Leading Democrats are feeling the heat from black and Latino parents as the party's establishment and 2020 candidates turn their backs on charter schools, the New York Times reported.
"These are folks that should be champions of black children and allies of black educators," said Richard Buery to the Times.
Buery, who is the chief of policy at KIPP, the nation's largest charter network, described the Democrats' shift on the issue as "a reflection more broadly of the lack of respect for black voters in the party."
The concerns from parents and educators come as presidential candidates, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), have pledged to cut school choice options that are popular in minority communities. As the Times noted, former Vice President Joe Biden and Mayor Pete Buttigieg omit the schools in their education platforms and have expressed concerns with them. In 2019, House Democrats voted to cut funding for school choice.
Dems chase union endorsements
Democrats favored charter schools during Bill Clinton's presidency in the 1990s. Their current about-face on the issue is driven by the growing influence of progressives within the party and candidates seeking endorsements from influential teachers unions who oppose them.
This is pitting white progressive Democrats, who are increasingly skeptical of school choice, against minority voters who support them. Several recent polls demonstrate the sharp racial divisions on the issue among Democrats.
In the 2018 data, 47 percent of black Democrats supported charters with 29 percent opposed; similarly, 47 percent of Hispanic Democrats backed charters while 35 percent opposed them. (The remainder neither supported nor opposed charters.) Opposition has held steady among black Democrats since 2016, but ticked up among Hispanics. The biggest jump in opposition has been among white Democrats, though, going from 37 to 50 percent.
Similarly, a poll from commissioned by Education Next found that among black and Hispanic Democrats' "support for charter schools held steady from 2016 to 2018," while "approval tanked" among white Democrats, dropping from 43 to 27 percent.
Minority parents speak out
Minority voters are speaking out against Democrats' growing opposition to school choice options for low-income families.
Sonia Tyler told the Times, "As a single mom with two jobs and five hustles, I'm just feeling kind of desperate." Adding: "They're brilliant; they're curious. It's not fair. Why shouldn't I have a choice?"
Several weeks ago, a group of concerned black parents heckled Warren at a campaign event in Atlanta. Warren later spoke to one of the protestors who told her they only want the same opportunity the presidential candidate enjoyed of sending her children to private schools. The presidential candidate then falsely claimed her children only attended public schools.
School choice has also become a major issue in local and state races. In2018, progressive Democrat Andrew Gillum ran for governor of Florida opposed to charter programs with heavy backing from teachers unions. An analysis in the Wall Street Journal later concluded the issue may have tipped the race in favor of his rival, Republican Ron DeSantis.
As school choice advocate William Mattox noted, "Believe it or not, Republican Ron DeSantis owes his victory in the Florida gubernatorial election to about 100,000 African-American women who unexpectedly chose him over the black Democratic candidate, Andrew Gillum."