WASHINGTON—Statement by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on the Economic Policy Institute’s new report, “Exploring the Consequences of Charter School Expansion in U.S. Cities”:
“The original vision for charter schools was that they would be grass-roots incubators of innovation run democratically by teachers, parents and the community. Charters were intended to work side by side with traditional public schools as places where educators could test out new ideas that would help all students; they were never intended to undermine, destabilize or replace public schools. This report is important because it shows what happens when charters, regardless of quality, need or other factors—the type of schools pushed by billionaires like Betsy DeVos—grow so exponentially as to damage and destabilize all other public schools in a district.
“The new EPI report documents what we’ve experienced for years in cities like Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland and Los Angeles: the negative impact on students that both austerity and unregulated charter expansion have on all other public schools, which are forced to cut vital programs as funds are diverted away. It shows how opaque and undemocratic charter school governance structures perpetuate self-dealing between schools and corrupt charter management organizations. And it shows that charter growth has led to increased segregation in public education by race, class, language and disability.
“Betsy DeVos, President-elect Trump’s choice for education secretary, is a principal cheerleader of the practice of using the exponential growth of unregulated and unaccountable charters to destabilize, defund, decimate and privatize public education. These consequences are why the NAACP and Black Lives Matter have called for a moratorium on charter schools and why the mayor of Detroit worked to establish some commonsense oversight of this sector. They’re also why voters rejected charter expansion initiatives in Georgia and Massachusetts this November.
“One way to ensure the best possible public education for our kids, as the report makes clear, is to ensure charter operators are held publicly accountable for their actions—and to create a system that incentivizes investment in public education, not the siphoning off of badly needed resources to the private sector. Parents and educators want rational policy decisions that look out for students, not the unregulated, unaccountable outcomes of market forces.”