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ICYMI: The Washington Post: There’s nothing progressive about strangling charter public schools

June 1, 2019

SACRAMENTO, CA –  This weekend, California’s Democrats will be celebrating the progressive ideals of the nation’s bluest state at the California Democratic Party Convention.

As Democrat’s kick-off the party in San Francisco, the Washington Post editorial board this week called out progressive politicians who are proposing policies that would rip good public school options away from families who desperately need them. From the editorial:

“There’s nothing progressive about strangling charter public schools,” the paper argues that quality charter public schools are giving vulnerable families a “choice in their children’s education that more prosperous parents take for granted” and that “blanket calls to curtail [them] are wrongheaded.”

“There is a reason parents line up on waiting lists for coveted high-quality charter schools,” the editorial board adds.

The Washington Post editorial echoes what lifelong Democrats, particularly women, in California and beyond have been saying in recent weeks. They have stood up for charter public school families that are facing legislative attacks on all fronts

As opponents increasingly use dishonest rhetoric and tactics to mislead the party faithful into believing that these high-performing public schools are overwhelmingly backed by a divisive president and those on the right, these women forcefully pointed out that this is a completely false narrative. One that ignores a long history of support from across the political spectrum, including progressive Democrats. 

“Charter schools are a bipartisan issue. I think that the California Teachers Association has taken advantage of the current political climate to characterize it in that way, but it’s not true,” Margaret Fortune, CCSA Board Chair and founder and CEO of Fortune Schools, recently told Politico.

CCSA President and CEO Myrna Castrejón added that unlike the Trump administration, which is focused on division, the charter public school community in California is focused on inclusion and protecting families.

“We were here long before President Trump. We stood together and fought against ICE raids that targeted our most vulnerable students, and we will be here, standing with our families after his term ends,” she said. 

Others rightly made the argument that charter public schools must be included in any policy agenda that specifically aims to lift up historically underserved communities.

Prominent progressives, from Presidents Bill Clinton to Barack Obama, have supported the schools as a “powerful tool to fix the generations-long challenge of unequal educational opportunity,” former Louisiana Senator, and current board member of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, Mary Landrieu wrote in the Wall Street Journal last month.  

Catherine Brown, a former education policy advisor to Hillary Clinton and California Congressman George Miller, argued in The 74 that charter public schools are a “proven strategy to break intergenerational poverty and help students living in poverty ascend into the middle class…”

“The real embarrassment today is progressives turning their backs on the schools that work for the people they are supposed to serve,” she added.

Striking a similar note in her own 74 op-ed recently, Margaret Fortune wrote that there’s nothing progressive about forcing Black students to attend traditional public schools “which have an alarmingly poor track record.”

“It’s disrespectful and oppressive to black families who have exercised their right to choose charter public schools,” she wrote. 

Both the Assembly and Senate have shamefully advanced two extreme bills that take away options from those who need them most. Left-leaning legislators still have an opportunity to kill these bills before they reach the governor’s desk.

Will they reaffirm their values and vote against bills that are anything but progressive? We certainly hope so. Hundreds of thousands of California students and parents wanting better public schools are counting on them to do the right thing.