The Patriot Post® · A Small Victory for School Choice

By Lewis Morris ·

The fiefdom known as the Department of Education published its final rules for federal charter school funding last week, though its predictable efforts to strip these schools of their ability to obtain federal funding were blunted by a broad coalition of concerned parents, educators, and elected officials.

The Biden administration, which takes orders from the teachers unions, proved its hostility to charter schools when it released proposed rules in March. It was clear from the outset that those rules were designed to protect the unions and their rotten public-school domains by setting insurmountable hurdles for charters to receive federal funding.

The rules initially required charter schools to prove they could fill an unmet demand to serve students who couldn’t enroll in public schools that were at capacity. In other words, charter schools should exist only to take up the “extra” students who can’t physically fit into an existing public school. As former Louisiana Democrat Senator Mary Landrieu and former Florida Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo pointed out, “Given that every state in the nation saw a decline in district school enrollment last year, this proposed guideline alone is impossible to meet.”

Another proposed rule would have called on charter schools to demonstrate proof of “collaboration” with public school districts. North Carolina Coalition for Charter Schools executive director Lindalyn Kakadelis noted that this would “set a precedent for offering traditional public schools immense power in deciding the fate of new or expanding public charter schools.” Collaboration would quickly become subservience, with hostile school boards and local teacher unions slamming the door on any attempts to expand charter school enrollment.

Even prominent Democrat senators like Dianne Feinstein, Michael Bennet, and Cory “I Am Spartacus” Booker pushed back on the proposed rules. In a May letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, they wrote that the rules for federal funding do “not prioritize the needs of students” and limit “high quality choices to certain families.”

Due to high-profile comments like these, organized protests from parents, and a national rally in the nation’s capital, the Biden administration was forced to dial back its requirements. The final rules no longer call for collaboration with district schools, and charters won’t have to demonstrate unmet need to prove their worth in the community. Still, the language in the rules leaves room for wide interpretation, which will surely lead to abuse by teachers unions and school boards out to protect their turf.

This battle over federal charter school funding exposes Team Biden and many of their fellow Democrats as hypocrites when it comes to children’s education. They claim to want only the best resources, teachers, and facilities available, but that’s only true when they and their union buddies are providing it — or, more to the point, benefiting from it.

Charter schools tend to rise up when the public schools fail their communities. There are a variety of reasons why this failure takes place, but lack of government capability and support are generally the root cause. The point is that providing a quality education for children should be the prime motivator in all government decisions in these matters. The proposed rules, even in the scaled-back final version, don’t explain how expanding the bureaucracy serves students and their families.

The entire federal Charter Schools Program is budgeted at a paltry $440 million. We call it paltry because federal outlays for K-12 education in 2022 were $42 billion. The desire to cut charter school funding isn’t about saving money; it’s about eliminating competition so unions can protect the jobs of their members, and government bureaucrats can continue indoctrinating our children in whatever woke ideologies they see fit to push.

The Democrats claim to embrace “choice,” but they certainly don’t seem to want parents to have a choice in how their children are educated.