by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
[N]ot every charter school is good. Not every charter school is a success. But if there has ever existed anything like a broad point of left–right agreement in the American education debate, it’s that charters represent a vital piece of the educational puzzle, an option that can and does transform students’ lives.
So why did Bernie Sanders announce last week that, if elected president, he would declare war on charter schools? His poorly named Thurgood Marshall Plan for Public Education (after all, urban, nonwhite students are among the prime beneficiaries of charter-school choice) would “ban for-profit charter schools,” and “halt the use of public funds to underwrite new charter schools” until they complied with a series of federal conditions that would change their governance and facilitate their unionization (many charter-school faculties aren’t unionized). In so doing, it would remove many of the distinctive qualities that helped make charter schools truly competitive with conventional public schools. …
… [H]ere’s the core problem: The interest in a collective solution to a series of individual educational challenges understates the reality that choice, by itself, is a vital value in a child’s education. And the power of choice cannot be measured by test scores alone, even though the best charter schools yield spectacular results.