Poll: 81% of Democrat Primary Voters Support Charter Schools

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 19: Thousands of city teachers rally in Foley Square on Wednesday afternoon to demand that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio take action on charter school growth on October 19, 2016 in New York City. The teachers want the mayor to approve the opening …
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A new poll finds 81 percent of Democrat primary voters, including 89 percent of black Democrat primary voters, support charter schools, an outcome that is in stark contrast to what most of the Democrat 2020 candidates are currently embracing.

Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), a proponent of school choice, released the nationwide poll, conducted by Benenson Strategy Group, on Monday.

According to the poll results, 81 percent of Democrat primary voters, including 89 percent of black Democrat primary voters, support the proposal to “expand access to more choices and options within the public-school system,” including charter schools, which are funded with taxpayer dollars but operated by private boards.

In addition, when presented with a proposal to “put a nationwide moratorium in place to ban all federal funding for new charter schools,” only 44 percent of voters support it and 52 percent oppose it.

The poll states:

Voters know that a one-size-fits-all approach to education doesn’t work, and they support choices in the public-school system to make sure every child—no matter their background—has the chance to get a great public education at a school that puts their unique needs first.

The Benenson group conducted the poll in August-September 2019 using both phone and online interviews. Respondents were 1,721 likely 2020 voters, including an oversample of 1,227 likely Democrat primary voters. The poll’s margin of error is ±2.4.

The poll’s outcome places a spotlight on the vast disconnect between the education platform of the Democrat Party — one that remains closely aligned with the demands of the national teachers’ unions — and a plurality of its base.

Though several Democrat candidates were once staunch supporters of charter schools, as presidential candidates they have focused more on criticism of the Trump administration’s central education theme of school choice and of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

As Education Week reports, Democrat candidates Joe Biden, Cory Booker, and Michael Bennet had all been supportive of charter schools prior to becoming presidential candidates.

In May, however, Biden said he will “not support any federal money for for-profit charter schools. Period.”

Bernie Sanders has been clear he would ban charter schools from being run by for-profit entities and would audit all existing charter schools.

Elizabeth Warren said, “Money for public schools should stay in public schools, not go anywhere else.” However, she praised the charter schools in her home state of Massachusetts as “successful, thoughtful, and innovative.”

Pete Buttigieg has said he would “take steps” to pull back on charter school expansion, while Julián Castro has said he would demand more “accountability” for charter schools than is required now due to the fact they are run independently.

Kamala Harris acted against charter schools when she was California’s attorney general and supported the Los Angeles teachers who demanded more rules for charter schools when they went out on strike in January.

Amy Klobuchar has said charter schools must meet “high standards” if they want to meet the definition of public schools.

Andrew Yang said, “I am pro-good school” during the last Democrat debate.

Beto O’Rourke has said for-profit charter schools should be banned, but, in June, said “there is a role” for them.

DFER states school choice is “in line with the Obama education legacy.”

“It’s no secret that our public schools need to be better funded, but that’s just the beginning of the story,” said Shavar Jeffries, president of DFER, and added:

The public sees that we need to more fairly fund underserved schools and pay teachers more who teach hard-to-staff subjects and serve in high-need schools. The poll findings are a call to action to continue the work started by President Obama and find ways to make our schools more equitable.

Left-wing groups, such as Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and LGBT activist organizations, have muscled their way into charter schools in California. In 2018, the California Healthy Youth Act required comprehensive sex education (CSE) to be taught in charter schools as well as traditional public schools.

Meanwhile, some teachers’ unions have opened membership to charter school teachers. In December 2018, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the American Federation of Teachers backed the nation’s first strike by charter school teachers.

However, officials from the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) criticized CTU’s involvement in the negotiations, saying the strike would restrict the independence of the charter school.

“If we accede to the idea that every unionized charter in Chicago has to have the exact same (working conditions), pretty soon we’re going to lose what the movement has contributed to the city — which is a vibrancy, a differential approach,” INCS president Andrew Broy said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “It would be a step backward for the city if we go down that path.”

The acceptance of charter schools in the education platform of the Democrat Party would likely mean a more robust attempt on its part to force charter schools to become more like traditional public schools under the banner of “accountability” for taxpayer dollars.

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