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Charter School Leaders Warn Bernie Sanders: Freeze Would Hurt Students of Color

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One of the leading Democratic candidates for president should abandon his call for a national moratorium on new charter schools, because such a move would particularly hurt students of color.

That's the main message from National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and hundreds of charter school officials and advocates, in a letter to independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. They say that the senator has "fallen victim to many of the myths" about charters, and that demand for them remains high among African-American and Hispanic parents. And they cite polling—from a group of Democrats that back charters—showing that a majority of those two groups support the independently operated and publicly funded schools. 

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"It sickens us that now, 65 years later, we are again fighting politicians who would seek to tell our families which public schools we can and can't choose for our children," the charter alliance and charter school leaders of color wrote to Sanders. "Public charter schools offer hope and opportunity to millions of students, especially students of color, and your calls would move our nation backwards towards educational inequality."

Signatories to the letter include representatives from charter schools in cities like Baltimore, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., as well as officials with groups like the New York state chapter of the 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now, Education Post, and TNTP (formerly The New Teacher Project).

In May, Sanders rolled out a K-12 education plan that would sharply rein in charters. He wants to prohibit for-profit entities from managing charters, conduct a national "audit" of charters, and to require at least half of charter board members to be teachers and parents, among other things. These type of regulations from Sanders' plan would be counterproductive, the letter states. But teachers' unions and other groups hailed his vision. 

Two years into the tenure of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, charters have become a divisive issue for Democrats. Those who take Sanders' side say they undermine traditional public schools and promote fraud and greed in education, but their defenders argue they boost student achievement (as the charter alliance does in its letter) and provide options to families

It's worth pointing out that there's a complex range of views on charters on issues such as accountability and funding. No Democrat seeking the presidency has proposed banning charters altogether, although Sanders' plan comes relatively close. And it's fair to say that Democrats' view of charters has been shifting for quite some time.

Sanders is banking on the fact that the NAACP takes his side that there should be a moratorium on charters. However, local NAACP chapters have voiced their disagreement with the national group's stance in places like San Diego

The full letter is below: 

Photo: Sen. Bernie Sanders, pictured above, called for a moratorium on new charter schools until officials can complete a national "audit" of charters. --J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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