Charter Schools And Federal Budget Politics: Sounds Wonky But Could Matter A Lot To Parents

In The Hill, Richard Whitmire and I take a look at the latest twist the political fortunes of charter schools:

Lost in last week’s frenetic news about Trump’s revenge tour and an unpredictable international virus, a big story got overlooked: what might be the beginning of the end to the conservative/liberal alliance to offer better school options — high performing public charter schools — to low-income parents….

You can read all of that here. 

I wanted to amplify one point though, the Trump Administration’s budget decision.

When he was pushed on the issue of the block granting of the charter school funding, Assistant Secretary of Education Jim Blew, who oversees policymaking at the Department of Education, told Chalkbeat, “The federal lobbyists for charter schools sound a lot like the lobbyists for all of the other competitive grant programs. “In their desperate communications, they have exaggerated the importance of [the federal Charter Schools Program].

I think it’s worth noting that Blew has a point that charter schools should be a state priority, after all schools fall under state constitutions. And generally I’m favorably disposed towards flexible funding for those closest to the action, with clear expectations on results.

But, right now in the midst of a sustained teachers-union fueled backlash charters are struggling politically despite strong support for black and Hispanic families. We don’t have any real expectations for results any more in the ESSA-era. And the federal program has been a boon for growing charters for families despite the organized institutional opposition since the Clinton Administration.  Many in the charter world have ideas for how to restructure the program, most analysts think it could stand some changes, but a carte blanche handoff to states is a precipitous and disorganized way address the complicated basket of issues facing charter schools – especially when many other federal programs don’t yet fully integrate charters either.