Joe Biden Must Stand Up For Charter Schools

By Natasha Trivers And Naomi N. Shelton

As two Black education leaders who have made it our life’s work to fight for educational equity for students and families, it is disappointing to see people — especially Democrats who purport to appreciate the destructive power of systematic racism — turn a blind eye to the impact of high performing charter schools.

The national conversation about education has become far too polarized and partisan, with the traditional public school sector calling for the exclusion of charters at every turn. The age of Trump led to even more division in our country; in some quarters, to be pro-school choice now means you are somehow against traditional public schools.

There are tens of thousands of charter practitioners and advocates who have worked tirelessly to improve public education in America for decades just as traditional public education champions have. What attracted us to charters from the beginning were the high expectations set for each student, data-driven remediation to accelerate learning, and the autonomy they are afforded to nimbly respond to the needs of their community.

And there have been strong results. A recent Harvard study found that “student cohorts in the charter sector made greater gains from 2005 to 2017 than did cohorts in the district sector…the difference [amounting to] nearly an additional half-year’s worth of learning.” The study also found that “the biggest gains” were for “African Americans and for students of low socioeconomic status attending charter schools.”

President-elect Biden has rightfully noted that we need to heal the soul of our nation. This healing should include a bipartisan effort to improve our public schools, especially in light of the crippling effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Why not increase funding for all public schools — district and charter alike — instead of being divisive and treating public education like a zero-sum game? Why not allow low-income Black and Hispanic families to choose the right school for their children rather than speaking about what’s best for them in a paternalistic way?

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