration will also require charter school grant applicants to engage in “collaborations” with “traditional” public schools, including in the areas of “curricular and instructional resources or academic course offerings,” and “policies and practices to create safe, supportive, and inclusive learning environments, including systems of positive behavioral intervention and support.”

The rule states charter schools seeking federal funds should “provide a letter from each partnering traditional public school or school district demonstrating a commitment to participate in the proposed charter-traditional collaboration.”

“This is like letting General Motors veto where Honda can sell cars,” wrote Maranto, and The Journal editorial board observed “in other words, charter operators will be obliged to give the teachers’ unions that dominate traditional school systems a say in how their charters are run.”

Not surprisingly, charter school applicants, according to the new rule, would also be required to demonstrate their “plans to establish and maintain racially and socio-economically diverse student staff populations.”

“Public Charter Schools are providing educational opportunities to many students in need of an excellent education,” Bob Luddy, founder and chairman of the private Thales Academy schools, said in a comment to The Star News Network.

“Unfortunately, politicians’ meddling bureaucracy has the opposite effect,” Luddy added. “The ‘proof of need’ for private education is all around us, and every American parent knows that. Private schools remain as the best choice for parents and students, free of continuous political interventions.”

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Susan Berry, PhD, is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “School Choice Students” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.



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