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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

DeVos victory could be defeat for charters

DeVos is “no threat to traditional schools, especially those beloved suburban schools that parents seek out,” writes Richard Whitmire in USA Today. “She does present a threat to public charter schools, which have proven to be the first-ever school reform that works at scale for poor kids.”

Students at Boston’s high-performing Match High School, one of the city’s high-performing charter schools.

The new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, limits the Education Department’s power, Whitmire writes. DeVos can’t rule by executive order, and she won’t persuade Republican politicians to let her meddle with their constituents’ suburban schools.

Whitmire worries about the future of urban charters, some of which dramatically boost the achievement of black and Hispanic students.

It was Bill Clinton who launched the federal role in promoting charters, and it was Barack Obama who greatly expanded both the number and quality of charter schools. But what looks like unstoppable success could stop quickly if Democrats, horrified by Trump and dismayed by DeVos, pull their support. Don’t think it can happen? It just did in Massachusetts, where the teachers’ unions, which oppose the mostly non-union charters, convinced suburban parents — many of them totally unaffected by charter schools — that lifting a cap on the number of charters would harm their schools.

DeVos should work to rebuild bipartisan support for charters, Whitmire advises. “Make your first visits to cities such as Denver, where Democrats were the key players in crafting a charter/district mix that’s working. Take that model and create federal incentives for other cities to copy.”

Watch out, education reformers, writes Patrick Riccards. You’re about to get DeVossed.

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