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Sunday, May 15, 2022

OPINION:

The Biden administration is bowing to the political will of teachers unions — again. The Department of Education recently proposed a rule that would add nonsensical requirements to the Expanding Opportunity Through Quality Charter Schools Program to create new opportunities to attack charter schools and keep more children from receiving a high-quality education.

In a statement to The 74, a nonprofit news site focused on education issues, President Biden’s Department of Education noted that it “recognizes that there is a place for high-quality public charter schools and supports continuing important investments.” 


Apparently, that “place” is squarely under the Biden administration’s boot. Under its proposed rule, the Biden administration would force charter schools to partner with a traditional public school district and for any charter schools that can’t find a willing public school to collaborate with they could not receive funding. 

Essentially, the administration is putting the power in the hands of the school district to identify any charters which they deem could serve as “potential partners” and eliminating the rest. 

Many of the proposed regulations impose significant and arbitrary demands on charter schools before they even open. To open a new charter school, for example, grant applicants would be required to demonstrate that schools in a district are already overcrowded or require additional capacity. But charter schools do not exist simply or primarily to combat overcrowding. Charter schools might provide different learning environments, safer schoolyards or tailored care for special needs students. Charter schools expand school choice and educational freedom. 

Sadly, this administration and its teachers union kingpins seem intent to undermine these liberties at any cost. 

Unlike traditional public schools, charter schools receive federal funding but are guaranteed operational autonomy to provide rich alternatives to students and families. Studies already indicate that many charter schools produce stronger academic outcomes relative to traditional public schools, particularly among Black and Hispanic students. Why then, does the Biden administration consistently try to undermine these schools and the future success of America’s students?

Charter schools traditionally have garnered bipartisan support. The Biden administration is an outlier as it instead undermines charter schools, putting teachers unions ahead of students’ well-being. Teachers have a right to unionize, but no union should have a right to hold schools hostage or prevent the creation of new charter schools. 

But that is exactly the trajectory of American teachers unions. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic spurred teachers unions across the United States to take aim at educational freedom. For example, the Los Angeles teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, issued a haphazard list of demands, including increased taxation on the wealthy, a charter school moratorium and defunding the police — and refused to return teachers to classrooms so schools could reopen until such demands were met. These far-reaching demands demonstrate that union bosses are willing to sacrifice the well-being of students for a chance to engage in political showmanship.

We shouldn’t really be surprised that this administration is kowtowing to teachers unions’ demands. There is a longstanding alliance between the Democratic party and teachers unions: For decades, these unions have funneled member dues into Democrats’ political campaigns in exchange for political favoritism.

It’s easy to see why teachers unions have it out for charter schools. Instead of being held accountable to the education bureaucracy and to teachers unions, charter schools are accountable to students, families and their communities. Growing preference for charter schools therefore threatens the existence — and bottom line — of teachers unions that want to grow their membership.

That’s why I sent a comment letter to the Department of Education expressing concern regarding the Biden administration’s proposed rule on CSP grants.

Ultimately, the Biden administration is tone-deaf on charter schools. This administration would prefer that students and schools subscribe to a single education doctrine, regardless of parent or teacher input. 

Mr. Biden and his union benefactors rail against charter schools because they challenge the failing status quo. The left forgets that charter schools exist to address community-specific issues. Luckily, parents and teachers recognize the value of charter schools and are fighting against growing government control. 

The Department of Education has already ruined one education system. It would be a shame to let them ruin another.

• U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx from North Carolina is the Education and Labor Committee Republican leader.


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