Hillary Clinton supported charter schools before being endorsed by the big teachers’ unions and receiving access to their cash and get-out-the-vote efforts.
Clinton wrote in her memoir “It Takes a Village” that she favors “promoting choice among public schools,” while later claiming “charter schools are a way of bringing teachers and parents and communities together.”
Now, after guzzling union-flavored Kool-Aid, Clinton is flip-flopping so hard against reasonable education reforms, including charter schools—claiming they “don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids, or, if they do, they don’t keep them,” that even President Obama’s supporters howl.
Peter Cunningham, an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education during Obama’s first term, chastised the current Democratic Party platform on “The 74,” claiming it “affirms an education system that denies its shortcomings and is unwilling to address them.”
A report from the highly respected Manhattan Institute in Clinton’s adopted state of New York suggests her newfound claims are flat wrong, finding that students who are disabled, learning English or performing low on standardized tests “are as likely to remain in charters as in traditional public schools.”
Charter-school opponents in Kentucky have pushed similar misinformation for the past several years.
One of their favorite claims: charter schools get rid of disruptive, troubled or low-performing students whereas traditional public schools must accept all enrollees. Therefore, the argument goes, charters appear to perform better in many areas of the country because of such attrition.
However, Manhattan’s analysis of enrollment and test-score data from New York City, Denver and an anonymous urban Midwest school district “found that low-performing students are just as likely to exit traditional public schools as they are to exit charters.”
The Wall Street Journal editorial page responded to Clinton’s backflip by suggesting: “If you want to see public schools that really don’t tolerate disruptive students, go to your average rich suburban school.”
Charter schools are more likely to attract those students in danger of failing in the traditional public schools to which they have been assigned; these are the students about which charter-school opponents—which now apparently includes Clinton—feign concern.
According to the Center for Education Reform, a greater percentage of charter-school versus traditional-school enrollees are black (28 percent to 16 percent), Hispanic (28 percent to 23 percent) or qualify for free and reduced-price lunches (63 percent to 48 percent).
Charters in growing cities like Atlanta aren’t only enrolling more minority and low-income students, but they’re succeeding in getting these children to a level of academic proficiency that gives them a fighting chance in life.
Black students in Atlanta charter schools significantly outperformed their fellow blacks in traditional public schools in nearly every key academic category on the 2015 National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP), including in fourth-grade reading (216-199) and eighth-grade reading (266-243) and math (278-255).
Meanwhile, Kentucky School Report Cards show the academic-achievement gap between black and white eighth-graders in the Jefferson County Public Schools—Kentucky’s largest school district—widened between 2012 and 2015 on the ACT’s EXPLORE test results in all key academic areas, including English, math, reading and science.
The students on the losing end of this gap are the ones who would most benefit from charters in Kentucky—one of only seven states that still doesn’t allow charter schools.
Obama supporter Cunningham calls out Clinton and the Democratic Party platform for its proposed restrictions on charters in ways that would make them less effective.
It’s “a step backwards” that will particularly harm “low-income black and Hispanic children,” he adds.
Kentucky Democrats should take a cue from Cunningham and embrace the approach taken by many of their fellow Dems nationwide, including United States Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., who, when he was Delaware’s governor, not only signed a bill opening his state to charter schools, but also enrolled his two sons in charters.
More than 14,000 children are enrolled in Delaware’s charters today because a Democratic governor dared to put his bill-signing pen where his principles—not teachers’-union lackeys—stand.
Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute; Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at [email protected] Read previously published columns at www.bipps.org.