Teachers Unions Not the Only Ones Opposing Charter Schools

Promoters of privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools that seize billions of dollars a year from public schools have long promoted the illusion that it is mainly teachers unions that are opposed to charter schools.

Keeping in mind that 90% of charter schools have no teacher unions and that charter school owners-operators usually react bellicosely when teachers try to unionize to defend their rights and their students, it is not only teachers unions that oppose charter schools.

For years, many legislators, governors, school boards, superintendents, parents, students, teachers, community residents, education advocates, education associations, college professors, and others have also opposed non-profit and for-profit charter schools run by unelected individuals. These forces are being joined by new people from all walks of life every day.

People do not want segregated, deregulated, unstable, privatized, unaccountable, non-transparent, corrupt, and crisis-prone schools that enrich owners of capital while masquerading as “schools” that “benefit the kids.” People increasingly see through all the charter school hype and are not prepared to abandon America’s 170-year-old public school system that today educates 50 million youth in 100,000 schools.

Thousands of charter schools have closed over the years and thousands perform poorly every year. The performance of cyber charter schools is especially abysmal, even by the admission of charter school advocates themselves. Further, most charter schools exclude many students and are plagued by high teacher and principal turnover rates as well. Who supports any of this?

A severe obsession with useless test scores and endless reports of scandal and crime in the charter school sector are some other reasons why many people naturally oppose charter schools.

The list of charter school problems goes on, which is why teachers unions and others will step up their opposition to charter schools in 2020.

Indeed, resistance to charter schools is becoming more consolidated, so much so that hardly any 2020 Democratic presidential candidates openly support charter schools. They know that charter schools are plagued by endless problems and are not in the public interest. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have even gone so far as to propose specific ways to rein in charter schools and stop the looting of public money by these pay-the-rich schemes. This precious development marks a definite break with the past and reflects the maturation of the movement against charter schools and in favor of the public interest.

As a form of privatization, charter schools harm education, society, the economy, and the national interest. They are not an integral part of a modern nation-building project that puts rights at the center of everything. Opposition to free market arrangements like charter schools is part of the struggle to affirm the right to education in a society based on mass industrial production wherein all wealth is produced by the working class and people. A modern society and education system cannot be built on the basis of the law of the jungle. “Choice,” competition, consumerism, and individualism in education have only multiplied problems

Shawgi Tell is author of the book Charter School Report Card. He can be reached at stell5@naz.edu.. Read other articles by Shawgi.