Hillary Clinton's flip-flop on charter schools
In her drift ever leftward, Hillary Clinton has reversed her longstanding support for charter schools and now says she opposes them.
Politico put it perfectly: "Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sounded less like a decades-long supporter of charter schools over the weekend and more like a teachers union president[.]"
Hillary has been crowding Bernie Sanders on the left for months, trying desperately to narrow the differences between her and the radical left wing of the Democratic Party. In doing so, she has been forced to flip flop on several issues – free trade and charter schools being the latest.
[S]he argued that most of these schools “don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids, or, if they do, they don’t keep them.”
Her comments in South Carolina came straight from charter school critics’ playbook and distanced her from the legacies of her husband, former President Bill Clinton — credited with creating a federal stream of money to launch charters around the country — and President Barack Obama, whose administration has dangled federal incentives to push states to become more charter friendly.
Basically, the teachers' unions argue that if a school gets federal money, it should admit any and all students who wish to attend. Of course, this defeats the entire purpose of charter schools and would destroy their advantages.
The change in tone on charter schools mirrors other moves Clinton has made to nail down the support of liberal blocs in the face of the progressive challenge of Bernie Sanders, including her recent decision to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And like her reservations about free trade, her new rebuke of charter schools suggests she’ll be less willing to challenge core Democratic constituencies than either her husband or Obama.
Teachers unions have been early and enthusiastic supporters of Clinton. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, a noted opponent of many education reform efforts, is a longtime friend and informal adviser to her campaign. Unions say they aren’t anti-charter but often attack the schools, a majority of which employ teachers who aren't unionized, accusing them of siphoning off money from traditional public schools.
"Hillary Clinton looks at the evidence. That's what she did here,” Weingarten told POLITICO. “She called out that many charters don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids or don’t keep those with academic or behavioral issues.”
n contrast, the Democratic advocacy group Education Reform Now posted a statement from Director Charles Barone, who wrote that Clinton’s recent comments were “highly disappointing and seemed to reinforce fears about how her endorsements from both major teachers unions would affect her K-12 platform.”
Unions, along with some traditional school administrators and parents, have long charged that charter schools too often reject or push out special needs students or other kids perceived to be troublesome. The issue exploded recently in New York City when high-profile charter operator and former council member Eva Moskowitz conceded that one of her Success Academy campuses was found with a “got-to-go” list naming children considered to be difficult
In essence, the unions don't mind charter schools – as long as the schools use union teachers. They just want to make charter schools as bad as traditional public schools, so the majority of their membership doesn't suffer by comparison.
President Obama has largely been ambivalent about charter schools, sometimes making supportive statements but stopping short of antagonizing the unions by directing federal education funds their way. Clinton won't even go that far, and she has now tossed charter school kids under the bus.