Joe Biden Supports Privately-Operated Charter Schools

Joe Biden is one of about two dozen 2020 democratic candidates running for President of the United States. This is not his first presidential campaign.

Biden served under President Barack Obama as Vice President for eight years. Obama became well-known for many antisocial policies in many spheres, especially education, including the aggressive promotion of privately-operated charter schools that siphon enormous sums of money from over-tested, under-funded, and constantly-demonized public schools. Obama also supported the widely-rejected Race to the Top law, the much-hated Common Core, and the heavily-loathed No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). In 2015, Obama replaced NCLB with a worse law: the Every Student Succeeds Act. The education record of Obama and Biden is terrible.

During a recent two-day swing through Texas, Biden said the following at an event with teachers: “I do not support any federal money … for for-profit charter schools — period. The bottom line is it siphons off money from public schools, which are already in enough trouble.”1

But with the exception of millionaires, billionaires, and their retinue, who isn’t opposed to for-profit K-12 schools? Such “schools” have always been poor quality, corrupt, and immoral; they were established mainly to further enrich the wealthy few at the expense of young people.

It should be noted that for-profit charter schools actually make up a larger portion of the unstable and unaccountable charter school sector than many are reporting.

It is also important to appreciate that Biden, like Presidential democratic candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, is not addressing the fact that nonprofit charter schools are just as destructive, if not more harmful, than for-profit charter schools. The “for-profit/nonprofit” dichotomy is largely a distinction without a difference. It does not mean that much. In various ways nonprofit charter schools often get away with more than for-profit schools. Nonprofit charter schools are engaged in many ways with for-profit entities and organizations. Wealthy private interests have had no trouble using the nonprofit status to enrich themselves.

Biden’s conscious refusal to oppose charter schools is most evident in his simple statement that, “There are some charter schools that work.”2

Clearly, Biden thinks there is a place in society for privately-operated charter schools.

This is all charter school promoters need to hear. This is music to the ears of charter school boosters. Charter school advocates can now rest easy knowing that Biden, like Obama and the vast majority of 2020 democratic presidential hopefuls, is no threat to charter schools.

Biden’s assertion that “There are some charter schools that work” is nothing more than another expression of the erroneous and confused idea that, somehow, charter schools really are, or can be, valid, legitimate, responsible, productive, and much-needed arrangements in society.

In reality, pay-the-rich schemes like privately-operated contract schools that parasitically drain socially-produced wealth from schools and society are the opposite of what society needs. Pay-the-rich schemes undermine the economy and the national interest as well.

Interestingly, Biden conveniently fails to mention charter schools on his official campaign website; he sidesteps the issue, thereby revealing again his implicit support for such deunionized and segregated schools rife with fraud and racketeering. At least Bernie Sanders’ official education platform mentions charter schools openly and frequently.

It is also worth pointing out that Joe Biden’s brother, Frank Biden, has been heavily involved in the charter school sector for years.3

At the end of the day, it does not matter that much if charter schools are for-profit or nonprofit: they are still privately-operated, deregulated, segregated, poorly-supervised, deunionized, low-transparency, scandal-ridden contract schools that drain much-needed funds from demonized public schools. Nonprofit and for-profit charter schools also engage in extensive fraud, have high employee turnover rates, frequently perform poorly, and typically over-pay administrators.

Society can do well without charter schools.

  1. Svitek, P. Biden makes first Texas trip as a 2020 presidential candidate, pitching new education plan, 2019, May 28, The Texas Tribune. []
  2. Klein, R.  Joe Biden criticizes charter schools for taking money from other public schools, May 29, 2019,  HuffPost. []
  3. Mercedes Schneider’s Blog, “Frank Biden, his for-profit charter chain, Mavericks in education, and more“, April 28, 2019. []
Shawgi Tell is author of the book Charter School Report Card. He can be reached at stell5@naz.edu.. Read other articles by Shawgi.