Clinton Waffly on Charter Schools; Just Say No!

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García says Yay Hillary at NEA national meeting, 2016.07.05 (photo by Scott Iskowitz/NEA).
NEA President Lily Eskelsen García says Yay Hillary at NEA national meeting, 2016.07.05 (photo by Scott Iskowitz/NEA).

My man Bernie Sanders may be about to endorse Hillary Clinton, and Sanders may be securing Clinton’s and the party’s support on key policy issues (public option and community health care centers! minimum wage! but not quite TPP!), but Clinton isn’t making it any easier for me to jump and down for her with her stance on charter schools. Last November, she said she has supported charter schools for 30 years but sees them as a “supplement” not a “substitute” for public schools. Tuesday she drew brief boos from the National Education Association’s annual meeting for saying, “When schools get it right, whether they’re traditional public schools or public charter schools, let’s figure out what’s working and share it with schools across America…. Rather than starting from ideology, let’s start from what’s best for our kids.”

NEA officials weren’t too worked up about that comment; they didn’t mention it in their glowing assessment of Clinton’s speech, focusing instead on Clinton’s call to move away from testing and the “blame teachers first” mentality of legislatures and the media.

Clinton, as usual, is just triangulating, trying to craft an ideal fuzzy middle position to minimize votes against her. One pundit says Clinton wanted NEA to boo her to defuse right-wing complaints that she’s too cozy with the teachers’ labor union.

I suppose as a pragmatist I should be fine with Clinton’s shifty stance. But given charter schools’ failure to produce a clear record of consistently superior performance, a pragmatist can still contend that mixed-at-best results do not justify creating a separate system of schools that operate without the same accountability (remember, a charter school was the next big scam sought by the GEAR UP players) as public schools and open the door to undermine and privatize our K-12 schools.

But hey, my man Barack Obama has backed some bad education policies as well. NEA, you can afford to push your Democratic endorsees a little harder, because the other party isn’t going to give you anything more effective or intelligble.


6 Responses to Clinton Waffly on Charter Schools; Just Say No!

  1. Donald Pay

    Clinton’s position on charter schools is fine. As long as charter schools have a buy-in and oversight by a public school district, they may pilot different ways of learning that serve certain groups of students better than a public school classroom. Charters outside of the public school system should not be allowed, however.

  2. Donald, I agree. We tend to use the term “charter school” as a singular entity, when there are private/for profit versions as well as public versions.

    Not enough has been said about the failures of private/for profit charters. When a charter opens and draws students – only to fail and close, that creates a profound loss of opportunity for the children of that community. Unlike the public system, privates can fail and walk away – there is no responsibility to the community they mined for profit.

    Being at the Clinton speech where she was booed for even mentioning charters, the response was mostly from the California delegate section – teachers who have watched their districts, communities, and children decimated by the charter school movement.

  3. Our public school system is the backbone of our democracy and we should be doing everything possible to defend and improve them. Charter schools ought not to be allowed to divert resources for private use.

  4. Jason Sebern

    Right on Mr. Winegar!

  5. No public money for charter schools. Charter schools are private institutions, and they seem to be more about violating the constitutional principle of separation of church and state through nefarious and creative means. While we are at it, we need to start talking about revoking tax exempt status for churches and religious institutions.

    Surprise: Clinton is waffly on issues. Did anyone really expect anything else?

  6. O, thanks for the eyewitness detail! Crankiness from California in particular—that is an important note, highlighting that charter schools have been more detrimental there.

    I will roll with Donald and O on the compromise position only with extreme caution. I need to see evidence that the gains a few good charter schools can offer cannot be replicated within the existing public school system.