If you’re a Republican, you may wonder, “Why don’t Democrats support charter schools?” It’s not because they are anti-charter, but because they simply don’t understand how these schools work. Democrats have many ties to charter schools, including some who have endorsed them. On the other hand, the party’s support for charter schools is very limited, with a few exceptions.
Despite the fact that charters are publicly funded, there is an anti-charter school sentiment among many Democrats. They believe that they are unaffordable, staffed by unqualified teachers, and targeted towards wealthy families. Charters have many controversies, and the Democratic party isn’t doing itself any favors by supporting them. Charter schools take money from public schools, and only accept the best students.
As a presidential candidate, Al Gore urged the United States to triple its number of charter schools. Since then, the number of charter schools has increased from about 2,000 to about 7,000. The shifts in Democratic opinion are parallel to the growth of the charter sector. While the Democratic party initially opposed charters, it eventually embraced them as part of Obama’s Race to the Top education reform plan. And today, the charter sector has thousands of schools, millions of students, and many deep-pocket benefactors.
The Democratic Party’s rift over school choice has more to do with policy than race. The establishment has embraced more education as a remedy for the country’s economic woes, while the emboldened left wing rejects them and favors more aggressive redistribution policies. The Democratic Party’s charter school wing is comprised of both centrist and Wall Street-oriented Democrats. It’s easy to see why Democrats are so divided on the issue.