Bernie Sanders Targets Charter Schools in New Education Plan
Senator Bernie Sanders took aim at charter schools on Saturday, calling for a moratorium on federal funding for the schools in a declaration of his education policy priorities ahead of the 2020 election.
In a 10-point plan, Mr. Sanders, one of nearly two dozen candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, said that, if elected, he would “desegregate schools” in part by forbidding federal spending on new charter schools as well as by banning for-profit charter schools — which account for a small proportion of existing charters.
“The proliferation of charter schools has disproportionately affected communities of color,” Mr. Sanders wrote, adding, “We do not need two schools systems; we need to invest in our public schools system.”
Mr. Sanders of Vermont would also require that charter schools be subject to the same oversight as public schools, and that teachers and parents account for at least half the representation on all charter school boards. Additionally, his plan would demand that charter schools disclose student attrition rates, nonpublic sources of funding and financial interests.
Charter schools were supported by the Obama administration and, in general, have had the support of Democrats.
Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, who is also running for president, has been a strong supporter of charter schools. Last year, Mr. Booker said in an interview that “my loyalty is to a free public school, high-quality public school education,” allowing that charter and magnet schools could be part of the mix.
Other Democratic candidates have unveiled education plans in recent weeks. A proposal by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts focused on higher education, with the goals of canceling most student loan debt and eliminating tuition at public colleges. Julián Castro, the former housing secretary, announced similar goals, as well as proposals to increase teacher pay and create a national, federally funded prekindergarten program.
Mr. Sanders revealed his plan one day after the 65th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court decision that legally desegregated United States public schools. Its name, A Thurgood Marshall Plan for Public Education, invokes the lawyer who argued the case for the N.A.A.C.P. before he became a Supreme Court justice.
“Many U.S. schools remain unacceptably segregated,” Mr. Sanders wrote in the plan.
Mr. Sanders’s plan also explains that black students are nearly four times as likely to be suspended as white students — a disparity he attributes to “implicit racial bias” that also puts black youth at greater risk of becoming entangled in the criminal justice system.
“When a child is pushed out of school they lose instructional time and are more likely to become involved with the juvenile and adult justice systems,” the plan said. “We must end the school-to-prison pipeline.”
Parts of the plan focused on educators, declaring Mr. Sanders’s support for a $60,000 baseline for teachers’ starting salaries as well as unionization efforts by charter schoolteachers.
Sydney Ember contributed reporting.
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