"I BELIEVE IN public education, and I believe in public charter schools," explained Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) at a CNN town hall in March. What the candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination doesn't believe in, he said, are "privately controlled charter schools."
The problem with that distinction is that all charters are privately controlled to some degree. They are also all public schools, funded with taxpayer money. That dual nature is what distinguishes charter schools from every other kind.
Sanders clarified his stance when he released an education plan in May. While he wants more "accountability" for nonprofit charters, he would entirely ban their for-profit counterparts.
According to data obtained from the National Alliance for Charter Schools, schools run by forprofit companies make up roughly 12 percent of charters nationwide. One of the goals of these schools--at least on paper--is to make money. Regardless of what they do for their students, that makes for-profit charters a perfect target in the eyes of democratic socialists like Sanders.
How well they serve students matters, however. Such charters exist because parents prefer them to the state-run alternative. "Charter schools are held accountable by parents, who can choose or not choose to enroll their children there," says Lindsey Burke, the Will Skillman Fellow in Education at the Heritage Foundation. "Charters only receive [public] funding if families are selecting into them."
By contrast, Burke says, "public schools are in the position of nearmonopolies that receive students--and funding--regardless of how poorly they perform. Those interested in 'accountability' should start by turning a critical eye...