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Citing Harm to Public Education, Bernie Sanders Calls for Ban on For-Profit Charter Schools

"Charter schools are led by unaccountable, private bodies, and their growth has drained funding from the public school system."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Sen. Bernie Sanders at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the Dome event in Columbia, South Carolina on January 21, 2019. (Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images via JTA)

Ahead of the official introduction of his sweeping education platform in South Carolina this coming weekend, Sen. Bernie Sanders on Friday became the first 2020 presidential candidate to call for a national ban on for-profit charter schools.

"Charter schools are led by unaccountable, private bodies, and their growth has drained funding from the public school system," Sanders tweeted. "When we are in the White House we will ban for-profit charter schools."

Sanders's support for banning for-profit charters comes as President Donald Trump's Department of Education—under the leadership of billionaire Betsy DeVos—is pushing for the expansion of charter schools nationwide.

"We need more of them, not fewer," DeVos said of the schools during a congressional hearing earlier this year.

According to CNN—which got an advanced look at Sanders's plan before its official release—the senator's platform will also include a moratorium on federal funding for all public charter schools until a "national audit on the schools has been completed."

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CNN reported that the senator will also propose:

  • Mandating that charter schools comply with the same oversight requirements as public schools;
  • Mandating that at least half of all charter school boards are teachers and parents;
  • Disclosing student attrition rates, non-public funding sources, financial interests and other relevant data;
  • Matching employment practices at charters with neighboring district schools, including standards set by collective bargaining agreements and restrictions on exorbitant CEO pay;
  • Supporting the efforts of charter school teachers to unionize and bringing charter schools to the negotiating table.

"As president I will stand with groups like the NAACP and put a moratorium on federal funding of new charter schools until rules are in place to make sure they are operating with transparency and accountability," Sanders tweeted on Friday.

The NAACP passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools during its national convention in 2016.

In a report (pdf) on charters released in 2017, the NAACP Task Force on Quality Education recommended the complete elimination of for-profit charter schools.

"No federal, state, or local taxpayer dollars should be used to fund for-profit charter schools, nor should public funding be sent from non-profit charters to for-profit charter management companies," the report stated. "The widespread findings of misconduct and poor student performance in for-profit charter schools demand the elimination of these schools."

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